Getting help from all corners Nonteaching staff at CCEC plays vital role in teaching

April 26, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Everyone is a teacher at the Carroll County Education Center.

Of course, there are the certified, degreed teachers. But the whole staff, from the principal to the custodian, takes on a bit of an instructional role.

The bulletin board at the entrance to the building quotes the African proverb, "It takes a whole village to educate a child."

School secretary Mary Louise Clarke -- everyone at the school calls her "Mom" -- teaches students how to file papers, answer the phone and do other clerical work in the office.

Building Supervisor Jerry Spratt shows students how to clean classrooms, mop floors, empty trash. And he reminds them to make eye contact with adults instead of mumbling to the floor.

Cafeteria Manager Sharon Pollard supervises students who can wash dishes, serve food and learn how to behave on the job.

Principal Robin Farinholt often helps out in classrooms when a teacher has to step out briefly.

And she is not above changing a diaper now and then, she said.

The school serves about 70 children with special needs that could not be met in regular schools. Beginning July 1, the school's name will be the Morgan Run School, a change sought by staff and parents who felt "Education Center" sounded too institutional.

Job descriptions and union contracts say nothing about the instructional roles that Mrs. Pollard, Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Spratt have taken on.

Much of it has to do with those individuals enjoying the roles, Mrs. Farinholt said.

"The first two weeks I was here, I knew I couldn't leave," Mrs. Pollard said. "I just wish people could see what we do here. Those kids come in and say, 'Hi, Miss Sharon.' They never give you a nasty word. They're good to work for, too."

While Mrs. Pollard sees herself as working for the children, she also wants to teach them how to work for someone.

Many of her proteges have gone on to employment in food service, at area restaurants and fast-food stores, or in retail.

"There's a certain way you behave on the job," she said she tells them. "They can't stand there and talk to the kids in line [in the cafeteria]. You have to take directions, do what the boss says.

"This is learning their life skills," she said.

In addition to the 10 or so students a year who spend an hour helping Mrs. Pollard serve lunch, teacher Christine Paull takes her class in after lunch to "close" the kitchen and wash dishes. The students take turns with tasks such as washing, drying and putting away things.

Mr. Spratt sometimes is called "Dad" or even "Grandpa" by the children.

"My wife says, 'You leave for work smiling and when you come home, you're smiling,' " Mr. Spratt said.

Jess May, a shy 15-year-old from Westminster High School, rides a bus to the Education Center for lunch and a few hours of custodial chores under Mr. Spratt's supervision.

"I've learned how to clean a closet and bathroom and all that," said Jess, who lives in Wolfs Mill near Taneytown. "I like it."

He said Mr. Spratt will tell him if he's doing something wrong, but not in a way that ever offends Jess.

"He's a good boss. He's nice. He doesn't holler at me," Jess said. "He's better than a teacher. He does teach, but teachers scream at you."

Mr. Spratt, a robust man with a direct manner, said, "Jessie has proved to be outstanding."

When Jess first went to work with Mr. Spratt, at the request of the boy's counselor, he made little eye contact and mumbled toward the floor instead of speaking to the adult facing him, Mr. Spratt said.

"I told him this is not appropriate," he said.

He eventually got Jess to become more confident and courteous. He charts Jess' progress and relays it to the boy's teachers.

Mr. Spratt has two full-time custodians on his staff. One, Robert Stoner, 32, is a graduate of the Education Center. When he was a student, he used to help the other custodian, Genevieve Hodge.

In addition to Jess' more informal setup, the school has a custodial skills vocational program run by Ms. Paull and teacher Mary Pat Dye, who also helps place students in jobs in the community.

Mr. Spratt works with those students, too, as they help maintain and clean the school.

Mrs. Farinholt was once a teacher in that program before it was connected with the actual work done by the maintenance staff.

"A lot of the time, the kids were cleaning things that were already clean," she said. "We needed to find a realistic setting. We thought, who better than Mr. Spratt to supervise these students?

"To me, it's logical. It's no great insight into anything," she said.

Still, a lot of other schools in the county don't do this, she said. She would like to see the practice spread.

Mr. Spratt said other building supervisors do take in teens in the summer from subsidized job-training programs, but the Education Center is unique in the pervasive instructional role that managers such as he and Mrs. Pollard take.

"I think it's because of the type of child we have here," he said.

Students, who range from preschool to 22 years old, need more than academics. They need extra help learning vocational and social skills.

Teachers walking a student through the hall often will stop by Mr. Spratt's office and urge the child to say hello, just for the social experience.

The holistic environment is one the staff can't praise enough. Mr. Spratt likens it to a family setting.

"We're just really blessed we have people who are very dedicated," Mrs. Farinholt said. "We don't plan these things out all the time. Sometimes they just happen."

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