West Meade lets parents follow action at school Policy eases return to class WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

September 02, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Marsha Long huddled outside the doorway to Room 106 with other anxious parents at West Meade Elementary School yesterday, shyly peeking in to watch as the opening moments of her daughter's third-grade education unfolded.

"She's in tears," Ms. Long said, looking at 8-year-old Shatura Smiley. "This is a new school. But she will be fine by the end of the day when she has made new friends. Look, she's perking up already."

Not every parent is privileged to see such transformations. West Meade, located on Fort Meade, is unique among county schools in the extent to which officials encourage parents to participate in their child's education on virtually every level, Board of Education spokeswoman Nancy Jane Adams said.

During the first three days of school, parents are welcome to sit in on classes and meetings. Every day, they can come in and eat lunch with the students.

The program, particularly on the first day of school, helps ease tensions in what can be a harried and exasperating time for children and parents alike.

"It's excellent," said Ms. Long, explaining that her daughter attended school in Howard County last year, where such openness was not encouraged. "They wanted you to drive up, drop your kid off on the sidewalk and leave."

That just wouldn't do for West Meade Principal Barbara Mason, who greets each student every day at the front door.

"Good morning! Welcome to West Meade. You're new to me," she said to one student.

Ms. Mason greeted the more than 400 first- through sixth-graders in the cafeteria with an enthusiasm they can expect all year long.

Each day, for example, she invites a few students to eat lunch with her in her s office.

Good morning to all our parents and to our wonderful students," she shouted yesterday. "Without you, there would be no school. We love school, so we love you."

Getting parents involved is of particular interest to Ms. Mason and PTA President Debbie Buntiny.

Children in military families tend to move every few years, and often have special needs.

426 students enrolled at the school, 98 percent are from military families. But Ms. Mason, who has taught for 32 years -- including six as principal at West Meade -- says her philosophy can be applied to any child.

They come to us with all kinds of personalities and happenings in their lives," she said. "Sometimes, they just need someone to say everything is OK."

The parent interaction program, Ms. Buntiny said, "makes the parents feel more comfortable with leaving their kids in the classroom. It is very important. The parents are just as nervous as the kids."

Parents are encouraged not just to watch but also to help out with school activities. Some said those who don't volunteer feel left out.

I don't help out on something, I eat lunch here," said Marie Burno, whose 7-year-old daughter Courtney started the fifth grade yesterday.

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