Getting fathers involved in children's school

October 30, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

PTA moms, make room for daddy. He's getting involved.

"Too often, it's women and mothers who are involved in their children's education," said Jim Piccione, president of the Fountain Green Elementary School PTA, who organized a meeting Monday especially for dads.

"We're doing something original here," he told the 40 fathers who attended a "Dads Discuss Education" program at the school.

"I didn't know if we'd have 100 or one [at the meeting]," he said, looking around a gym filled with men in an array of work clothes, from service station uniforms to construction boots to business suits. "I'm pleased with the turnout."

County Superintendent Ray R. Keech; school board President Ronald R. Eaton; Fountain Green Principal Marlin C. Dellinger; and Andre Fournier, president of the Harford County Council of PTAs, spoke.

"There is the myth of PTAs that you have to bake cookies and cakes and hold fund-raisers," Mr. Fournier said. "But we're here to work on the issues of education."

The fathers listened intently as Dr. Keech and Mr. Dellinger delved into a discussion of test scores, school budgets and growing enrollment.

Fountain Green, which opened in September 1993, already is 21 students above its 600-student capacity. By 1997, the number is projected to be 695, Mr. Dellinger said.

"That is the major problem we're going to be facing," he said. "The next couple of years, we need your involvement and support."

Mr. Fournier said he became involved in a PTA in 1987 after his first-grade daughter came home from school troubled about her schoolwork. He was told it would take only one or two hours a month. This year, he's already put in many more hours than that.

But that's fine with him. "We all have to get involved in our children's education. They are our future," he said.

Dr. Keech painted a bright picture regarding SAT scores; California test results; and the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), the state report card for schools.

Attendance was one MSPAP category in which Harford County did not receive a satisfactory score.

"We need your help," Dr. Keech appealed to the fathers.

The men also voiced specific concerns to the panel of speakers.

George Collins, who has a daughter at Fountain Green, wanted to know about gender equity in the classroom. "What steps is the school system taking to acknowledge differences in learning styles between little boys and little girls?" he asked.

"We try to work with classroom teachers through training programs," Dr. Keech said.

Mr. Dellinger added that teachers at Fountain Green had participated in a session called "Dimensions of Learning" about learning styles.

"This an experienced staff," he assured the fathers. "But it is an area we should be more focused on. It's fairly new ground."

The fathers also asked questions about busing, school construction and funding.

"This is your [school] system. We have a responsibility to listen to you," Mr. Eaton said. "We have to look at all the balances. We have some difficult choices. I want you to understand how the balancing act works as the budget objectives are developed."

Most of the fathers said they were glad they attended the meeting. Several admitted that their wives made them go.

"I hope there's a bigger turnout next time," said Gary Covert, the father of a first-grader and third-grader.

"One good thing is that the community is small enough you can make an impact," said B. J. Arseneau, the father of three children.

And impact is what it's all about.

"You all can make a difference," Mr. Eaton said. "When a kid says, 'My dad's here,' that's special."

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