Van Bokkelen parents seek overhaul role Cooperation urged as school rebuilds

February 09, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel and TaNoah V. Sterling | Andrea F. Siegel and TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF

Educators last night tried to calm parents worried about the future of Van Bokkelen Elementary School in the first meeting they held with the community since the state threatened a take over of the school nearly two weeks ago.

Some 120 parents and teachers told county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham that they want to help mold the state-mandated overhaul of the school and take an active part in their children's education. But many said they did not know what to do.

Dr. Parham, state officials and incoming Principal Rose Tasker told them: Get involved.

Officials had no other answers last night beyond saying the process of rebuilding the school was only starting.

"Everything is on the table," Dr. Parham said.

Next Thursday and Friday,State Department of Education inspectors will visit the school and confidentially interview faculty, students and residents. Their findings will figure into a draft overhaul plan the county must produce for the state by March 15.

Whether parents' comments will be included in the draft is unclear, said A. Skipp Sanders, deputy state superintendent for administration.

Van Bokkelen's mediocre scores on standardized state tests declined further last year. Overall, however, the county ranked ninth in the state in Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

The school, which serves the county's lowest-income student population, has been troubled since it opened 23 years ago.

In a pep talk, Rose Tasker, who will take over as principal on Monday, told parents to think positive, read to their children and look ahead. The replacement of Charles Owens as principal was the first move the school system made at Van Bokkelen.

"I love excellence," Ms. Tasker said. "We are going to instill that in our children."

Her theme hit home with many in the auditorium, not only with the handful of people who constitute the parents' organization.

"Tonight, this is the community that helps raise this child," Ella Brown said, grabbing Matthew James, 9, a fourth-grader at the school, whom she didn't know. "Take a good look because this is our future."

Matthew's mother, Monica James, said that though her job as a cashier often has kept her from volunteering at school, she would make more time.

"I'm off Mondays. I can be here," she said.

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