Principal, mayor, parents tout success of Child First Authority

January 07, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

No one needs to tell Sandra Ashe that Baltimore's Child First Authority is a success.

As principal at John Eager Howard Elementary School in Reservoir Hill, she has seen test scores jump, attendance rise and more parents volunteering since the authority began offering after-school care at the school.

"Now, we have parents who are buzzing around the school, parents who are coming in and saying, 'I had no idea it was so hard to get kids to pay attention and learn,' " Ashe said.

Ashe spoke to about 60 parents, teachers, school officials and city officials, who assembled at City Hall last night to celebrate Child First Authority's first year.

Carol D. Reckling, executive director of the authority, said the organization is ending its first full year as a partnership with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, the City Council and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD).

The group has centers at seven elementary schools and one middle school that offer arts and crafts, computer games, cooking, sewing, choir and chess for children from kindergarten through eighth grade between 3 p.m. and 5: 30 p.m.

Each center serves between 125 and 240 children each day and functions largely with the help of parent volunteers, she said.

"The idea is to make the school a center for the whole community," said Reckling.

The program is funded with $1.5 million in city revenues. Orioles owner Peter D. Angelos has pledged $500,000, she said.

Schmoke told the group that he considers the effort one of the city's quiet success stories and will recommend continued funding.

The mayor said that as the son of working parents, he attended an after-school center at Gwynns Falls Elementary School on the west side that had activities much like Child First's.

"I had wonderful parents, but as we all know, it takes a whole village to raise a child," Schmoke told the group.

Hope Elliott, a parent volunteer at Yorkwood Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore, said Child First has fostered better relationships between parents and children in her neighborhood.

"We all feel a little bit safer because we know somebody's watching over our children after school," she said.

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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