By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
It started out, a simple idea from a recent conversation that Rev. Robert Holmes had with Ben Killingsworth, principal of Madison County High School, after there had been six fights at the school in one week.
But the germ of that idea began many years before that.
Holmes had been an educator for many years before he entered the ministry, teaching seventh grade social studies at Madison County Central School. One day, a student’s mother came to visit his classroom, and ended up sitting in on all of his classes for the entire day.
“That was the easiest day I’ve ever had,” said Holmes. “Not one single disciplinary problem the entire day.”
Instead, the students were on their best behavior, and continually shushing each other, because, “we have a visitor.”
The presence of a parent in the classroom had what Holmes described as a “chilling effect” on the usual unruly behavior.
Fast-forward several years, to his more recent conversation with Killingsworth: “An idea – so simple,” had begun to take shape after that conversation, said Holmes.
It blossomed into the purpose behind two meetings held Sunday, Oct. 30. Rev. Holmes met with the ministers of the Ministers, Deacons and Laymen Training Union, an organization consisting about 20 black churches in Madison County. Holmes is also the First Vice President of the organization; Rev. Charles Barfield is the President.
In the second meeting, Rev. Bob Knight of Lee United Methodist met with the Ministerial Association, an organization of white churches in Madison, over which he also presides.
The leadership of both organizations has spoken with School Superintendent Lou Miller, who supports their efforts on behalf of Madison schoolchildren.
The two meetings were held Sunday, with the common goal of reaching parents of children in the public school system. Part of the very simple idea Holmes had envisioned, was the need to get the word out to as many parents as possible via the county’s large network of churches, about the need for many, many, more parents to become involved in the public school system.
“We need them to become involved in their children’s education,” said Holmes, who wanted to emphasize that he meant more than just dropping the children off at school and coming back only when there was a problem.
The schools also need more parents when things are going well. More parents who could sometimes sit in on a child’s class. More parents who could sit in the bleachers with their children’s class during school assemblies. More parents who could lend a hand during science fairs and health fairs. More parents who could go on field trips.
There are several faithful parents who help out now, but more are needed, said Holmes. Many more. Those parents who can come in and visit and get involved when things are going well are a big help in keeping things going well, because, as he pointed out, “when someone’s mom or dad is right there, watching, they (the children) are much less inclined to do devilish things.”
So, the more parents, the better.
Of the meeting Sunday, Holmes stated that he was quite pleased with the results. All the letters had gone out to all the churches and all the congregations, and Holmes was very encouraged with the response from his own congregation. Based on the feedback he got from the parents, he feels quite confident that many of them will now be involved, or become more involved, in their children’s education.
He looks forward to seeing more parents stepping up, and to seeing what happens when they put this very simple idea into action, for the benefit of not only their own children but others as well.
Some of the many ways parents can help include: encouraging their child to do his or her best; setting goals and high expectations; supporting the teachers; keeping check of their child’s progress on FOCUS http://portal.madison.k12.fl.us/joomla/ ; reminding the child to be positive and respectful; participating in PTO meetings; and becoming a mentor, tutor or volunteer.
If parents would like to get involved, or more involved with their child’s education, there is a contact person at each school ready to help: Madison County High School, Evelyn Chancy, 973-5061 Ext. 182; Madison County Central School, Lisa Daniels, 973-5046 Ext. 132; Lee Elementary, Cindy Thomas 973-5030; Greenville Elementary, Lisa Davis, 973-5033; Pinetta Elementary, Sandra McDonald, 973-5028; Excel School, Linda McFarland, 973-5054; Project Safe Zone, Jodie Price, Mentor Coordinator, 973-5192.