Parent participation is essential to sustaining academic success, especially when behavior challenges are present. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Project Safe Dozen of dozens of middle school parents from Madison County Central School, over 97 percent agreed that connecting with teachers should be a top priority. In spite of this overwhelming sentiment, however, parent participation in the Central School PTO was very limited during the 2010-11 school year.
The Madison County High School Drama Team, under the direction of Teacher of the Year, JerriAnn Webb, provided a powerful presentation that brought the audience to its feet.
Project Safe Zone, which is concluding its second year as a Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant recipient, is committed to addressing issues of safety and misbehavior, such as campus and bus security, bullying, mental health, and all forms of violence. In order to promote the parent and community involvement needed to achieve its mission, Project Safe Zone employs a communications plan that utilizes parent focus groups, among other outreach tools, in order to develop promotional media, both print and web-based, which are thematically designed to support these goals.
Working closely with Communications Consultant Michael Curtis to launch this strategic media plan, Project Coordinator Octavious Tookes and the Project Safe Zone staff noted that the Central School PTO was experiencing extremely low participation.
The lovely ladies of the Madison Youth Initiative, the DREAMERS, provided support to ensure the Parent and Mentor Appreciation Dinner was a great success
Recognizing the obstacle this gap presented to achieving successful implementation of their objectives, the team quickly organized a Parent and Mentor Appreciation Dinner, which was held on May 12 at 6 p.m. at the Central School cafeteria.
To begin the PTO rebuilding process, Curtis raised $1,200 in community donations from Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Madison County Community Bank, The Lee Day Committee, Madison Masonic Lodge, Madison Shrine Club, Steve McHargue, Tim and Mary Ann Sanders, Ksena Zipperer, and Madison Media Group, which allowed organizers to provide a catered barbecue dinner and hundreds of dollars in awards and prizes to ensure adequate attendance.
These sponsors were joined by a host of volunteers, including the lovely young ladies of the Madison Youth Initiative, Karen Pennington, Doug and Cecilia Freer, and Shelly Renfroe, who gave generously of her photography expertise to ensure the evening’s success.
Each of these supporters served almost one hundred parents, twenty mentors, and several dozen guests in attendance. Local officials and civic leadership were also well represented, including Madison County School Board Chair VeEtta Hagan, Superintendent of Schools Lou Miller, Madison Mayor Jim Catron, Madison County Commissioners Renetta Parrish and Alfred Martin, Supervisor of Elections Jada Woods-Williams, Clerk of the Court Tim Sanders, Waste and Recycling Coordinator Jerome Wyche, MCHD Administrator Kim Barnhill, Chamber Director Cindy Vees, MCCB President Ed Meggs, and NFCC President John Grosskopf. These community stewards were complemented by Judge Augustus Aikens, a Madison County native currently serving as Leon County Judge, who traveled to Madison to echo the message that few things more important to achieving a healthy and financially secure future for Madison County than parent involvement in their children’s education.
The event focused on middle school grades. To set the stage, Teacher of the Year, JerriAnn Webb, graciously brought her Drama Club from Madison County High School to perform. Heather Welch’s Journalism students also supported the cause, creating numerous posters that were placed throughout the cafeteria.
Following opening remarks by Principal Sam Stalnaker and Superintendent Miller, NFCC President John Grosskopf encouraged parents to not only recognize the importance of parental involvement, but also to take advantage of the local college resources that are available to all successful graduates. SRO Officer Maurice Alexander then introduced Judge Aikens ,who skillfully combined humor with a serious message, connecting well with the audience. Tookes and Mentor Coordinator Jodie Price then rotated with Curtis to complete several practical elements of the evening, including recognition of the men and women who served in the mentoring program during this school year, with a special recognition going to Mentor of the Year Merv Mattair.
Over the summer, those in attendance and other parent volunteers will be recruited for the middle school PTO. Focus groups and parent committees will also be formed around specific student and classroom goals. For more information or to volunteer a few hours a month as a mentor, please phone Project Safe Zone at (850) 973-5037.