Parental involvement reduces dropout rates

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Teal Lynch says she hasn’t helped out at her daughter’s school as much as she would’ve liked this year, but she plans to change that next year.
Lynch has been able and willing to lend a hand at Overton Elementary School, but she wasn’t sure where to begin.
After Tuesday’s education revival, she has the tools to get more involved. Armed with a list of volunteer opportunities that includes everything from mentoring to cutting out materials, she’s planning to be a familiar face a Overton.
“It’s been very informational,” she said. “I would like to volunteer a lot more, but I didn’t know what to do, now I can go to the school and say I want to do these things.”
The goal of the revival, sponsored by the United Way of Rowan County and Rowan Partners for Education, was to provide information about ways residents can support public education locally.
“I hope you will leave here tonight with a sense of purpose,” Pete Teague, president of Rowan Partners for Education, said. “I hope you will get some ideas and determination about things you can do.”
Laura Hamilton, a motivational speaker, told the audience of more than 150 people that even the smallest things can make an impact.
She said when she was hospitalized with food poisoning several years ago a simple act of kindness cured her. Shivering as she peaked behind her room curtain, a doctor said “you look like you’re freezing” and proceeded to bring her a warm blanket.
“It didn’t matter what kind of degree he had, as soon as I got that blanket I started to get better,” she said. “Every one of you in this room tonight could be someone’s warm blanket to help them with their walk in life.”
John Dornan, former president and executive director of Public School Forum of North Carolina, said being a positive role model for students can make a difference in their lives and help decrease the state’s drop out rate.
Dornan said another way to keep kids in school is by getting them engaged.
“Kids who get involved in something and, frankly, it doesn’t matter what … tend to have more motivation,” he said.
Hiring and retaining high quality teachers and administrators is also a key component for successful students, Dornan said.
Dornan said in counties like Rowan that don’t have the funds to provide lofty pay supplements, residents should look for ways to show their appreciation.
“Show up and talk to the school board and county commissioners,” he said. “Make it clear that in Rowan County education is a thing people value.”
The revival was a culmination of the United Way’s Teacher Matters listening sessions.
The sessions, conducted last fall, included members of the faith-based community, law enforcement officials, business leaders, educators, parents and students.
“What we heard from teachers during the listening sessions is that parents can help out by doing five things,” parent Nora Patterson said. “Assuring their child has a good night’s sleep, good nutrition, prepared homework, daily attendance and encouragement.”
Patterson encouraged parents to stay involved in their children’s lives as they move through middle and high school.
“Ask your schools what you can do,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.