Knollwood events help increase parental involvement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 23, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Nearly 500 parents are expected to circulate through Knollwood Elementary during the school’s annual Heart to Heart events.
Principal Shonda Hairston started the program four years ago as a way to increase parental involvement.
“My goal is provide parents with information and resources to help them help us in our effort to help the children,” she said.
The school offers Heart to Heart programs for parents with children in every grade. During the event, they get the opportunity to spend an hour and a half in their child’s classroom.
“These sessions aren’t to showcase certain things students are doing, but to show what the everyday experience is like so they can see the routine,” said Kellee Watkins, the school’s curriculum coach. “I think sometimes parents feel like they are on the outside and this is a way to bring them in.”
After parents visit the classrooms, they attend information sessions.
Hairston said topics vary from year to year depending on the demand.
“We look at what we’re doing here and what information our parents need,” she said.
This year, Watkins is discussing the state’s revisions to the common core standards in math and language arts.
“I want to empower parents with information about what their child is expected to know because sometimes there is a disconnect in what schools think children should be able to do and what parents think,” she said.
Watkins said the new standards expect children to go beyond simply choosing an answer by explaining how they got that answer.
“I think they get an understanding of what’s expected and how the standards have risen so that our students can grow and compete,” she said. “Our job is to help students become critical thinkers who can think on a global scale so that they can compete with anybody.”
Maria Lyles, the school-parent liaison, has been hosting sessions for Hispanic parents, giving them tips on how to help their children succeed.
“We’ve been working on math because numbers are easy,” she said. “Division is the same in every country.”
Lyles has also been giving the parents websites that have stories in both Spanish and English so that they can check their child’s comprehension.
“We have a 48 percent Hispanic population at the school,” Lyles said. “They need to know that language is not going to be a barrier because we are going to help them.”
Sandy Lanning, a parent with two children at Knollwood, attended the Heart to Heart sessions for the second year in a row Wednesday.
“I think it’s great because it helps us to be more in contact with the teachers and the rest of the staff at the school,” she said. “And it helps me understand what’s going on school-wide instead of just with my own child.”
Michael Summerall, a parent with three children at the school, attended Heart to Heart for the first time this week.
“I wanted to see what the kids are learning these days and how they are being taught,” he said. “It’s interesting to see the education process changing … It blows my mind that they are learning so many things at that young age.”
Summerall said he thinks the concept of the program is great and would like to see it done more than once a year.
“That way maybe we can get the parents’ thinking caps on,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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