Pleasantville hopes new center will put parents at ease, encourage involvement

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2011 7:19 pm
By DIANE D'AMICO Education Writer , A C Presws

PLEASANTVILLE - When parents are asked to visit school in Pleasantville, it's typically not good news.

School officials are hoping the new Parent Involvement Center, located in a small house next door to the Leeds Avenue School, will offer a more welcome and less intimidating atmosphere that will encourage parents to become partners with the district in their children's education.

"We'll have coffee, some danish, give them a chance to relax and talk," Superintendent Garnell Bailey said of the new center, which was dedicated Monday.

Parent liason to South Main Street School Shina Tiller, of Pleasantville, talks to a reporter in the Pleasantville School District's newly opened Parent Involvement Center on Monday on Leeds Avenue in Pleasantville.

It will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 4 p.m. Friday with receptionist Donielle Graves on site along with the district's parent liaisons.

As a former urban special-needs, or Abbott, district, Pleasantville has had parent liaisons for years. Currently 11 liaisons are stationed at the district's schools. They will remain based at the schools, but will rotate through the new center.

"They are our links to the community," Bailey said. "They can reach out to help before a child becomes a real problem."

The liaisons already work with the truant officers and administration to contact parents if students have missed school, or meet with parents concerned about their children or other family issues. They can refer families to outside services if necessary.

The district already owned the house, but it had to be brought up to code, and made handicapped accessible to a design by Garrison Architects of Marlton. A grant provided computers and a camera security system, district Comptroller/Director of Financial Services Elisha Thompkins said.

The parent liaisons are planning programs for the site. There are three small meeting rooms on the lower level and there are plans to turn one into a playroom where younger children can stay while their parents visit.

"We are looking for ways to get parents here," said Shina Tiller, parent liaison at the South Main Street School.

Workshops are planned on how to get a GED diploma, school bilingual services and college planning.

"I know young girls who left school and now have kids of their own," high school parent liaison Cynthia Trapp said. "A lot of them will come here, but they wouldn't go back to the high school. I want to work with them to get their GED."

Tiller said many parents have students in elementary, middle and high school, and if they can provide one-stop services, it will save time.

"They need a friendly atmosphere, where the reason they are here is not always a problem," Trapp said.

Mayor Jesse L. Tweedle Sr. said he and City Council will promote the center around the city.

"We all know that the more parent involvement we have, the higher success rate there is for the students," he said. "Every adult has the obligation to make children productive."

Board of Education President Doris Graves said she was pleased Bailey had made the center a priority.

"I've been here 24 years, and this is the first time we've had a parent center," she said. "My message to parents is come use it. Whatever your problem is, they will help you here."

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