Franklin schools reach out to community
Published 10:14 am Wednesday, August 20, 2014
FRANKLIN—After knocking on one of the first doors and getting no answer, four Franklin High School teachers looked back and saw the storm cloud rolling in. But even when it did start raining, they didn’t let it deter them as they continued canvassing the Dorchester Square Apartments on Tuesday.
Twynnette Anderson got a treat behind one of the doors, as two of her former music students from when she taught at the lower level were there.
“For me it is all about seeing the kids light up seeing us out here at their homes, so that they know that we are connected in that sense,” said Anderson, who added that she does regularly visit homes, but that she did enjoy doing it as a system-wide initiative.
She’d just caught up with and shared a moment with Quayvion Brown, 7, Takacia Brown, 5, and met Takayah Brown, 2, and their mother Chaquana Brown.
Brown said that her daughter, Takacia, particularly loves music and missed Mrs. Anderson.
“She was so happy to see her here,” Brown said. “That was great of them to come out and see how the kids are doing before the school opens. You can tell they really care about the students.”
As the rain started to fall down on him, Chris Gorgei, a FHS history teacher, continued talking to other parents, letting them know that the staff at Franklin City Public Schools have their back and are a shoulder to lean on. He wasn’t letting the weather get to him.
“I am jazzed,” Gorgei said, and special education teacher Monica Bowles added, “The kids are really excited.”
The teachers were also letting the parents know a little bit more about the system, but the learning also went in reverse.
“It is good to see where our students come from,” said FHS science teacher Leslie Moring.
The four teachers, along with a host of other teachers and administrators from FHS, J.P. King Middle School and S.P. Morton Elementary school, got together with central office and leaders in the community to go out and canvass Franklin.
School board members Jeanette Austin and Sherita Ricks-Parker were part of the team on South Street. Ricks-Parker said Superintendent Willie J. Bell really got this started earlier that day at the annual Convocation.
“It was very inspiring and motivational,” she said of Bell’s speech that morning. “It built everybody up and I think everybody is looking forward to moving along forward in the V formation.”
Bell was looking to overcome the the cloud coverage settling in outside the Paul D. Camp Community College’s Regional Workforce Development Center, where Convocation was located.
“We have to succeed,” he said. “This central services office will not be like any you have ever seen before. We will not sit there and enjoy the smoke-stained windows at central services — we will be in the buildings. We are coming to you all to see what you need.”
Bell also said it is time to deliver a quality education to the students.
“Please deliver. Our students cannot afford for us to not deliver,” he said. “We have to succeed. We can’t have the students strung out all over the road.”
It’s time to get into the victory formation and form a line of one, Bell said. It’s time to truly become Team FCPS.
“Who are we?” Bell asked them, and he continued to ask that question two more times, and each time, the teachers gathered got louder, yelling, “Team FCPS.”
“Guess what?” he continued. “We will deliver.”
And the sun did peek out a little later as noon approached, at least for the group gathered on South Street.
“I think we need to go to the people,” Austin said. “I think it is a beautiful idea. If the people won’t come to us, I think we should go to them.”
“A lot of times, I think people are reluctant to go where we need to go, but I think that this was very much needed and I believe that we will have some positive results from it,” added Ricks-Parker.
Councilman Frank Rabil was also out in the South Street area canvassing.
“I was pleased with the way it went over today,” he said, adding that he’d like to see this kind of thing done more often. “We have got to reach out and make a difference in getting parents involved, getting the community involved, and lets all work together toward a very successful school year.
“Not only for this year, but for the future.”
Cherié Karmilovich was wearing one of the many S.P. Morton yellow shirts brightening South Street. She said it was a good idea to do this, but she wished that she had encountered more homes with children in the system.
“For some houses, people weren’t home, so we’ve been finding places where it looks like people are home and scouting the yards for kid paraphernalia,” she said with a laugh. “So that we’ll know a kid lives there.”
Next time, Karmilovich said, she hopes this event can be planned in a way where they can meet more people.
“It’s good to be out here, and we really want it to matter,” she said. “We want to encourage the parents.”
Further up South Street near Artis and Hayden streets, FHS Principal Travis Felts had developed a similar approach of looking for houses that obviously had children, but then he decided to abandon that system. He didn’t regret it.
“I thought that went good,” he said. “We started talking to people who don’t have kids in the system, but they still want to support us. They are still engaged in what we are doing.
“They talked about volunteering, and others said they would be keeping us in their prayers.”
Just as like the schools lean on the community for support, Felts said it was fair for the school system to reverse that role.
“I think we might hold more events off-site, like parent-teacher conferences,” Felts said. “That was a suggestion that one person brought to me, that we might get more attendance if we hold them in the neighborhoods.”
Bell himself wasn’t above this work. He was out in the Berkley neighborhood near J.P. King.
“We are ready to work with our parents through this community tour, as we are out canvassing and letting the parents and the community know, that we are here,” he said. “We are ready to embrace each other, as it takes a village to raise the children we have today in the 21st century.”
Franklin reacted well to the event, Bell said.
“They were just enthused and excited that we were out in the community,” he said. “They had never really experienced that before, where a school system came out in masses to go door to door.”
At the end of the day, reaching out to the parents is about better serving the children. Anderson, back at Dorchester Square, said that parents make perfect partners.
“I also think that this is good so that the parents can have that comfort in coming to the schools, so that they can work together with us as we help mold their kids,” she said.