Engaged Families and Communities

PSC helps Augusta High Schools End Year on “Edu-taining” Note

Like their counterparts nationwide, the Augusta, Ga., principals of Glenn Hills, T.W. Josey, and Lucy C. Laney high schools cite family and community involvement as one of their greatest challenges.

In dual roles as Laney principal and president of the Richmond County Association of Educators (RCAE), Dr. Tonia Mason knows that she and her union have the responsibility—and resources—to strengthen the schools’ improvement efforts.

NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign (PSC) kicked-off a long-term, multi-faceted family and community engagement effort in Augusta with assemblies at the three schools held over two days, featuring critically-acclaimed “edu-tainer” Dr. Adolf Brown, III.

“We wanted something uplifting the whole school community could take home for the summer,” says T.W. Josey principal Ronald Wiggins. “I hope the students will remember Adolf Brown’s messages, and that our teachers and the union will start bridging the gap between teachers, students and parents. I’d like for parents to have a better understanding of what their role should be in their child’s life.”

The research is clear and consistent—parent, family, and community involvement leads to higher academic performance and school improvement. Students with engaged parents tend to earn higher grades and have better attendance. They’re more motivated and less likely to drop out. And it reduces some of the societal problems the Augusta students grapple with, like gangs, teen pregnancy, and drug abuse.

Wiggins says that public apathy toward education has been a challenge for the Augusta school and Mason, agrees.

“My ongoing challenge is parental engagement and maintaining student involvement.”

That is why Mason lobbied to bring PSC to Augusta to provide technical assistance in  the area often overlooked as a key education improvement strategy, despite the proven connection to raising student achievement.

Edu-tainer Adolf Brown told the audience that “just because you mess up doesn’t mean you have to give up,” and that when you’re “an apple in the tree, it forces a man to reach up to your level.” He also hammered home the importance of reading: “The five ways to keep getting smarter: read, read, read, read and read!”

The audience of students and parents alike were inspired by Brown, with particular impact expressed by those who sometimes struggle, like student Shakeria Beale.

“I really enjoyed his talk.  He made me feel like I can do or be anything,” she says. “There’s a lot of girls around here who, you know, have the wrong attitude.  I hope everyone took something from his presentation.”

Most everyone did take something from the presentation. Even high-achievers, like Diondre Tindle, 18, senior class president of T.W. Josey, who has been a strong student leader since freshman year.

“What resonated the most was when he said that just being the smartest in the room doesn’t give you total access. It’s the choices that you make that get you to where you are going,” she says.

And where is Tindle going? First, she’ll go to college, and then to earn an MBA and perhaps even a doctorate, and then to start her own Fortune 500 company.

Chambria Stewart, a junior, has more immediate plans.

“I definitely liked the apple in the tree story,” she says. “I am going to be an apple in the tree.”

In the fall, PSC will bring together Augusta students, parents, educators, residents, community leaders and elected officials for a community conversation.

Normally big-ticket expenses, services like those PSC will provide in Augusta come at no charge—allowing the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding schools like Laney, Josey, and Glenn Hills receive, to go further.


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Classroom Superheroes

Educators in priority schools are rising to a superhero challenge every single day. Nominate educators in your community and support others at classroomsuperheroes.com

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PSC Superhero Keith G. Pemberton

Keith G. Pemberton is a social worker at Oak Hill Elementary School in High Point, N.C., where he has built a strong and steady pipeline for parental involvement, specifically among fathers and male mentors. Check out his Classroom Superhero profile and leave some words of encouragement.

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