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Back-to-School Nights In Full Swing

Parents learn about their children's teachers and curriculum.

For some parents, it's the first time they've seen the inside of their child's school. Others may be meeting one or more of their children's teachers for the first time. It's a chance for teachers and administrators to show parents what their students will be learning. It's also a chance for PTAs to present their programs.

As of this week, more than half of the area schools have already hosted their Back-to-School Nights. A dozen or so are scheduled for the following week, including all of the high schools.

Groveton Elementary School held their Back-to-School Night on September 16. PTA members Robin Messick, Candy Thompson and Bernita Houston took advantage of the flow of parents to sell Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This is the first time they've done this particular fund-raiser, and while 330 boxes seems like a lot of doughnuts to sell, the women said that they already had over 200 pre-orders that people needed to pick up.

Principal Chris Lamb later said that they sold about three-fourths of the doughnuts made a profit for the PTA. She estimated that about two-thirds of the families came to Back-to-School Night, some on the bus that picks up parents at Beacon Hill and at some of the apartment complexes.

"We do that on a regular basis for most activities," said Lamb, who uses Title I money or designated funds to fund the buses. She said that all the events at Groveton are family oriented and so they try to get as many people as possible to their events.

Right now, they are very focused on No Child Left Behind. "We're working very hard," said Lamb.

Other schools use the Back-to-School Nights to display the gift wrap available for sale or hand out information about Market Day; all ways to raise money for the school.

WALT WHITMAN Middle School also held its Back-to-School Night September 16. Deanna Williamson, director of student services, said, "It's valuable for the parents, who are hearing bits and pieces from their kids. The kids are barely getting their feet on the ground and learning so many new things. It's good for the parents to lay eyes on the teachers, and hear about expectations from each one of the teachers."

Williamson feels that these evenings help to give parents a sense of being comfortable with where their children are going to school. Whitman is different from many schools in that it's not a neighborhood school; 100 percent of the students are bused.

There are many parents from Fort Belvoir and many whose students are ESOL (English as a Second Language), so they may not have had an opportunity to visit the school yet.

"To have a show like we had this week is heartening," said Williamson, who estimated that they had over 500 people come to the Back-to-School Night. "It's a wonderful showing. We're constantly trying to get parents into our school. We want to present the programs that we're excited about."

DUE TO REPORTS of a pending hurricane, Washington Mill Elementary School has postponed its Back-to-School Night from Thursday night to next Thursday, September 25. Assistant Principal Bo Carpenter, said that they are looking forward to this night because they have so many new programs that they want to share with the parents.

The school has prepared a flyer highlighting these programs, and they will be touched on during the opening assembly next week. Some of the programs include: Community of Caring, Peer Mediation, and the Sing, Spell, Read & Write program.

"The big thing is the sharing of information with the parents," said Carpenter. "Some of the parents have already been in and have some idea of the expectations of the teachers, but they may want to know some of the nuances."

Carpenter said that teachers are asked to show whatever their students have been working on, and to make parents feel welcome. Parents who have concerns should be encouraged to make an appointment to discuss issues at a later time.

"Normally we have an entire P.E. room full of parents, at least 200," said Carpenter.

WOODLAWN ELEMENTARY School held its Back-to-School Night on September 11. Stephanie Bisson, Woodlawn Elementary school principal, said that the staff welcomed almost 300 parents and children. The evening began in the gym with introductions of Woodlawn staff members and pre-recorded messages from Isis Castro, School Board member from the Mount Vernon District and Michelle Brickner, School Board member at-large.

Bisson talked to parents about the new mission statement that was developed by staff members and parents over the summer and about the major initiatives the school will work on this school year. The past PTA President, Cyrus Roher, gave a presentation about the role of the PTA at Woodlawn, and turned the program over to the new PTA President, Beth Campbell.

Parents then visited classrooms to meet their children's teachers who told them about classroom expectations and topics they will be studying this school year.

"Our goal for Back-to-School Night is to meet families and begin building relationships that will result in increased student learning. Most teachers asked parents to write something they would like the teacher to know about their children," said Bisson.

"Many teachers had parents write notes to their children. The teachers talked about their goals for the year and their expectations for children's learning. We want everyone in our school community to work together because we know this will result in increased student achievement. When parents and the school communicate about students, everyone wins," said Bisson.