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Principals Involve the Community

Principals Look Forward to New Year

Two Sterling Park elementary schools started the 2006-2007 school year with one goal in mind, community involvement.

Sterling Elementary School Principal Michele Freeman runs a tight ship. She expects parents, students and community members to meet her expectations for the school year.

"I expect certain things here. Students need to be here on time, ready to learn," she said. "In addition, parents should take full advantage of all we have to offer. The education of a child is a partnership. We need support from parents, family and community members."

The Sterling school, made up of 60 staff members including four new teachers, has a number of new and continuing programs for its 433 students.

The STEPS to Literacy kindergarten through third grade program encourages students to read inside and outside of the classroom through games and activities will be offered to fourth-graders this year.

"One of our main goals is to focus on literacy, to build reading skills," Freeman said. "If our students can read, they can do anything."

In addition to improving reading skills, the principal is excited about a second year with a math resource teacher.

"Her job is to help teachers love math so they can do a better job helping the kids love math," she said.

STERLING ELEMENTARY School offers a number of programs outside the classroom not only for students, but members of the Sterling Park community.

"We really are a community school," Freeman said. "We have so many activities that bring the school together."

One of Freeman’s goals this year is to focus on literacy, so she is excited about the new family literacy program offered to parents this year.

On Monday nights, Sterling Elementary School’s parent volunteers will teach Spanish-speaking families English. Parent volunteers can also answer any questions they might have about the school system, child safety and health issues.

"We want parents involved in their children’s lives," she said.

Sterling Elementary School has two breakfast programs, "Donuts for Dads" and "Muffins for Moms" to get parents involved with school. The breakfast programs are a good way for parents to meet teachers, ask questions and interact with their children.

"It’s a way for parents to get to know teachers and get their questions answered," Freeman said.

If parents can’t make breakfast, the school holds family nights once a month. During family nights, parents have another opportunity to ask questions and meet teachers, over dinner. Child care is provided, so parents can talk to teachers one-on-one.

THE STERLING school offers community members a number of opportunities to grace their halls, too.

Throughout the school year, local volunteers provide some extra help to Sterling Elementary School students. Volunteers like Park View High School students mentor kindergarten through fifth-graders in math and reading, as part of the community service and future teachers programs.

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency workers, based in Reston, travel to Sterling Park twice a week to teach fourth-graders about rocks and minerals and fifth-graders about light energy.

With all of these new and continuing programs, Freeman hopes her fourth year at the school will be even more successful than previous years. Another goal she has is to increase the school’s Standard of Learning scores, which have continued to go up each year she’s been at the school.

"We are a full-service organization," Freeman said. "We will help families get whatever our children need to make sure they are happy health students."

ACROSS STERLING PARK, Sully Elementary School Principal Clark Bowers geared up for his second week of school with a main goal in mind, to increase minority parent activity in school.

"We are a minority school," he said. "Seventy percent of our students are minorities."

With so many different cultures under one roof, Bowers chose to unify his students under one motto, "creating a culture of excellence."

Bowers boasted about his diverse group of students, but said he worried about his non-English speaking parents at home.

"Some of my parents have never entered an American school," he said. "We want to make sure parents are partners in their children’s education. We want to bring them into our school."

In order to bridge the gap between home and school and break down language barriers, Bowers works closely with PTO members to come up with new ways to bring parents into the school.

Once a month, Bowers hosts Parents Night, during which Bowers, teachers and PTO members are on hand to answer questions about the school's math, reading and science programs, in English and Spanish.

In addition to bridging the gap between home and school, Bowers said another goal is to raise SOL scores. Last year, 80 percent of his students passed the tests. This year, he hopes 90 percent pass. In order to improve test scores, Bowers said it goes back to parent involvement.

"It’s vital for students to see parents involved in their education," Bowers said. "School becomes more important. Parents become more aware of what’s going on at school. We want parents to realize it’s their school, too."

SULLY ELEMENTARY School’s PTO does its part to bring community members through the Sterling halls.

Their No. 1 project, Bowers said, is Discovery Park, an education playground that incorporates math, music, science and social studies elements into recess.

Last year and over the summer, Sully PTO members held a number of fund-raisers to build the educational playground. Over the summer, they continued fund-raising efforts and began work on the project. In October, parents, teachers and community members will build the playground from scratch on school grounds.

"This is a community school and a community project," Bowers said. "We couldn’t have done it with out their help."