12/04/09 — Parents say boys need special attention now

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Parents say boys need special attention now

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 4, 2009 1:46 PM

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Carlos Sosa, who has two children who attend Brogden Primary School, speaks during the Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps kitchen table discussion at the Evangelical Fellowship Center in Mount Olive on Thursday. At left is Debbie Ogburn, principal of Carver Elementary School.

MOUNT OLIVE -- There is a "boy crisis" in Wayne County Public Schools and a need to develop strategies to address underachieving male students, said parents and community members gathered for this year's first Kitchen Table Conversation.

Thursday evening's event was the fourth topic-driven dialogue, the first for this year. Held at Evangelical Fellowship Center in Mount Olive, it was preceded by a Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps Task Force information session.

Officials from the county office addressed pre-submitted questions from parents.

Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, discussed how parents can find out about the curriculum their child is responsible to learn at each grade level.

"Teachers keep a board in the back of the room with the objectives on it," she said, explaining about the N.C. Standard Course of Study, and pacing guides the county uses to address every subject.

The information is also available on the state's Department of Public Instruction and school system's Web sites, she said.

Hope Meyerhoeffer, director of English/language arts, shared information about the senior project.

"In 2006-07, North Carolina implemented the graduation project as a requirement for graduation," she said. "This was part of the curriculum anyway, the standard course of study."

Starting in ninth grade, students are responsible for four components throughout their high school years -- research paper, product, portfolio and presentation.

And while it initially sparked some concerns, she said it has been found to be relative to the students' curriculum and a beneficial effort.

Dameisha Smith, teaching leading coach with WCPS, talked about what the district does to ensure schools have highly qualified teachers.

"We recruit from colleges and universities, place teachers in the content areas in which they're highly qualified," she said. "All lateral entry teachers are highly qualified in our schools."

The district also contributes toward continuing education for teachers, and provides teaching and learning coaches who work closely with beginning teachers during their first three years in the field, she said.

The remainder of the evening was devoted to roundtable discussions on empowering male students.

Most agreed there is a "boy crisis" that creates disparities in male achievement among different ethnic groups, attributing it to lack of male role models, maturity or organization, as well as peer pressure, home life, younger parents having more than one job, and the economy.

The groups brainstormed strategies to address the situation.

"We have to be sure that the teachers in our classrooms are sensitive to our males," said Patsy Faison, principal of Tommy's Road Elementary School and facilitator for the evening.

"We know that there's situations where girls and boys are compared. There are some places in the U.S. where there are actually classes that are gender-organized."

Ms. Smith, spokesperson for her table, suggested mentoring programs.

"We want to make sure that our boys have a reality check," she said. "It's not likely that all of them are going to be basketball or baseball or football players. We want to provide more incentives for them, and have more male teachers in our schools as role models and mentors."

"Better parent involvement -- it still falls back on the home," said Veronica Stanford, the mother of three -- a 13-year-old daughter who attends Mount Olive Middle School, a 3-year-old daughter and the 18-year-old nephew she raised.

"We know that the home structure has changed," Mrs. Faison said. "Just because there's a situation where you're in a single-parent home, we need to get over that.

"Unfortunately, if Daddy's not there, Mama, you have got to do the job because that child will internalize that and feel that he's not worthy."

Most felt the session was very helpful.

"Several times, I texted my nephew and told him he needed to come," Ms. Stanford said.

Cheryl Hicks is the mother of three, including 12- and 13-year-olds who attend Brogden Middle School.

"And they're both sons, so you know this was a real hot topic for me," she said.

One tip she picked up from the session was making use of the district's Web site.

"I think that's a good tool for parents who have to work a lot. I'm a nurse and I work a lot of different hours," she said. "Plus just coming here and finding out what's going on with the teachers, getting more involved with technology, finding out what's going on with the schools."

Bernice Simmons also has two sons, one a student at Brogden Middle School.

"I didn't realize how much (the school system) already has in place," she said. "We just need to utilize it more."

At the same time, she noted, more parent involvement is needed in every area.

"But I have also found that I have no problem finding someone to talk to at Brogden Middle," she said. "It's very accessible. They will call me back."

Results of the roundtable discussions will be posted on the district Web site, waynecountyschools.org.