Adults must be better models of behavior, said the leader of an effort to promote character in the community.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ask just about any school administrator or teacher in the nation to list the keys to improving education, and parental involvement will be near the top.
Ask what they're doing to get parents more involved, and you may get some blank stares.
"The words come from all of us, but the actions aren't always there," said Dr. Gary Fields, interim superintendent of the 2,200-student Zion-Benton Township High School north of Chicago.
"If we truly are going to change public schools, we must do so in partnership -- sincere, authentic partnerships -- with parents and the community."
Fields, a consultant with the International Center for Leadership in Education, spoke at Youngstown State University this morning during a program called "Rebuilding Our Community: The Issue of Character."
A high school principal or superintendent for 32 years in Wisconsin, Washington and Illinois, Fields is most known for his efforts to involve parents in schools and his philosophy of improving education from the "outside in."
Attitude is the key
At Fields' school, 1,300 parents have signed an agreement outlining ways in which they will monitor the activities of their children and others outside of school.
Getting parents engaged requires a full commitment from top level school leaders, and it goes beyond simply having an open door policy, he said.
"I don't believe in the concept of an open door policy; I think it's an open heart policy," he said.
"People can smell a phony a mile away, and if they truly aren't convinced that a principal or a superintendent or a board wants those partnerships, they can tell."
This morning's program, attended by nearly 150 leaders of local businesses and organizations, was conducted by Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent and Chronic Offenders, a national program introduced in Mahoning County four years ago.
Nearly 300 local individuals, organizations and businesses have signed a position paper agreeing to adopt character traits such as integrity, respect, fairness and responsibility in their workplaces and homes.
"I think it is incumbent on all of us to take the paper we have endorsed, put it into action and make us a community of character," said Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County juvenile court.
Today's meeting was aimed at helping businesses and organizations to incorporate character into their workplaces through employee evaluations, personnel policies, job descriptions and employee training.
"I think when we meet a year from now, we'll have more results," said Judge Dellick.
Anne Louise White, Comprehensive Strategy coordinator, said adults really need to be modeling better behavior and haven't been doing so in our community.
Instead, Mahoning Valley youth have been seeing political and other community leaders, including their congressman, involved in fraudulent and corrupt behavior, she said.
"We need to tell our young people that there are consequences to actions and that we need to be people of character," she added.