More than 100 Jamestown parents had an opportunity to walk in their children's shoes for a half-day of school.
On Friday, students at Persell Middle School brought their parents along to each of their classes in order to provide them with a firsthand account of their school routine and curriculum, as well as a chance to meet with their teachers.
According to Phil Cammarata, Persell principal, the idea of a "Bring Your Parents To School Day" at Persell is not a new one, but this was the first instance of it happening - coming to fruition through the support of Persell's recently established Family Engagement Committee. He said the primary idea behind establishing the event is to cultivate parent involvement in the schooling of their children.
Pictured at center: Hannah Hornyak, a seventh-grade student at Persell Middle School, studies an assignment with her father, Thomas, pictured at right, during Persell’s first ever “Bring Your Parent To School Day” event held Friday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"We've done a lot of research, and we know that we can do a lot of great things in school. But if you don't have the parents involved, you have nothing because they are a critical component," Cammarata said. "So it's always kind of been a dream of mine to get parents in to see, from my biased opinion, how great this school is and what it's like. I don't know of anyone in this county, or of many districts in the state, that are doing this. So, it was a gamble but I thought, 'This is exactly what we need.'"
Cammarata said response to the event was overwhelming, with more than 20 percent of the student body bringing a parent to the building. He said some parents were even turned away for security purposes, as the deadline to register for the event ended Tuesday and each parent had to be cleared in advance.
He added that the timing of the inaugural event is also coincidental with the full implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards in New York schools this year, allowing parents to see the Common Core modules in action.
"My goal was always, first and foremost, for parents to see what a great school we have and what talented teachers we have," Cammarata said. "But then with this whole movement of the Common Core, and all the negative feelings out there, I needed to show parents that they shouldn't be worried about the Common Core. If anything, they should be embracing it because there isn't one bad thing about what's going on in these classrooms. It's phenomenal."
Anthony Scott, who came to Persell with his sixth-grade daughter, Journey, said seeing the new classroom curriculum was one his motivating factors for participating.
"Today has been really enlightening," Scott said. "It's true that the Common Core is now being implemented, and I wanted to see what that was like in action. I've heard about it, I've read about and I've gone to the EngageNY website and seen videos about it, but now I'm seeing the real deal. It's very different from when I went to school. It appears that there's a lot more independent study, a lot more gathering of meanings from the texts and there's a lot more group work. That's something I've taken away from today.
"Also, as a parent, the more involved I am, the better the school experience will be for my child," he added. "That's a big issue. And, reciprocal of that, I also feel like it's good for the teachers to see that the child has parental representation. They get a feel for the child and what the parent is like, and they can better assist the child. So, I feel like it's been a good experience all the way around."
Providing a student perspective on the event was Hannah Hornyak, a seventh-grader, who discussed what it was like to have her father, Thomas, attend school with her.
"I asked my dad to come, and he agreed," Hannah said. "I think it's been a pretty neat experience because you can have your parent with you, that way they can experience what you're learning. You're not just going home with a sheet of homework and saying, 'This is what we learned today.' I think it's important because, this way, parents can become more involved with the students and their education."
Cammarata said plans are already being made for future instances of "Bring Your Parent To School Day" at Persell, and the Family Engagement Committee is currently targeting the month of April to hold the next one.