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At Dunbar, parents see child's day in school

The elementary magnet welcomes about two dozen parents to their children's classrooms.

By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2002

WEST TAMPA -- Nationally, Monday was billed as "Visit Your Child in School Day."

At Dunbar Elementary Magnet, administrators had their own name: Parent Involvement Day.

"We take any opportunity to get parents here to learn more about their child's education," said assistant principal Tricia McManus.

About two dozen parents showed up for coffee and cinnamon rolls in the school's media center, where fifth-graders presented reports on African-American inventors.

Then parents headed to the classrooms.

It wasn't a large turnout for a school of 420 students, who range from kindergarteners to fifth-graders.

But McManus said the math, science and technology magnet school typically maintains a high level of parental involvement.

"We know it's hard to get away on a weekday morning," she said.

Co-teachers Linda Johnson and Sandra Ross welcomed parent Ruth DeJam to a fifth-grade Math Academy class.

"This is an FCAT preparation day," Ross said. "We're not putting on a dog-or-pony show or anything because we see these parents on a regular basis, not just one day."

DeJam, a database administrator for VoiceStream, took the morning off to be with her daughter, Sara.

"I usually come when there's a problem, so I thought it would be nice to come when there isn't," DeJam said.

She listened as Johnson returned a recent math test to the students.

"I'm getting a much better feeling for what she got wrong," DeJam said. "Math is taught quite differently than when I went to school, so hearing the teacher's explanation is very helpful."

Of course, Sara, 10, was just thrilled to have Mom sitting beside her, even though it was nothing new.

"She came in for my birthday and for the Great American Teach-In," Sara said.

Second-grade parent Rhonda Carnevali spent part of the morning with her son Evan.

It was great until it came time for goodbyes.

"He doesn't want me to leave,' said Carnevali, after getting a sad-faced hug and kiss.

Visit Your Child in School Day is sponsored locally by the the National Council of Negro Women in conjunction with African-American History Month and Parent Involvement Day, according to Parent Education Center coordinator Chandra Tyson.

Tyson serves as an ombudsmen for parents, students and faculty.

"Communication is my first priority, and my biggest obstacle," she said.

"I'm making sure all parties understand each other, whether it's about suspension, behavior, grades, special education program, whatever."

Visiting parents also included Rosaliz Gonzalez.

Though busy at home with a new baby, she made it to school to visit her daughter Rosely.

Gonzalez discovered two things.

"Rosely is pretty quiet. I will encourage her to participate more," Gonzalez said.

The other discovery?

"Her teacher is very, very patient."

- Amy Scherzer can be reached at 226-3332 or

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