What started as a group of Charles Village parents wondering where to send their kids to school has coalesced into an effort to promote local public education.
On Tuesday morning, Melanie Cornelisse, a member of The Village Parents, spoke about efforts to get her neighbors to send kids to Margaret Brent Elementary and Middle School.
“A big part of the challenge is to get people that live in the neighborhood to come through the door,” said Cornelisse, a former teacher who runs the elementary school's Story Pals and Math Matches volunteer programs.
The Village Parents' goal is to make the neighborhood more family friendly, with activities for kids and stronger schools, according to the group’s website.
“There are a lot of parents that believe in education and support public education,” Cornelisse said.
Cornelisse, who has a son in a Margaret Brent pre-kindergarten class, said the group is still trying to figure out which parents are most likely to send their kids to public schools.
While Charles Village is a middle-class neighborhood, Cornelisse pointed out that 94 percent of Margaret Brent’s students receive free or reduced meals. That would indicate a substantial number of families are sending their children to private or charter schools.
But in doing so, those parents may be missing out on the benefits of attending a neighborhood public school, she said.
The pre-kindergarten class at Margaret Brent not only has a classroom teacher, but also an assistant and two Experience Corps volunteers. But Cornelisse said there’s still work to be done convincing residents to send their children to the public school.
However, she's confident that Village Parents is having an impact on chldren from the neighborhood going to school at Margaret Brent and also The Barclay School.
“I feel like it slowly is happening,” Cornelisse said.
Stephanie Sterling, who is also involved with the Village Parents, helps lead tours twice a month to help parents of prospective students decide if they’d be comfortable sending their children to Margaret Brent.
She said part of getting parents to buy in and send their kids to Margaret Brent is letting them know that the effort they put in would be appreciated.
“If I’m going to invest time and energy in the school, I want to feel included,” Sterling said.
Cassandra Orem, an Experience Corps volunteer who works in a Margaret Brent pre-kindergarten class, said parent involvement has yielded tangible results in the classroom.
“A child has more confidence when they see ... parents come in and be active,” said Orem, who lives a few blocks from Margaret Brent on Abell Avenue.
“It’s part of my giving back and investing in neighborhood schools,” she said.