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Parents establish office at East Clayton Elementary

By Greg Gelpi

Marla Finnegan is getting involved, but she's not getting involved from afar or getting involved from a distance.

In an office among East Clayton Elementary School's administrative offices, Finnegan sits, calling to gather more school volunteers and helping organize upcoming school activities, such as its fall fest.

She is one of 12 parents who are launching the school's Parent CORPS (Concerned Organized Responsible Parental Support) Program, a program to spur more parental involvement in the school and in the students' lives.

"I think it's good for your kids to know that you're here," Finnegan, 39, said. "I think it gives them the idea that you're interested in what they're doing."

Working in the school also enables her to know her son and her son's friends better, she said.

The parent volunteers will support school staff by helping students deal with peer pressure and other issues, she said.

"First, we're going to be putting the students first because they should always come first," Finnegan said.

East Clayton Elementary School Principal Bill Horton said parent volunteers serve an important role in schools.

"Every school must have a volunteer program," Horton said, "Not only is it required, but it's essential to survive."

There are three groups that impact a child's education, he said. Those are the children themselves, teachers and parents, which he called "extremely important."

"Too many times parents have too passive a role," Horton said.

Parent CORPS is helping with many PTO events and activities at the moment, but by the end of the year Horton hopes to expand their involvement.

Volunteers staff the office from 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and the program goes beyond traditional volunteer programs, Horton said. Parents will signup to volunteer for specific activities at specific times and dates, rather than volunteering and just showing up to do whatever is available at the time.

Recognizing the value of parental involvement, the National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs were developed.

The standards are "guidelines for leaders of institutions with programs serving parents and families," according to the Georgia PTA.

"Developed in 1997, the standards are designed to help direct leaders as they move from discussion to action in developing dynamic parent involvement programs that are meaningful, well planned and long lasting," according to the Georgia PTA. "The program standards are also a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of long-term school reform efforts to involve families in their child's education."

Horton wants to have as many as 30 to 40 members in Parent CORPS and hopes to eventually establish a Grandparent CORPS as well. Parents who helped establish the program are Finnegan, Lisa Cameron, Gwen Roche, Debbie Fieley, Melody Wadley and Gregory Smith and his wife.

For more information on Parent CORPS or volunteering at East Clayton Elementary, call the school at (404) 362-3885.