Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kimberly K. Parker Talks About A Better Savings Plan

A Better Savings Plan

Often, I find my children engaged in conversations about toys and games they plan to acquire…one day. With various methods and means of advertising, they are bound to eventually make the acquaintance of an item that captures their undivided attention. Unless it truly serves an educational need, my husband and I purchase out of necessity and do not over indulge our children in the latest “this” or the most advanced “that”. Instead, we strategically invest in a game or activity here and there while closely monitoring its use.

For several months, my sons had hoped to get an Xbox®. In spite of their many requests, it has not been honored. In 2008 they pooled together money they saved for a year and, with a little extra help from extended family, purchased a Wii®. As far as I was concerned, if I could hold onto my Atari® for over ten years…and like it…then they had no room to even think about upgrading their two-year old console!

Recently, my older son made haste to get to me while in the kitchen. His face was all aglow as he planted himself just a few steps beyond where I stood. It was obvious that he had a brilliant idea and he was most anxious to hurl it my way! I could hardly wait to hear his sure-fire plan that, apparently, he already surmised would be readily accepted. Knowing well my system of saving money, he suggested that in order for he and my son to get the Xbox® they long desired, I should put aside a little bit of money every week. Once I’ve saved enough, together we would go shopping for this just-gotta-have-one game and, finally, it would be theirs for years to come!

Stroking my chin while pausing briefly, I gently smiled at this beautiful tween-child of mine. For a moment, I got stuck on his most handsome face and the keenest of his mind. With the daze lifting, I applauded him for his ingenuity! It was most apparent that he invested a bit of thought into how he could help me find a way to help him. In essence, should I adopt his plan then he could actually receive credit for contributing to the ultimate acquisition of the console.

Now, I’d like to consider myself as a promoter of self-sufficiency. You know: “God bless the child’s that got his own, that’s got his own!” Through a plethora of personal experiences, I adopted this mindset early on in my life. If beyond food, shelter, and clothing it was to be, it was clearly up to me. So, I countered his proposal and suggested that he and my son do what they did two years before: save their monies and pool it together whereby they will be able to purchase the Xbox®. Additionally, I encouraged him to develop this better savings plan in writing, outlining all of the particulars of earning the money.

Of course this route would prolong the purchase a bit, but it would be well worth the wait! To be gleaned are lessons in self-sufficiency, patience, saving, and investing all of which would certainly yield a lifetime of positive results. It is far too easy to just hand our children life and all therein on a platter. If our mission as parents is to groom them into productive contributors of our society and the world at large, we must employ various rites of passage and teach them how. I hope to do them justice.

Kimberly K. Parker is the owner of Writing Momma Publishing ( She is hosting “Isn’t She Lovely!”, an elegant father and daughter event in March 2011 in hopes of promoting the importance of the relationship between little girls and their fathers.

Visit to purchase tickets and for more information. Kimberly is an author and blogger living in Maryland with her husband and three children.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Very Good Holiday Snack

Mrs. Kim Carrington and the United Health Heroes Presents :
A Very Good Holiday Snack

10 apples (different varieties such as Stayman, Fugii, Gala, Granny Smith and Honey Crisp and whatever else you like)1 pineapple (peeled and cut)1/2 red onion1 or 2 limes garlic powder kosher salt1 jalepeno pepper cilantro mint.

First, wash and dry apples and herbs. Rough cut the apples with the skins into bite-sized pieces. Cut half of the pineapple into pieces half the size of the apples. Dice up the onions. Mince the pepper. So, the apples are the largest ingredient in size, then the pineapples, then onions, then pepper. This matters because the onions and peppers should not overwhelm the apples and pineapples, just season the salsa. Don't omit them though. The pineapples could actually be cut the same size, larger or smaller than the apples.

Second, mix all the fruit, onions and pepper and squeeze the lime juice over the mixture to keep the apples looking fresh. You don't want them to turn brown. The pineapples also help keep the apples looking fresh.

Last, lightly sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of garlic powder (not garlic salt) over the fruit mixture, a light sprinkle of the kosher salt, and add about a handful of each roughly chopped fresh cilantro and mint. Adjust seasoning to your personal taste and serve with hot or cold corn tortilla chips. People who like strong flavors can use fresh or minced garlic and add a little more as well as the red onion to the recipe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Parent Talk and Joe Murchison of Side By Side Discuss Community Engagement

Parent Talk discusses community engagement with Joe Murchison, Side by Side executive director. In 2004, the Laurel Clergy Association launched an initiative to help Laurel children and families by supporting the area’s Prince George’s County public schools. It paired individual schools and churches with the idea that the churches could furnish the schools with volunteers and other aid. In 2007 that initiative took on a more formal shape as a nonprofit organization, Side by Side, Inc. The group obtained tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status in 2009


Joe Murchison was a journalist for almost three decades, the last 17 of them as editor of the Laurel Leader newspaper. After leaving journalism in 2007, he wrote a book and worked for a marketing firm. In 2009 he helped found and became executive director of Side by Side, Inc., a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening Prince George's County public schools and their families in the Laurel area. Side by Side hosts a monthly Family Academy for families from seven elementary schools, with parent workshops in English and Spanish, enrichment activities for children and a free meal for the families. It also runs a homework club three afternoons a week at a Laurel apartment complex and has a tutoring program in which adult volunteers work one-on-one with elementary students in need of extra help.

Sunday, November 14, 2010




Maryland’s education is on the cusp of metamorphosing once again into yet an even stronger system; giving every public school student an opportunity to realize academic success that will better prepare them for college, career, and life.As we celebrate the 89th annual American Education Week (November 14-20), we highlight the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education.

In Maryland, we have achieved success on the national level – a feat that makes us tremendously proud. It was the hard work of our students, educators, and leadership that saw Maryland achieve a number one national ranking two years straight for our overall education system, for our Advanced Placement performance, and for having the most rigorous high schools. Now, as we take a glimpse into the future, we know we have to offer an education system that raises the education floor and provides every student with a world class education.

In August, Maryland was one of nine states and the District of Columbia to receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. We are thrilled that Maryland received $250 million to continue building upon its already solid record of school reform. So, what exactly does that mean?

It means Maryland will adopt new Common Core State Standards, Curriculum, and Assessments to ensure students – kindergarten through grade 12 – have the knowledge and skills for global competition and success in college and the world of work.Our new reform efforts also mean that Maryland will build a statewide student information system providing parents, teachers, and administrators with better data about their students, schools, and school systems. We will provide additional resources and support to ensure that every classroom and school is led by highly-effective teachers and leaders. We will be working hard to improve low-achieving schools, and we will increase Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) resources starting at the elementary level through high school.

This is a tremendous task, but our new reform efforts will lift our students well beyond the basics – with the expectation that all students and educators will have the tools to be successful for life.During American Education week, our schools invite everyone to visit during their open houses to observe first-hand the high-quality learning that already takes place and to observe the commitment and dedication of our students, teachers, and leaders.

I am confident that, working together, we will move Maryland’s education from national leader to world class leader.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

There Is No Letter “I” In The Word Success

I recently had the opportunity to view a re-broadcast of the November 11, 2010 Board of Education meeting. It was interesting to hear the farewell comments from Board members. I was disappointed that none of the current Board members thanked former employees who have lost their jobs or those remaining employees who were furloughed over the past two years for their hard work and dedication. According to a member of the BOE, PGCPS has become a leader in education reform. Such a lofty accomplishment did not come without the sacrifices of former and current employees and their families.

It is because of the work of many of those who are no longer in the system that the reforms have moved forward. The work of those men and women were ignored by members of the Board. I am ashamed that the amazing work of hundreds of people who were forced to leave their jobs due to reasons out of their control were not acknowledged by one single Board member. The failure of the BOE to recognize these individuals may not symbolize a sense of superiority on behalf of the BOE or the current school administration, but supposes a sense of aloofness or worst a disdain for those who do not have a voice.

Whatever successes this administration or BOE champions it did not come without the support and hard work of parents and families. Parents in this system have lost avenues to become engaged. Parents have seen doors closed in their faces. Attempts to silence their voices have reached epic proportions ranging from the lost of Parent Liaisons to the elimination of parental engagement programs and services. However, parents continued to push for an active role in the educational process. Parents and members of the community have respectfully demanded their concerns are addressed. As payment for their support parents only expect a high performing school district with academic rigor and sustainable student achievement through all grade levels.

Finally, parents want a responsive BOE and not one that practices what I call "The Tin Ear Approach". During what I can best describe as an “I” party, the BOE and this current administration failed to acknowledge any role in the successes of Prince George's County Public Schools other than their own.

Please consider joining me and my guest panel on a special Parent Talk, as we examine some of the challenges confronting our school system and how the new BOE will tackle these issues.

Parental Engagement and Prince George's County Public Schools?

While schools are striving to prepare our students for the 21st century, many are doing so without aligned parent and community engagement practices”
(Arne Duncan, 2010).

Just two short years ago Prince George's County Public Schools was on the cusp of becoming a national model in the area of parental engagement. PGCPS was recognized by the Harvard Family Research Project for its innovative approaches to parental engagement. The efforts of Prince George's County Public Schools according to the Harvard Family Research Project identified the school system as an exemplar in family involvement and community outreach.

The parental engagement programs and services implemented in the system by the defunct Department of Family and Community Outreach ushered some amazing levels of parent and community engagement. In a two year span parents and community members supported the schools with nearly three million dollars in volunteer hours. This number far exceeds any similar data reported by other school districts in Maryland. One would be hard press to find any data on the number of volunteers in the schools.

In the year 2008, the Department of Family and Community Outreach created Men Make A Difference Day. This remarkable one day invitation to men and significant male role models resulted in over 10,000 fathers and other male role models visiting schools. The successful first year of the program was followed by another successful outpouring of dads and male role models visiting our schools and meeting teachers. The significance of this event cannot be measured simply by the numbers on that day, but by the continued involvement of these men throughout the school year and beyond. Fathers and overall male engagement increased significantly. In many cases their involvement increased by as much as an 80%. The example of increased male engagement represents a desire of parents in Prince George's County to be actively involved in the academic lives of their children.

However, over the past year and half we have witness a systematic dismantling of the core of parental engagement in Prince George's County Public Schools. The system has moved away from a more centralized approach to parental engagement to one that is de-centralized. This approach has resulted in a haphazard method of parental involvement. Parents no longer have a central office to contact as it relates to parental engagement, instead parents are expected to contact their neighborhood school’s principal, who have now been charged with the overall aspects of parental engagement. While this appears like a wonderful concept, it only served to add an additional expectation onto a workforce that is already in the opinion of many over tasked. Traditionally, principals have served as the parental involvement gatekeeper for their schools, however, they were not charged with the expectations of managing systemic goals and objectives for parental engagement that exist in all other schools districts in Maryland.

When one examines the efforts of Prince George's County Public Schools to have a real partnership with parents, one only need to look at the organizational structure of the system. There is no centralized office were parents can seek support for issues or concerns. There is no designated parent and community web page designed to support their inquiries. Recently, the Department of Student Services has been re-named the Department of Student Engagement and Parent Support. What does this mean? How was the public notified of this change? Does this now mean there are those within the department specifically assigned to support parents? Has a unit within the department been created with an objective to increase parent involvement?

As an individual who has studied and been involved in parental engagement and student services for over 25 years, I concur with research that suggest when parents are informed they have a higher level of engagement.

Currently, in the Prince George's County Public Schools there is little evidence of a willingness to keep parents informed beyond the superficial. Given what appears to be a reluctance of Prince George's County Public Schools to offer authentic opportunities for parents to engage and become informed, beyond a few community sessions with the superintendent what are parents to do? Perhaps the answer lies in the questions proposed to a panel of experts and the United States Secretary of Education Mr. Arne Duncan at a recent National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement, held in Washington, DC.

These questions represent an excellent starting point for the newly elected Board of Education to begin its work on establishing a better working relationship with parents and members of the community.

  • What does the future of family and community engagement look like in Prince George's County Public Schools?
  • How will you incorporate federal, state, and local policies to create systemic family engagement Prince George's County Public Schools?
  • How can student performance data be used to connect families and schools in a significant way?
  • What roles can families play in transforming low-performing schools?

This is my opinion....what is yours?

National Anti-Bullying Week

Anti-Bullying Week sends a clear and positive message that bullying is neither acceptable or inevitable in our schools and communities. Anti-Bullying Week 2010 will take place from 15-19 November. This year we are looking at the importance of Taking action together.

Taking action to stop bullying

Bullying will only stop if we take action together but we know that significant numbers of children and young people who witness bulling still don’t tell anyone or take action to stop it. It might also be parents and carers, other adults and schools and communities who turn a blind eye or don’t take action to stop bullying.

What really works?

We think the majority of children, adults, schools and communities do want to do something to tackle bullying. The problem is that sometimes it can be hard to know who to tell, who can help and what strategies really work.

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week resources pack is packed with information and advice about who to approach and what works in different situations. The pack is free to download and includes guidance for parents, teachers, school leaders, youth workers and those working with children and young people in a range of settings.

Get your school ready for Anti-Bullying Week

Anti-Bullying Alliance supports schools and other settings to plan and deliver their Anti-Bullying Week in the following ways:

For the latest news about Anti-Bullying Week and tips on how you can help tackle bullying keep checking our website. To receive email updates send an email with the subject 'ABW updates' to

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Parent Talks Discusses Financial Literacy and Fatherhood

Parent Talk is a weekly radio show for families and members of the community who aspire to become an integral part of their children’s academic success. Parent Talk is hosted by Michael A. Robinson. Parent Talk is a live interactive broadcast, were listeners have the opportunity to call in and ask questions of the host, guest or to simply comment on the topic of the day. Parent Talk can be heard every other Sunday evening from 8:30pm to 9:30pm (EST).

Our first guest Carmen Johnson Katie Founder/CEO will discuss Financial Literacy Over a decade ago Carmen R. Johnson, President and CEO of the Katie Able Foundation, wrote these famous words: "Do something to justify your existence. Together we can create the future.” With these words in mind, Ms. Johnson decided to pursue her mission of empowerment through financial freedom by first creating her for-profit business Able Estate & Co., and now with the establishment of Katie Able Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to commemorate her grandmother, for whom the Foundation is named. With her experience working in Corporate America and armed with her background in accounting, Ms. Johnson has a wealth of experience in credit counseling, debt elimination and debt relief, and thus has become an expert in debt negotiation and creating wealth.

Our second guest is Dr. Jeffery M. Johnson President and CEO of the National Partnership for Community Leadership(NPCL). Dr. Johnson and host Michael Robinson will discuss Effective Ways To Engage Fathers

Jeffery M. Johnson is President and CEO of the National Partnership for Community Leadership (NPCL). As a national nonprofit intermediary organization, the mission of NPCL is to strengthen the service capacity of nonprofit and community-based agencies to empower youth and families. Prior to his work at NPCL, Dr. Johnson spent nearly two decades as a senior manager and management consultant in the private and public sector. Dr. Johnson is a nationally recognized authority in the areas of leadership, employment and training, urban poverty and youth employment. A particular focus of Dr. Johnson’s work has been on the plight of African-American men and families. He is regularly invited to testify before the United States Congress on matters pertaining to low-income fathers and strengthening families.

Photos of the 2010 Parental Engagement Conference

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The Middle School Years

Visits From Engaged Parents and Dedicated Educators