Chesterton Tribune

Parents As Teachers begins 20th year helping to prepare children for school

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Parents as Teachers (PAT) is beginning its 20th year of preparing children for kindergarten in the Duneland School Corporation (DSC), and after a good year in 2006-07 is readying for another solid effort in 2007-08.

So PAT Director Jill Stricker told the Duneland School Board at its meeting Tuesday night.

Some of PAT’s numbers for 2006-07:

•PAT served 160 children with their parents at least once a month.

•PAT served 100 families, with a total of more than 800 visits.

•PAT sponsored six parent/child workshops, each attended by at least 30 children, and six parent workshops in which child care was provided.

•PAT operated four weeks of “completely sold-out” pre-school summer camps, serving a total of 65 children.

And, Stricker added, PAT had “a very successful spring grant season”: a grant of $15,000 from the Discovery Alliance, the maximum possible, plus a $1,000 grant for a kindergarten study; a grant of $5,000–“very exciting,” Stricker said–from the Porter County Community Foundation; and $3,000 from the Duneland Exchange Club, its largest grant this year. PAT also cleared $2,000 from the pre-school summer camps, so it’s going into the new academic year with something like solid footing.

Even so, Stricker said, solid footing is a relative concept, not only from year to year but absolutely. Not so very long ago, PAT could rely on an annual ration of grants. No more. Grant moneys are not as plentiful as they used to be and grant applications are more competitive. The program’s biggest challenge, she noted in response to a query from Member Nick Jurasevic, is to establish “ongoing sustainability.”

PAT is also operating now with a small staff of four, she said, down from the nine which it formerly had when it was serving areas as far south in Porter County as Hebron and as far east as Westville.

With those constraints in mind, Stricker told the board, PAT is now focusing on Duneland. “There are so many kids in our own backyard that we need to touch,” she said.

Going forward, PAT will be emphasizing among its parents “more co-ownership of the program,” the need–given “family circumstances”–to do a few hours of volunteer work in a PAT-related capacity, to pay whenever possible the nominal fee or even to pay the fee for a few families less able to afford it, and to be more active in fundraising efforts. “You will be expected to participate at some level,” Stricker said.

Parents will also be hearing this message: make your appointments promptly and if unable to do so notify your PAT educator; and, of course, do all the homework with your child. These, Stricker said, are simply basic parenting skills.

On the schedule for the fall is the Val’s spaghetti dinner fundraiser scheduled for Oct. 11. Tickets are $10, Stricker said, and nearly 100 percent of the proceeds will go to PAT.

She also hopes to repeat last year’s successful Cookies with Mrs. Claus fundraiser.

Eight parent/teacher workshops, one per month, are on the schedule as well, and eight parents-only workshops, with child care provided. “We’re reaching out as much as possible to families,” Stricker said.

PAT is always looking for new board members. If you would wish to serve in that capacity, attend the monthly meeting, at 4:30 p.m. the second Tuesday at the Library Service Center.

Stricker did make a point of thanking the DSC and the board for its consistent support of PAT. “You recognize the importance of getting to kids before they ever walk through the door of the kindergarten classes,” she said.

Stricker “is doing an excellent job,” Superintendent Dirk Baer said. “She’s an excellent communicator and keeps my office fully informed about what’s going on.”

Observed Member John Marshall, “This whole thing is done by Jill. . . . She’s bringing the energy to the table.”


Posted 9/6/2007