Friday, February 14, 2003
School volunteers honored on Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day will be sweeter than usual for over 328 Carlisle School volunteers. The administration at the Carlisle Public Schools is holding a Volunteer Appreciation Tea on February 14. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson clearly loves volunteers and feels involvement in the school community is a benefit to everyone. "What a resource our volunteers are," she said. "We have mothers, fathers, and people with no kids in the school, coming in to help out." People come in weekly, to help in the classroom or on the playground. Some people help daily or do projects at home. "We rely on volunteers," Fox-Melanson explained. "We couldn't hire the people to do the jobs."
Helping in the classroom
At one time or another, a parent will be offered the chance to help in the classroom. The jobs
Fox-Melanson explained how volunteers are supporting, but are not expected to be primary instructors. The teachers enjoy inviting the community for general assistance and for sharing expertise, but the adult will not be independent in the classroom. Volunteers are not used for SPED instruction, occupational therapy or speech instruction. Confidentiality is a priority in the school and volunteers are instructed in privacy issues.
Eunice Knight, a Carlisle senior citizen, helps in Liz Gray's third-grade classroom for an hour and a half every Tuesday. But Knight is not your average volunteer. "I think I'm the only grandmother who volunteers in the school," she said. She has a master's degree in education and has worked as a reading specialist. She works specifically on reading and writing with the third graders. "I used to work with Alan Ticotsky, but he became all science and I do reading." She has been volunteering in the school for many years ("longer than I can remember"), and has worked in Gray's class for three years. "I'm learning from her, since I was trained 25 years ago," she said.
Another "older generation" helper is Ellen Huber, who volunteers in Margaret Bruell's third-grade class. "The kids feel very comfortable with Ellen. She has a calm manner," Bruell said. "Huber helps on Tuesdays or Thursdays, usually working with a few kids at a time in math.," Bruell explained. "I think she has the most years as a volunteer at the Carlisle School." The children respond positively to having a variety of people in the classroom. It brings the community into the classroom and illustrates the commitment the town has to education. "Ellen is a favorite," Bruell concluded.
Library is a busy place
Volunteers are a big asset to Carlisle School librarian Sandy Kelly. "The training day was filled, overfilled," Kelly said of the library volunteer training session in September 2002. During the hour of training, the volunteers learned how to shelve books, how to check books out, how to do research on the computer, and the general layout of the library. "They meet parents, have coffee, the library is very important" to the volunteers. Most people volunteer on the days their children have library, and it is usually the parents of younger kids that sign up. "The volunteers are very dependable," Kelly pointed out, and they make a big difference in her day. "Volunteers do the day-to-day things; check books in and out, keep the shelves in order." With 850 kids using the library, the shelves need to be organized constantly. Volunteers also process new books by entering the information in the computer. Kelly says their help "behind the scenes" is an incredible asset.
In a typical hour, a class could be visiting, another class could be in the story well for literature appreciation, and middle school students could be using the computers for research. Having the extra help keeps things running smoothly. "We have fewer volunteers during the middle of the day," she explained, and noted that recently students are coming in during lunchtime to do research on the computers, read or get a start on their homework. "It used to
"Lunchtime volunteers keep costs down, and give teachers a break," explained playground coordinator Michelle Sobin. She pointed out that teachers in some other schools have to do lunch duty. The volunteers usually help out with a specific grade, which may have either recess or lunch first. According to Sobin, the design of the plaza and Carlisle Castle makes playground duty more difficult. With no grassy, soft area to play on, it can be dangerous when all the kids are on the plaza. The playground supervisors can't open the Castle when there are not enough volunteers. "The kids are running around, playing football, it's dangerous," she said. "Volunteers can also help with social issues. They help kids be more civil, they watch for kids that are being picked on, and can intervene. They keep things from going too far." The benefits are many; the volunteers can observe their children in a social setting, and the kids can interact with a variety of adults. "Volunteers can put a face to names their kids have talked about." It's a unique opportunity to see who your kid is at school. During bad weather when the kids have indoor recess, the volunteers are needed as much as on nice days. The energy level is high but the kids have to contain themselves in the classroom.
The cafeteria is "maxed out," said Sobin, and there's not a spare seat left. "Parents help the kids navigate the cafeteria," she said. The younger kids need help opening milk cartons, and assistance when they drop their food. "Picture the kindergarteners trying to carry bowls of chicken noodle soup to their table and also the sticky mess that waffle days leave!"
There's a need for more help with middle school lunchtime, but parents tend to volunteer for the lower grades, said Sobin. "It was great when Paul [Anagnostopoulos] came in to help; we need more fathers" to volunteer. The older children can also make a mess, especially if there aren't enough hands to help. She feels the middle school lunchtime has more complicated issues: social interactions, sitting with friends, kids wanting to unwind. The playground team maintains a web site (go to www.carlisle.mec.edu, choose Carlisle School Association, choose CSA Lunch and Recess Volunteer Schedule). The schedules are password protected, and Michelle Sobin will provide the volunteers with the password. The other lunchtime coordinators are: Donna Perkins, Lisa Koski, Andi Gettys, Liz Jewell and Susan Evans.
Two organizations that provide funds to the Carlisle Public Schools through volunteer work are the CSA and the CEF. The CSA is a parent organization, and sponsors a variety of fundraisers such as the fall book sale, wrapping paper and spring book sale. Money raised by the CSA fundraisers is given to the school primarily through two programs: CSA grants (based on proposals submitted by staff members), and Cultural Enrichment Programs. CSA member Muggsie Rocco maintains a volunteer database with information from the CSA membership forms. "We have people who have special skills, people who are willing to help," she said. CSA President Debbie Dawson agreed. "Without so many people donating their time we couldn't do what we do," she said. "Volunteering gives a nice feeling of community. Volunteers are involved in their kids' lives." The CSA has a liaison to the council on aging. Members of the COA have been invited to cultural enrichment programs such as a presentation by author Natalie Kinsey Warnock, who discussed her book Canadian Goose Quilt and displayed her family quilts. Some COA members later visited the second grades, displaying their own family quilts. "We want more multi-generational connection," said Dawson. "Volunteering makes parents feel part of the school, helps them meet people, gives them hands-on experience and builds confidence."
The CEF runs a large fundraising event every year. In the past they have organized the Pig 'n Pepper. This year, in conjunction with the CSA, they are holding an evening auction at the Middlesex School in Concord on March 15. There's an array of items to bid on, from a vacation in Orlando or the White Mountains, bookcases filled with children's books, to a meal home-cooked by fourth-grade teacher Deb O'Halloran. All funds will be used in support of the Carlisle Public Schools.
Many help out in many ways
"You could even include everyone who has participated by attending school events, such as the eighth-grade graduation, and the concerts," said Fox-Melanson. Parents support the students learning music by helping them practice. Parents always help out during Art Week, May 5. Parents are chaperones at the dances, and help with programs on early release afternoons. "Volunteering is good for the school, but more importantly, it shows the children that the community cares about them," Fox-Melanson concluded.
"It's my birthday and I'm bringing in treats for the kids," said Eunice Knight of her next visit. "I like being there." The children like it, too.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito