October 01, 2010 I am a big fan of Indianapolis Star writer, Matthew Tully. He has a passion for kids and education and so do I. He believes that innovation can be exciting and make a difference in the lives of children—so do I. He believes that parental involvement your child's schooling is paramount — I couldn't agree more. Thank you, Matthew, for writing about Manuel High School and, more recently, about Summer Advantage USA.
I took note that the Summer Advantage USA program had positive and measurable results in math and reading skills for the 3,000 students involved for the two months the program took place. Earl Phalen is the dynamic educator who designed this program that demands parent participation.
I want to note another program that has demonstrated huge success in Lubbock, Texas. When Brian Yearwood was named a principal of an elementary school, Lubbock gave him the worst performing school in the school system. It took him several years to move this school to number one in the school system. A large majority of the students were Latino or African American. Yearwood comes from Tobago, West Indies and is African American. Attitude is everything to Brian Yearwood and he was determined to succeed.
When Yearwood had his initial teachers' meeting, he announced that the school would have a weekly evening program in all of the classrooms. Boys and girls would recite poetry, put on a play, sing, read their papers—whatever, but parents and grandparents were invited to attend. The initiative here was that the classroom teachers were to plaster the walls with all of the work papers of their students. Spelling papers from 100% of the students were posted alongside all math and other projects assigned.
The parents became involved with their children at home because they wanted to be proud of their children's work and realized they could make a difference.
What was Yearwood's reward? He was recently assigned the worst middle school in Lubbock. The only difference is that the school has four tennis courts. I am certain that Brian Yearwood will not only raise the standards of his middle school; but also, in his quiet way, inspire and coach his boys and girls to be the best Middle School Tennis Team in Texas.
Brian Yearwood lived with our family for three summers. He was a tournament player in the Washington Township Schools Community Tennis Program. His goal was to win a college tennis scholarship—and he did! He graduated from New Mexico Military College and went on to get a Ph.D. in Education. He was a member of the varsity tennis team all four years and learned to prioritize his time. Yearwood's attitude of "I can do it" and the importance of having a team of parents and teachers who want the best will surely produce the best middle school in Lubbock in a matter of a few years.
Barbara Wynne is the founding publisher of Indy's Child Magazine.