WESTBROOK — At the Prides Corner and Saccarappa schools, absenteeism and serious behavioral incidents are down and math and reading test scores are up.

Parents, teachers and community members attribute the improvements to their shared efforts to increase students’ success.

Parent-Teacher Organizations host skating parties and guest speakers.

The United Way of Greater Portland and other community partners sponsor workshops on kindergarten readiness and children’s health.

And new school councils provide curriculum and budget guidance.

“We have a great balance here,” said Prides Corner Principal Janet Crawford. “There has to be a fundamental belief that children and their parents are our clients, and parents and community members support everything we do.”

The Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education was at the Prides Corner School on Thursday to highlight programs in Westbrook public schools as examples of best practices in honor of National Parent Involvement Day.

Coalition members also announced their Parent and Family Involvement Campaign to develop a statewide network of parent and community organizations that work to improve Maine schools.

“Parent organizations tend to be school by school,” said Peter Geiger, a coalition member who is executive vice president of Geiger Bros. in Lewiston. “We want to unite them in our effort to reach out to parents and community members and engage them in the learning process.”

Twenty-three years ago, Geiger’s company adopted Montello Elementary School in Lewiston.

Geiger employees volunteer at the school on company time, and Geiger sponsors programs such as a yearly “Night of the Stars,” an Academy Awards-like ceremony complete with limo rides to celebrate great writing by students.

The evenings typically attract as many as 650 parents, siblings, friends and out-of-town family members.

Geiger said the coalition wants to increase parents’ involvement in the educational process because their influence over children’s success is the most critical, starting even before birth.

“We talk about holding teachers and schools accountable,” Geiger said.

“How do we hold parents accountable?”

Coalition members have found that a little effort goes a long way.

In an informal survey, a majority of Maine teachers said the best thing parents can do to help their children succeed in school is read with them, said Dolly Sullivan, the coalition’s program director.

It also helps if parents show interest in schoolwork, monitor academic progress, get involved in school activities and communicate with teachers, according to the survey.

“Parents are children’s first teachers,” Sullivan said. “They need to be their first advocates, too.”

In Westbrook, the coalition highlighted the recent formation of advisory councils in each school.

The councils include parents, teachers and community members to help principals set high expectations and implement policies and programs to meet those goals.

“A key element of a good school is empowering parents to be involved in the decision-making process,” said Westbrook Superintendent Reza Namin, who directed his principals to start school councils.

Parents’ involvement is high at the Prides Corner School. Parent-teacher conferences typically have nearly 100 percent attendance.

Margaret and Fritz Hansen were at the school Thursday afternoon to meet with Pamela Ridley, who teaches their son, Peter, a second-grader.

They have developed a positive partnership with Ridley, welcoming her calls whenever she has a concern about Peter’s academic progress or behavior.

“It’s a matter of personal responsibility for us to be here for our son,” Fritz Hansen said.

“We need to know what’s happening in school and what he needs to work on.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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