Prince George’s to discuss how to increase the number of fathers involved in education

Prince George’s school board member Curtis Valentine, a former middle school teacher, hosted a forum in February to discuss ways to increase the number of male teachers in the school district.

On Thursday night at Dr. Henry A. Wise High School, Valentine will take the lead again, discussing another topic he is familiar with.

This time, as a school board member and the father of two Prince George’s County elementary school students, Valentine will discuss ways to increase the number of parents – particularly fathers — who are involved in their children’s education.

Valentine, who was appointed to the school board last year by the county council, designed the forum to first celebrate engaged fathers, those who have “debunked stereotypes and stepped up to be a leader on education in their children’s lives.”

More than 40 fathers who were nominated by principals will be given certificates for their involvement, not just in their child’s life, but for their work in their child’s school.

Valentine also created the event to come up with ways to encourage other fathers to get involved as well.

Valentine said there will be two panel discussions, one led by policy and community activists and the other by fathers talking about what they do, how their own upbringing affected how they got involved and how their interaction with their child differs from the child’s mother.

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks, the father of two Prince George’s students, will moderate one of the panels, and Gorman Brown, principal at Charles H. Flowers High School and the father of one county student, will lead the discussion on the other.

“I don’t believe the school system will move where it needs to be unless we have” the support of parents, particularly fathers, Valentine said.

Schools across the Washington region and country, hoping to increase the number of male role models in young people’s lives, have in recent years been developing ways for fathers to volunteer in the child’s classroom and to take a more active role in education.

For example, in Arlington County, an elementary school hosts a father-and-son book club. In Prince George’s, the district hosts an annual, county-wide Men Make a Difference Day, during which fathers or father figures hear motivational speakers, join students in class and participate in athletic activities.

Even the national Parent Teacher Association, which has its second male leading the organization, has developed a “how-to” guide for father involvement.

Valentine said a majority of the students in the county live in female-headed households. On top of that, there are few male educators in the school system.

“For the most part, they are not getting [a male role model] at home and not getting it at school, either,” Valentine said. “When you have a highly involved father, it correlates with student achievement, graduation rates and discipline.”

The forum, which is also sponsored by Lamda Gamma Gamma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and the Prince George’s County PTA, will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria at Dr. Henry A. Wise High School in Upper Marlboro.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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