Employes at the Bank of Alexandria will soon be giving up some of their banker's hours to tutor children in two of the city's elementary schools.
So far 17 employes and seven members from the bank's board of directors have offered to tutor children at Maury and Lyles-Crouch elementary schools, in response to Superintendent Robert W. Peebles' report that minority students in Alexandria were scoring significantly below white students on reading and math tests.
Peebles said he had had no idea how businesses would respond to his appeal for help in the area of minority achievement. "I'm so pleased. There's a lot of city people on the [bank's] board of directors. It sends a signal to the local businesses," Peebles said.
In addition to soliciting the help of parents, teachers and the private sector, Peebles has appointed a task force to find ways of solving the education disparity.
"We have the opportunity to raise the test scores in our community. Could you imagine the effect of something like this if every corporation got involved?" asked David Wortman, an employe in the bank's management program.
Other bank employes were as enthusiastic as Wortman at a recent meeting of would-be tutors in the bank's conference room at the 1717 King St. branch. School public relations officer Dorothy Mulligan, who conducted tutoring workshops for the National School Volunteer Program in the late 1970s, introduced the bank employes to the art of motivating children to learn.
"The purpose of my presentation isn't to present the perfect way. These are samples," Mulligan said.
Capturing and keeping the attention of school children is in part accomplished by the use of learning games such as "Brief Grief," a spelling game that teaches words that use the "ie" diphthong. (Remember: "i" before "e" except after "c"?)
In another game, Mulligan asked accounting department employe Heath Coryell to put in order the sentences of a student composition that had been scrambled. The game became a puzzle for learning word order and logic.
"It gets me back into the classroom atmosphere. I miss it," said Coryell, a recent graduate from the University of Virginia.
J. David Holden, bank president, also plans to tutor and said he would offer the tutoring idea to a meeting of 26 bank presidents in Richmond as a means for other banks to get involved in their communities.
Holden said that he became concerned about local students when he saw a group of youthful truants hanging out along Cameron Street. "Why aren't they in school?"
Holden suggested that vandalism, such as $5,000 worth of broken lighting at the bank on upper King Street, might be prevented if students become interested in learning instead of loitering.
Details of the tutoring session haven't been ironed out yet, but Holden said that bank employes could use from one to 1 1/2 hours of company time to tutor at the schools at 8 or 8:30 a.m.
Maury Elementary School in the Rosemont neighborhood teaches grades one, two and three, and its sister school in Old Town, Lyles-Crouch, teaches grades four, five and six.
Mildred Lockridge, principal of Maury school, said that the bank tutors would be a welcome addition to the 30 current tutors, most of them employes of the Naval Air Systems Command that came to the school two years ago in the Adopt-a-School program. Lockridge said she hopes the new tutors will help improve pupils' math skills.
Lyles-Crouch principal, Elwood Lewis, said the school would emphasize reading skills improvement. Lewis' school has about four George Washington University graduate students and several employes from the Naval Air Systems Command currently tutoring.
The Bank of Alexandria is the first business to come forth since the superintendent's report on minority achievement in September. The school system has hired a part-time coordinator, Marcy Ubois, to assist other groups in tutoring.
A number of groups have tutored in the Alexandria school system for years, including the Urban League, Red Cross, Hopkins House Community Center on Princess Street, the Community YMCA and the city's Office of Youth Services, said coordinator of Alexandria's Volunteer Bureau Joan White.
White, whose office acts as a clearinghouse for a number of volunteer projects, said individuals or groups interested in tutoring can call 836-2176 for more information.
Several employes have taught or worked with children before, but their reasons for tutoring in Alexandria seem to be along the same lines: they want to help.
"I work with kids all the time in sports. I want to see everybody have an opportunity to get ahead," said executive secretary Sharon M. Lowry.