How do you get 10,000 adults to help tutor students in Prince George's County?
You target churches, community groups and local service fraternities and sororities and put up a special Web page.
At least that's the way School Superintendent Iris T. Metts plans to spread the word and make good on her goal of vastly increasing mentors in five years in the 130,000-student system.
"When we get to 10,000, we're going to have one heck of a party," Metts said at a news conference Monday at Princeton Elementary in Suitland.
There are 2,000 to 3,000 people acting as mentors for students in the school system, Metts said, but most of the programs are run by individual schools or community groups. Metts said she envisions the school system starting a more comprehensive program, which will allow for slight differences in approach from school to school, but would be connected by an emphasis on basic reading, writing and math skills.
Sarah J. Johnson will be the system's mentor coordinator and will run the program in conjunction with a 38-member citizens' committee. Ten elementary schools have been tapped for participation in a national mentoring program: Princeton, Apple Grove, Seabrook, Cooper Lane, William Paca, Doswell E. Brooks, Francis T. Evans, James Ryder Randall, Mount Rainier and Thomas S. Stone. The program, Help One Student to Succeed (HOSTS) will provide training for mentors and will provide specific curriculum and materials.
Other schools will be encouraged to develop their own mentoring programs, with help from the citizens' committee. Although social skills will be part of the programs, the focus is on helping students improve academically and raising the scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.
"We must help bring up the kids who are not making the grade," said Jacob Andoh, a parent who lives in Lake Arbor and is a member of the citizens' committee. He said he hopes the mentoring programs will help break down the mistrust that has built up between many parents and teachers in Prince George's.
"It has to be a mutual relationship," Andoh said.
Metts conceded that the school system has had problems in responding to people who volunteered to be mentors, but she said the system will be more efficient now because they are asking all mentors to fill out an application that will be put on file.
Anyone interested in being a mentor should call Sarah J. Johnson at 301-883-5304.