WINTER GARDEN — Music teacher Kelley Bell spent five years teaching the students at Dillard Street Elementary how to sing and play instruments and how to distinguish different musical genres and the songs of various cultures.
This year, she passed the baton to Jalessa Andrews. Bell is still working with the students but says she has a chance to make an even bigger impact on their education and future as the parent resource teacher. This new staff position at the Winter Garden school was created by Principal Katie Boyd and uses Title 1 funding.
“She also knew I was working on my master’s (degree) in leadership,” Bell said. “She gave me the opportunity to better the school. She knew it would be a good fit because I know so many of the parents at the school.”
As the parent resource teacher, Bell can arrange parenting classes and share parenting resources to support the moms and dads of the Dillard Dragons. She also wants to see the community get involved.
Who is she looking for?
“Everyone,” she said. “Not just parents. Not just those whose baby goes to the school. Retired teachers, anyone who just wants to come in and help. These are products of our community, and we want to say that Winter Garden produces some of the best. And we definitely need a village.”
Bell is also the coordinator of the school’s ADDitions and Partners In Education programs, both of which bring members of the community together with DSES staff and students.
Bell is reaching out to everyone on the PIE list, focusing on re-establishing or strengthening relationships with the businesses and discussing how they can be of assistance. There are currently 17 on the list. The most active, Bell said, are Papa John’s, Chick-fil-A and the Castillo family, which uses sno-cones as incentives and helps decorate for school events.
“We are getting some new ones as well, so this list is growing,” Bell said.
Mentors are important in raising students’ potential, too, she said. She is hoping to hear from people such as youth pastors, retired teachers and business leaders.
“We have approximately three to four different levels of commitment, and we’re looking for men and women to come in weekly to work with scholars,” Bell said.
Monthly mentor breakfasts are being planned, where community members speak to the students about academic goals and career goals.
“Overall, my position is to strengthen the home and school relationship and keep that community engagement,” she said.
The Orange County Public Schools website has added a place for volunteers to sign up. They click on Dillard Street Elementary and then have access to a list of all the classrooms or activities requiring assistance.
People without computer access also can obtain information on all the opportunities at the school’s open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17. Volunteers can sign up to work with a specific grade level, Bell said, or they can work in the media center, checking books in and out. They can work at home, putting together packets for teachers or cutting out projects. Or they can go into the classroom, helping students with their flashcards and reading.
Karen Hausmann, the parent of a kindergartner, logged 320 hours at DSES last year. She has helped children with their reading skills and watched them succeed in the Accelerated Reader programs.
“It’s really exciting the first time a child says, ‘I read the book by myself,’ ‘I took the test by myself,’ ‘I passed the test by myself,’” she said.
Bell said there is no limit to the number of volunteers who can sign up.
“If we can allow our scholars to know that it’s not just us who believe in them but the community, I think that will be great.”
HOW TO HELP
To volunteer at Dillard Street Elementary School, call Kelley Bell at the school, (407) 877-5000, Ext. 3242262; or sign up online as an ADDitions volunteer through Orange County Public Schools at volunteer.ocps.net.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].