Kathy Deese has one message for everyone: Get involved with a school in Union County, any school.
She is in her sixth year as parent and community involvement coordinator for the school system.
Her office is at Forest Hills High in eastern Union County.
The staff she works with includes colleague Sonia Raunitzky, seven part-time employees and as many volunteers as she can find.
It's apparently symbolic that Deese's office is in eastern Union County.
During a recent interview, Dr. Ed Davis, head of Union County Public Schools, said public involvement is needed in that part of the county, where incomes are lower. Davis says income plays a bigger role than many other factors in how students fare.
“I think socioeconomic status is the big thing,” he said.
So Deese works to bring in parents, businesses and churches, and writes grants to supplement the needs at schools with more low-income students.
She says she's seeing success.
“I've seen a great increase in parent involvement, countywide,” she said. “Parents are getting more comfortable in the schools. I've gone to homes, I've even gone to churches. This year we've had several events, and we've seen the most attendance we've had.”
Deese and her staff have sponsored workshops on health, gang violence, drug awareness and college preparation. They've also brought in motivational speakers.
She said these activities help parents get to know someone they can contact.
“We have an open door policy,” she said. “We want parents to come to the schools…”
She also notes that it's not easy for parents from low-income families to get involved.
“A lot of our parents are trying to survive and haven't taken the time to get involved in their child's education,” she says. “We let parents know how important and easy it is to get involved….The more active parents are, the more probable it is that the child will be successful in school.”