Lake Norman & Mooresville

Special week connects school and home at Bailey Middle

Bailey Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association President Shannon Edwards, 41, is used to volunteering at her children's schools.

Edwards, a Davidson resident and full-time real estate agent, is the mother of three children, ages 14, 11 and 6. She has always volunteered in her children's elementary school classrooms, but when her oldest child hit middle school, she found it had a different feel. It no longer seemed "cool" or acceptable for parents to be involved in middle school.

"I found myself 'checked out' when my kid hit sixth grade and woke up late in the year when I realized he was in accelerated classes, and I didn't even know it," said Edwards. "It has been my personal mission, as well as the PTSA and the principal's mission, to change this perception."

This experience inspired Edwards to apply for a $1,000 grant offered by the National PTA to promote and pay for Bailey's annual "TakeYour Family to School Week." The grant was awarded in late December and Bailey's PTSA sponsored the Take Your Family to School Week Feb. 13-18. The week in February coincided with and honored the day the National PTA was founded - Feb. 17, 1897.

This is the second year Bailey Middle has held this event but the first year that it applied for and received the grant.

The week began with "Walk a Day in My Shoes," where families were welcome to shadow their student throughout the school day by attending their child's classes and other normal activities.

"It was enlightening to see even dads and grandparents embraced in what their child does each day," said Edwards.

Other activities included school tours, seminars, a dinner theater and a service project where Bailey Middle students packed snack bags for homeless students in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System.

Edwards and PTSA officer Carolina Kenna worked with Principal Jennifer Dean on the grant, which took about two weeks to write. Bailey Middle was one of 45 national winners from 22 states to receive the grant. Edwards says that it is rare that middle schools participate or win this grant.

Dean said that Take Your Family to School Week was a "great way to get parents intentionally involved in school."

Edwards said that the week is a teaser to other things the PTSA has planned throughout the year to involve families more. That involvement is important, she said, because middle school years are a critical time for students to prepare for the high school years, when children become more independent.

The week created an opportunity where parents felt welcome in the school and kids felt OK with their parents around because the program was schoolwide, and many students' parents attended.

"It is really nice that they do this," said Gene Barzach, father of twin sixth-grade boys who ate lunch with his sons on one of the days.

The hardest part of pulling together the event was all the details. It took a team of Bailey Middle PTSA leaders - Katy Bailey, Gwen Jordan, Debra Cassidy, Guppy Berger, Laurie Smith and Barb King - plus support from families and Bailey staff to make the week a success.

The goal of the Bailey Middle PTSA is to strengthen the connection between home and school, something Edwards believes was accomplished during its Take Your Family to School Week.