Petal school one of 11 to offer Parent Academy


Last year, the Barksdale Reading Institute implemented The Parent Academy – a free program designed to help parents prepare their 4-year-old children for kindergarten – in 12 school districts across Mississippi, graduating more than 500 parents and caregivers.

For the 2018-19 school year, Petal Primary School was one of only 11 schools chosen to participate in the program from a pool of 40 applicants statewide. During the next few months, the primary school and the Coleman Center for Families and Children in Petal will host six meetings, or “modules,” for parents and children to focus on kindergarten readiness, including general development, oral language, early reading and math.

“It’s just an opportunity for the district to share everyday information on how parents can use materials that they use at their home – or are easy to pick up at Dollar General – that they can use to work on some of those basic language development skills … that help kids be ready for school,” said Dede Smith, assistant superintendent at the Petal School District and director of the Coleman Center for Families and Children.

The modules, which will be led once a month by Petal Primary School teachers and administrators, will offer a day session from noon-1:30 p.m. at the center and an evening session from 5:30-7p.m. at the primary school. The first module, which will be held Oct. 25, will focus on general development, such as fine motor skill development and gross motor skill development.

“It’s very, very practical information that parents can learn some tools to put in their parenting toolbox, that will help their children feel more secure as they get ready to start school,” Smith said. “It’s not like being in a classroom or anything like that; it’s very natural parent interaction on a daily basis, and how they can take those interactions and make them a little bit more purposeful so that (the kids) are learning from those.”

The remaining five modules of The Parent Academy will be held on Nov. 27, Jan. 31, Feb. 26, March 28 and April 23. The sessions are free, but participants are asked to register as soon as possible on either the Facebook pages or the individual websites for Petal Primary School or the Coleman Center for Families and Children.

Parents can choose to attend any number of modules, but those who attend all six will be eligible to receive a gift card.

Parents also will receive a handbag, which can be brought back each session to carry materials home.

“We’ll also have door prizes throughout all of the different sessions, just fun little treats for parents whose names are drawn out of a hat,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun – it’s not going to be boring, where they’re sitting in there taking notes or anything.

“The parents will actually be playing with the toys and materials, and learning how to do those things with their children at home.”

The Barksdale Institute was founded in 2000 by Jim and Sally Barksdale and is dedicated to significantly improving Mississippi students’ pre-literacy and reading skills. The organization has offices in Oxford and Jackson.

“We were very honored and excited,” Smith said. “The Barksdale Institute is widely known beyond our state for doing very scholarly, reputable work specifically related to literacy development in early childhood.

“So for us to be included as a part of their work is a huge honor. Some of their staff will be attending some of the sessions as well, so we’re looking forward to having them be a part of that work and to see the great work that we’re doing in Petal.”