Spotlight: Baltimore County, MD - cont.
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The Office of Parent Support Services; 410-887-0365


Resource Center Locations

Southwest Resource Center at Maiden Choice
4901 Shelbourne Road, 21227
410-887-3646

Northwest Resource Center at Campfield
6834 Alter Street, 21207
410-887-1269

Central Resource Center at White Oak
8401 Leefield Road, 21234
410-887-5281

Northeast Resource Center at Middlesex
142 Bennett Road, 21221
410-887-0321

Southeast Resource Center at Battle Monument
7801 E. Collington Drive, 21222
410-887-7147

Special Education Parent Support Center
8401 Leefield Road, 21234
410-887-5443

Behind the scenes: Parent Support Services

For Parents/The Community
Parentmobile
Resource Centers (including the Special Education Resource Center)
Monthly Learning Calendar for Families
Website

For Teachers and Administrators
Professional development workshops and credit courses
Parent Workshops to Go and Intranet site
Intensive interventions and support
Service orientations/updates for administrators

 

Behind every successful student is a great school offering rigorous instruction, informed and involved parents and families, and a supportive community – and bringing these three elements together is the work of the Office of Parent Support Services, a component of the Baltimore County Public Schools Department of Professional Development.

Perhaps best known for its Parentmobile and Parent Resource Centers, the Office of Parent Support Services “works to provide parents and communities with resources and strategies to promote student achievement and provides professional development to enhance the ability of schools to effectively partner with parents,” according to Nicole Tucker-Smith, coordinator of professional development and training.

The Big Blue BusParentmobile

The Parentmobile takes the form of a blue, retrofitted school bus; but it functions as a resource center on wheels – carrying education-related information and resources, as well as experienced parent services representatives – throughout the county.

While onboard, parents and community members can: learn more about Baltimore County Public Schools curriculum; select resources (such as worksheets and bibliographies) to assist with learning at home; visit the BCPS Web site; view educational software; learn about community resources that support education; and learn about resources for students with special needs or limited English proficiency. Many of the materials onboard have been developed by the Office of Parent Support Services in collaboration with other offices in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction.

“We have information about everything from early childhood development to college readiness to adult learning,” says parent services representative Terri Greaney. 

To increase its usefulness to parents of secondary students, the Parentmobile now includes additional information regarding college preparation, admissions, and financial aid, as well as workforce readiness for the 21st century. This is part of a new initiative by the Office of Parent Support Services to be certain that its programs serve all families. It supports the BCPS mission, under Superintendent Dr. Joe A. Hairston, to create a college-ready culture, in which the option of higher education is accessible to all students.

Created in October 1999 and winner of the 2001 national SBC Foundation Grand Prize Award from the National Association of Partners in Education, the Parentmobile frequently appears at school events and community festivals but is also used strategically in other ways.

How the Parentmobile is used

Parentmobile2“One of the best ways we use the Parentmobile is to literally take a school to the community,” says Tucker-Smith. “For example, once we took the Parentmobile into a townhouse community where limited transportation options made it difficult for many parents to visit the school. Having teachers from the school onboard made it possible for many parents to have one-on-one conferences they might have otherwise missed.”

According to parent services representative Donna Sibley, another good example of a creative use for the bus occurred a few years ago when the principal of Arbutus Middle School used the Parentmobile to visit three neighborhood stops on the night when the first report cards were issued for the year. “It sent an excellent message,” Sibley notes, that ‘we are coming to you.’”

Sibley says that one of the most gratifying aspects of working with parents on the Parentmobile is “a certain trust we are able to instill in them.” She adds, “Sometimes, just spending 10 or 15 minutes alone with the parents encourages them to open up in a way that they might not in a classroom or auditorium full of other parents or even with their children’s teachers.”

Expanding Parentmobile usage and visibility

The office is always seeking to expand usage and visibility of the Parentmobile; the most recent campaign is to increase scheduled stops at area businesses and business parks. Major employers such as Social Security, Black and Decker, and ADP periodically invite the Parentmobile to visit their locations and then give employees time to access Parentmobile resources. 

A relatively new use for the Parentmobile relates to enhancing the ability of schools to serve their communities. “Sometimes, we use the Parentmobile,” Tucker-Smith explains, “to take teachers, especially new teachers, on tours of the neighborhoods their schools serve. We did that this past summer for teachers at Logan Elementary School. It allows teachers to expand their understanding of community demographics and geography.”

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 Resource Centers

Another primary function of the Office of Parent Support Services is maintaining five Resource Centers for parents as well as a Special Education Parent Support Center, operated in conjunction with the Office of Special Education.

The resource centers and parent support center are open to the entire community. In addition to serving parents and students from BCPS schools, the centers attract individuals affiliated with area private schools, adult education centers, colleges, child care centers, and community-based organizations.

The centers offer a wide range of resource books and materials designed to follow Baltimore County Public Schools’ curriculum guidelines and support student learning and success. Topics covered range from early childhood development and learning to college and workforce readiness and adult education.

In addition, the centers offer low-cost materials and free use of equipment so that visitors can create their own projects. Available equipment includes laminators, poster makers, color copiers and printers, and die cuts of letters, shapes, and symbols.

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Monthly Learning Calendar for Families

Just last school year, Parent Support Services began offering the community its Monthly Learning Calendars for Families. Available online and in schools (upon their request), the calendar features topics for family discussion and research, ideas for ways to incorporate learning into family life, and information on fun educational events and activities in the community. The calendars are developed by Chris Peter, resource center leader of the Southwest Resource Center at Maiden Choice.

Among its daily entries, the October calendar information about a free Saturday Morning Science series at Towson University and a special day for Baltimore County students to visit the Baltimore Museum of Art (which is always admission free). The calendar also presented a number of questions related to the presidential race. Here are a few of the featured questions:

  1. Which state is the birthplace of the most U.S. presidents? Were any born in Maryland?
  2. Who is the only First Lady not born in the U.S.?
  3. Who is the only president to be elected to two non-consecutive terms? Hint: his last name is the same as a big city in Ohio.
  4. Ninth president William Henry Harrison died after only one month in office, when his grandson was eight years old. Almost 50 years later, that grandson became president. Who was he?

The second page of each calendar includes additional information about places of interest and topics to explore.

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Web Resources

The source for additional information about all of the services offered to parents are the Office of Parent Support Services pages on the BCPS Web site. Beginning here,, family members can find links to access more information about community resources, homework help, learning at home, locating information in Baltimore County Public Schools, recommended Web sites, leadership and volunteer opportunities, parent/teacher conferences and communications, parenting, Student Support Services, summer learning resources, and tutoring.

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Supporting Schools in Partnering with Parents

The less visible initiatives of the Office of Parent Support Services are its efforts to support schools in partnering with parents.

To support all schools, the office presents systemwide workshops and Maryland State Department of Education credit courses for teachers. A comprehensive intranet site links teachers and administrators to a wealth of resources, including video clips of successful parent-teacher conferences.

Among the intranet resources are the office’s Parent Workshops to Go – fully-developed workshops with talking points, presentations, and handouts that school staff members can present to families. To update administrators and school staff on the programs it offers, each year, the Office of Parent Support Services makes presentations to large assemblies of principals, new assistant principals, and school social workers.

Finally, as needed, and upon request, the Office of Parent Support Services works intensively with a few schools each year, crafting professional development plans and conducting onsite coaching. The work is generally focused on working with schools to create more welcoming environments for families and to enhance the effectiveness of parent-teacher conferences.

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Working, listening, sharing together – to support student achievement

“Advocacy should include working together,” says Tucker-Smith. “Being a partner means listening and sharing, having an open mind. The Office of Parent Support Services works to facilitate balanced, two-way communication and the goal of having schools and families guiding children with the same messages. For example, if a school has a code of conduct – even if the rules are different at home – we want to work together to ensure that the family supports and respects the school’s code of conduct as its expectation and as a way to nurture student success.”

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