Joetta McCruter-Polk’s assignment with Mansfield City Schools will demand the full range of her three decades of professional experience — and she will have less than six months to make an impact.
McCruter-Polk was hired January 16 to serve as family resource/engagement coordinator for the freshman class at Mansfield Senior High School. In short, she is charged with the task of getting more freshman parents involved in their children’s education, including some who have never set foot inside Senior High.
“I have hit the ground running,” said McCruter-Polk, a graduate of St. Peter’s High School and Ohio State University whose work is funded only until July 1 by a federal school improvement grant. “My focus is on bridging the gap between the Senior High faculty and staff and some parents of freshmen. I am going out into the community to determine what is needed to help make that connection. It is very important because parents play such a vital role in their children’s success in school.”
This is the second year that Senior High has ninth-graders in a freshman academy, where their classrooms are grouped together with their own faculty. The purpose is to give them a more cohesive start to high school and lessen the chances that some will become discouraged and think about dropping out.
McCruter-Polk will work with Assistant Principal Andrew Schiefer, director of the freshman academy, to recognize and reward students’ academic achievement. But she agrees with Schiefer and Senior High Principal Jose Hernandez that the success of a student’s freshman year depends in large part on parents.
Part of her effort will be to assess what community resources are available to families who need them. “You may want to be involved in your child’s education but if there’s no food in the house, well, you have to take care of basic needs first,” said McCruter-Polk, a Mansfield resident. “I want to locate and develop resources that can help families meet those needs before we can work to connect them with the school.”
McCruter-Polk’s career has taken her directly into communities. She worked as a foster care volunteer recruiter for Richland County Children Services for nine years out of college and most recently completed an 18-year stint with Franklin County Children Services as a communications/public relations specialist and adoption recruiter. She also is a public relations and marketing consultant for Unity Temple Church of God in Christ and has helped at Culliver Reading Center and the Mansfield NAACP’s Minority Health Fair.
McCruter-Polk has asked ninth-grade teachers for a list of parents who have not responded to repeated contact requests. “I will start with that group of parents,” she said. “It could be me going into the homes or setting up meetings at school. I have to be where the people are and when they are available. “If they say they can’t come to school, what is the reason? Is there a transportation or work issue? Babysitting? Whatever it is, we will try to work it out.”
The key, McCruter-Polk said, is to make parents feel comfortable about being partners with teachers in their children’s education. “One-on-one contact – that’s where it starts,” she said. “Then it’s an ongoing nurturing of that relationship.”
Holly Christie, MCS’s director of student support programs, said the district is grateful to have received the grant that will fund McCruter-Polk’s work. “Joetta’s mission is very important. She understands that mission and has the professional background to provide the help we need,” Christie said. “We are very glad to have her working with us.”
Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools — Joetta McCruter-Polk discusses her new role at Mansfield Senior High School with Holly Christie, the district’s director of student support programs.
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