In part one of her State of the Classroom video series, Ritz said she wants to get parents and community organizations involved in education after school hours.
In her time as an educator, Ritz said she’s always had students who needed food, clothing and support from adults.
“As a 34-year veteran teacher, I have never been able to meet the needs of children in my classroom from within the school walls,” she said. “To find the true state of the classroom, and in order for our students to flourish academically and develop into productive members of our communities, we must look beyond the school walls and acknowledge the challenges our students face outside the classroom.”
To that end, Ritz and the IDOE assembled a list on the IDOE website of community organizations that offer services such as tutoring and mentoring programs to help kids after school.
Many of the programs are based in larger Indiana cities, such as Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. But several Monroe County organizations are included on the list as well, such as the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington.
Director of Operations Shawna Meyer-Niederman said the list gives formal acknowledgement of what the Boys and Girls Club does for Indiana kids.
“She fully understands that what we do is support youth outside of the classroom in ensuring they’re successful students,” Meyer-Niederman said.
The Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington is an after-school program for children ages 6 to 18. In addition to daily homework help, volunteers help the kids explore careers and get ready for college.
“Just exposing them to things they might be able to study or schools they can go to,” Lincoln Street Unit Director Lisa Stumpner said. “And what they need to do now as far as having good grades and study skills.”
In the IDOE release, Ritz asked parents and community members to volunteer at the organizations that offer homework help or mentoring services to children, such as Hoosier Family of Readers.
“Education attainment can be an equalizer of economic disparity, but supports must be in place to empower our children to succeed,” Ritz said in the release. “Serving your community and our students can be as simple as reading to or with a child at a school or through one of our organization partners.”
Indiana MENTOR, another organization named by the IDOE, also has roots in Bloomington. Area Director Mark Norris said they’ve helped local students transition out of school and into jobs, as well as providing support for families of children with special behavioral or emotional needs.
“We do serve school-age children in and out of school,” he said. “We serve kids at home ... help the families learn behavior management ?techniques.”
That includes helping students with homework and helping them decide what they want to do when they’re done with school.
Norris said they want to see people succeed and have every opportunity they can.
“Some of our parts might not work directly with the Department of (Education),” Norris said. “But we’re always working with children and helping them.”