DoDEA Director meets parents at Seoul American Elementary School
Marilee Fitzgerald, director of Department of Defense Education Activity, meets with parents to discuss how to keep children academically engaged over the summer, June 11. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Han Samuel)

YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- The director of Department of Defense Education Activity visited Seoul American Elementary School to meet with parents and discuss how parents could help their children stay academically engaged over the summer, June 11.

Marilee Fitzgerald had several things to say regarding how parents could help children stay academically engaged over the summer. The first thing on her list was getting children to read.

"Children need to be reading," Fitzgerald said. "It doesn't matter the age. Children have to be engaging significant content information, building their capacity to read information, decoding it, comprehending it, and of course continuing their learning."

Additionally, Fitzgerald explained that children needed to be pushed to learn something new each day. This wasn't limited to academics; it included anything from baking to gardening, as long as it stretched children and encouraged them to do something different. Other suggestions included building social relationships, exploring interests through camps and internships, and building skills through online courses.

"Up to 22 percent of information and skills that are acquired in the school year can be lost in the summer," Fitzgerald said.

In light of this statistic, Fitzgerald explained that each of the things she suggested would help prevent children retain their skills over the summer.

Fitzgerald also presented some changes which would take place in the school system, to meet the needs of the Community. Changes included an increase in instructional time for art, music, and physical education. As a result, classes at the elementary education level would increase instructional time in these areas from 45 to 60 minutes a week. Another change would be an increase in academic requirements for math in high school, as well as an increase in foreign language learning in elementary school.

Another innovation that would be put into effect was the use of technology to allow teaching to be done via telepresence. In this way, students could be taught at various locations by a single teacher teaching a class in a different location through the use of video recording and relaying that to other locations.

Formerly, there had been issues with a lack of students for a certain class to be taught. With the option of classes being taught using telepresence, this would no longer be an issue.

Although the meeting with the parents lasted only one hour, Fitzgerald highlighted the importance of holding these meetings, since it gave her the community's perspective.

"These meetings help me understand what the issues from the various perspectives are, so that I can be more in touch with those, and as a school system, we can be more responsible as we develop policies or put actions in place," Fitzgerald said.

As the director of DoDEA, Fitzgerald has oversight over 194 schools worldwide, in countries that include Bahrain, Belgium, Cuba, England (UK), Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and of course the U.S.

In order to properly operate the school system, Fitzgerald stressed that she needed the appropriate feedback from the various schools and communities.

"Leaders who isolate themselves from the communities they serve, tend not to be responsive," Fitzgerald said. "I don't want to see myself that way. I want to lead a school system that's very responsive to the needs of our community."

Page last updated Tue June 19th, 2012 at 10:19