Hazelwood District Reaffirms Relationship with Area Clergy

Recently, more than 70 individuals attended the Hazelwood School District (HSD) Clergy Spring Breakfast. The group included Board of Education members, HSD administrators and other staff, local pastors and clergy, who represented more than 40 different churches and other community members.

“I was pleased with the turnout,” said Superintendent Grayling Tobias. “We invited clergy leaders from different denominations to come together and explore ways to help our children to succeed, in school and at home. Our goal is to reaffirm and re-establish relationships with our local clergy who have been actively involved in supporting our schools.

HSD’s Clergy Coalition began in 2011, in an effort to form partnerships with  district faith-based organizations. “Because of pre-existing relationships with students, parents, and educators, the church family can be a natural place for our schools to seek support.,” said Tobias. “In addition, church members can exercise their faith through volunteering or helping our schools. The main goal of the clergy coalition is to share information and resources,” he said.

The district renewed its relationships with several faith-based organizations during its winter session on parent and community involvement. The spring session was used to update community leaders on HSD’s response to the tornado that struck the Hazelwood community in April. The meeting also served as a working session to brainstorm ideas on how to increase the male presence in schools.

“HSD’s No. 1 priority has not changed,” said Kimberly McKenzie, HSD community relations and communications specialist. “As a school district, we are committed to improving student achievement. However, we realize that many of our students are facing challenges at home and in their communities, which may create barriers to learning. One barrier is the lack of positive male-role models in their lives.”

McKenzie  continued, “According to a Journal of Crime and Delinquency , ‘there are over 20 million children in the U.S. being raised in fatherless households. An alarming percentage of these kids have no contact with their father whatsoever.’ Many are raised by mothers who take on the task of raising sons and daughters while working full-time jobs.”

During the meeting, the Rev. Charles Pennington, Bethel-Providence Christian Church pastor, facilitated the brainstorming session. He opened the session by reminding the group of the overall meeting goal to increase the male presence in schools.

“I am not saying that all children who come from fatherless homes are destined to fail. I am asking us all to commit to doing what we can to ensure more, if not all, of our children will have the support of a father-figure in their lives,” he said.

After the educators, clergy and community leaders completed the brainstorming activities and reported their findings, Tobias thanked the group for their work and commitment. He reassured everyone that the group would reconvene for later follow-up.

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