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Two Maryland Men Increase Fathers' Involvement in Children's Education

"WETA Hometown Heroes" Features Patrick Gerdes and Morgan Thomas in June

Washington, D.C. — Patrick Gerdes and Morgan Thomas, co-presidents of the Fathers’ Circle at Kingsview Middle School (KMS) in Germantown, Maryland, are the focus of a month-long WETA Hometown Heroes profile airing in June on WETA TV 26. WETA selected Gerdes and Thomas for their instrumental work in increasing the participation of fathers in their students’ education and demonstrably improving the academic environment at KMS. Their profile premieres on Monday, June 2, just prior to the broadcast of Antiques Roadshow at 8 p.m. on WETA TV 26 and repeats throughout the month.

The KMS Fathers’ Circle was born in January 2006, when school administers sought to address the situation of an increasingly high number of black male students being suspended, becoming academically ineligible to graduate, and lagging in scores on the Maryland State Assessment tests. Principal Dennis Queen and Assistant Principal Deborah R. Higdon invited the fathers of black males to a meeting to ask for their help; Gerdes and Thomas attended, and this meeting and their work led to the formation of the KMS Fathers’ Circle. This group of KMS fathers and others are committed to working with the administration and staff to improve the performance and experience of KMS students.

Gerdes and Thomas, through their work with the Fathers’ Circle, have raised the academic success of students at KMS. Since its inception, there has been an increase in homework completion, class participation and the number of black males on the honor roll, and a decrease in discipline referrals and suspensions at the schools. The Fathers’ Circle encourages a proactive — as opposed to reactive — philosophy, organizing monthly meetings for the group to discuss concerns and planning regular activities that promote positive paternal and general familial involvement in education. These events include Family Math/Literacy Nights with more than 300 attendees, college visits for the entire eighth grade class, an 8th Grade Career Day, tours and field trips, and the annual Students vs. Parents Basketball Game/Literacy Event.

“The increased presence and involvement of fathers at Kingsview has been a key element in reducing conflicts and the suspension rates of boys, and most importantly it has reinforced the positive messages to our kids that their dads — as well as their moms — are committed to work with school staff to give them the best learning opportunities,” said Gerdes. “The Fathers’ Circle sought to live by the wise saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ by bringing some male role models to the school to impact the environment for all kids, not just our own.”

The Fathers’ Circle has also motivated attendance at PTSA meetings, with an 80 to 100% participation increase this year.  Individually, both Gerdes and Thomas have inspired other local fathers to join the Fathers’ Circle, and they were both instrumental in KMS receiving a $10,000 grant from America Online (AOL) to help fund Fathers’ Circle, which was one of the goals first established by the group.

The KMS Father’s Circle welcomes all parents that are committed to helping students to excel and willing to help enhance the learning experience for all students. For more information about Kingsview Middle School, the KMS Fathers’ Circle and its programs, visit montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/kingsviewms.

Celebrating its tenth year, WETA Hometown Heroes is an Emmy-Award winning multimedia project that heralds individuals who improve their communities and encourages others to volunteer service. To be involved and to submit nominations, visit the website at weta.org/heroes where you will find volunteer opportunities at area organizations, archived WETA Hometown Heroes features, and forms to nominate a hero. Gerdes and Thomas’s WETA Hometown Heroes profile will also be featured on the WETA media player, WETA Watch Online, at weta.org/watchonline. Featuring more than one hundred videos, WETA Watch Online includes the latest videos from WETA local productions such as The WETA Guide, WETA All Access and WETA Extras.

WETA Hometown Heroes is made possible through the generous support of Park Foundation, Inc.; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

WETA supports educational and culturally enriching opportunities for local youth through programming and outreach workshops such as Reading Rockets and Ready To Learn. To find out more about these projects, visit WETA’s community website at weta.org/community.

WETA TV 26 and Classical WETA 90.9 FM are public broadcasting stations serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with educational, cultural, news and public affairs programming and related services, including four digital channels. WETA is committed to producing programs that highlight the history and people of the Greater Washington area. WETA produces WETA All Access, The WETA Guide, WETA Around Town, WETA Neighborhoods and WETA Extras, spotlighting local people, places and events. WETA’s headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. For more information on WETA and its services, visit weta.org. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is the president and CEO of WETA.

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Kate Kelly
kkelly@weta.org