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Daly Elementary’s Parent Educator Helps the School Become the Hub of the Community


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By Kevin O’Rourke

Captain James E. Daly, Jr. Elementary School in Germantown serves one of the most impoverished communities in Montgomery County, but one teacher at the school is doing much more than teaching students, she is educating parents and creating a stronger community.

Sara Rodriguez Kelley is a master teacher at Daly Elementary, who according to Montgomery County Public School’s 2014 Annual Report, which was released Monday, is on the front lines in the school system’s battle to close the achievement gap, which is the gap that separates white and Asian students from black and Latino students.

Educators around the country are struggling to close the achievement gap to ensure fairness in public schools and work to help all students graduate high school prepared for careers or college.

At Daly Elementary, on Brandermill Drive, about 70 percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals and more than a third are English language learners. Daly is designated a Title 1 school, which means the school, through MCPS receives federal funding. There are 67 Title 1 schools in Montgomery County, which receive an average of $2 million in additional funding. Not all schools use the funds the same way.

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At Daly, Principal Nora Dietz and her staff recognized that parent engagement was a major challenge in their school, as many of the families do not speak English or are unaccustomed to interacting with the school. So Dietz decided to use some of their additional funding to hire Sara Rodriguez Kelley.

Kelley is a bilingual master teacher, whose job it is to bring the school into the community and the community into the school.

According to Dietz, Kelley’s roll at the school has morphed since she started at Daly in 2007. “She was a part time academic intervention teacher, and her position changed as the needs of the school changed and grew.”

“I am a parent advocate,” said Kelley, “and a teacher advocate, teacher resource. The decision to focus more on parents was made by Mrs. Dietz and I, because we felt that we weren’t having as much parent engagement and involvement as we wanted and that we felt we could get.”

In 2011, when Daly was named a Title 1 school Kelley had taken a pre-k position at another school, but the thro