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New twist on Adult Ed:
One parent at a time
By Doug Snover

February 18, 2006

Kay Cosner spends her workdays at Marcos de Niza High School, surrounded by hundreds of young men and women, trying to reach out to the students’ families to make sure that no parent in the Tempe Union High School District is left behind.

Cosner is the Tempe district’s parent community services manager, a one-woman Adult Education Department who coordinates the district’s No Parent Left Behind University program.

Sometimes, Cosner acknowledges, she toils in obscurity. Many parents don’t seem to know there is a resource offering free seminars on topics such as “Goal Setting and Self Esteem,” “Substance Abuse and Destructive Decisions,” “Everything You Need to Know About Financial Aid” and “Improving Communication between Teens and Parents.”

The program has come a long way since it started in 2001 as Parent University--only three parents enrolled in the first year, Cosner says.

Yet there is a long way to go, she knows.

“This has kind of been evolving from 2001 to 2004 when we had a federal 21st Century Community Learning Grant … and one of the services we were to provide was parenting workshops,” Cosner said.

“We did a lot of experimenting on how to get parents involved. Parents’ schedules are so hectic these days–with their jobs and their commitments in raising children.

“At all three levels--elementary, middle school and high school--we saw that it was very difficult to get parents involved. It was a real challenge at the middle school and high school level.”

“Out of that, when the grant went away … we decided we wanted to try to keep the parenting component alive. At first we called it the Parent University … to get parents involved. We wanted to put a positive look on it. We wanted to let parents know that we’re not here to give...all the answers. What we want to do is provide education, networking, sharing of ideas and support to parents on topics that they are interested in, that maybe their children are experiencing.

“We’re there as kind of a resource, somebody that you can turn to ask questions. I always tell my parents, you’re the one out there right now dealing with all of these issues and concerns. What do you want to know about?”

Although Cosner is based in a small office at Marcos de Niza, her program is available throughout the Tempe Union High School District.

Several of the local high schools have held NPLB programs, but Corona del Sol High School has yet to host one of Cosner’s NPLB events, she said.

Jim Denton, principal at Corona, said his high school has presented some of the same topics and speakers that Cosner hires for NPLB. Still, he would welcome Cosner and NPLB with open doors, he said.

“I would be more than happy. It’s a great deal that she’s go going on,” Denton said. “I’ll do what I can to facilitate it.”

NPLB averages only about 20-25 parents at each program, although “we had as high as 45,” Cosner said. “We’ve even had teachers from other districts come and attend.”

Any parent is welcome to attend any program, Cosner stressed.

Among programs scheduled are Helping With Your Student’s Career And College Choices, Feb. 21, 6:30 at Tempe High School Library, and Eating Disorders, Feb. 28, 6 p.m. at Marcos de Niza Room 255.

“There’s not a lot of funding for this,” Cosner said of NPLB.

Typically, she invites speakers from within the district or from local social service agencies to present the workshops. If there is enough money in the budget, Cosner occasionally springs for pizza.

Cosner herself is a former elementary school teacher, an Iowa farm girl who came to Arizona in 1986 and was somewhat intimidated by the size of Tempe. She taught preschool for 10 years, then worked as a receptionist at Marcos while studying nights for a master’s degree in early childhood through Northern Arizona University’s extension program.

“First and foremost, I’m a parent,” she said. “I always told my oldest son that he drove me to parenting class.”

For more information and to pre-register, call the Kay Cosner at the Parent Community Services Office, (480) 838-3200 extension 40074 or email .









































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