A Place for Parents at the School Table

By Susan Black

What happens when a fourth-grader needs glasses but the child’s family can’t afford to pay for them?

In Lynn, Mass., where Claire Crane is in her 20th year as principal of the Robert L. Ford NASA Explorer School, a K-8 public school, it’s not a problem. She’s arranged for an eye care company in the city of 87,000, which is 10 miles north of Boston, to provide free glasses for her low-income students.

Crane also sees to it that no child in her school goes hungry, and no child goes without supervision during off-school hours. She’s recruited volunteer tutors from General Electric and nearby colleges to work with children, and often their parents, during the day and in the evening.

The partnerships Crane has crafted help offset a plague of poverty in this once-thriving factory town. Still, some problems seem intractable. More than 90 percent of Crane’s students live below the poverty line. Many are learning English as their second language.

Undaunted, Crane’s motto is “Never say no.” Every parent, student, and neighbor can find a “helping hand and a sympathetic ear” at her school, she says.

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