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Block Parent program gets a new life in Charleroi Area

| Thursday, March 12, 2009

For decades, a Block Parent sign in a window signaled that home was a safe haven for children who felt threatened.

But over the years, the program slowly disappeared.

Now the Block Parent program is making a comeback in the seven communities that comprise the Charleroi Area School District.

The new program is being co-sponsored by the school district, its Parent-Teacher Association and TEAM Charleroi.

The Block Parent program was initiated by Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko, who is chairman of TEAM Charleroi's education/safety committee. TEAM Charleroi had the Block Parent signs printed and laminated.

"It's a part of the overall effort to improve safety in the greater Charleroi area," said Debbie Keefer, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, which also supports the program.

The Block Parent program has nearly three dozen parent and business members, each displaying a sign in their window that they are members of the program. These members are spread throughout Charleroi, North Charleroi, Fallowfield Township, Speers, Twilight, Dunlevy, and Stockdale.

Sam Woncheck, director of security for the school district, said almost 30 others have agreed to join the program and will do so for the start of the 2009-10 school year. Each Block Parent must get law enforcement clearance.

Last week, Woncheck met with the Block Parent members to distribute the signs.

On Wednesday, Woncheck spoke to students during lunch at the Charleroi Area Elementary Center to explain the program. Students were permitted to ask questions. He displayed a large version of the sign that will be displayed in windows.

One student asked how they know they can trust the Block Parents. Woncheck explained that "the police" checked each one out.

Woncheck explained to students that if they feel threatened or have a medical concern, they can freely walk into any Block Parent home. The member will call a parent or the authorities, if necessary.

"It gives the children a safe haven, not just on the hill in Charleroi or in the township, but also at the businesses that display these signs," Woncheck said.

Woncheck said two-income families likely led to the demise of the Block Parent program over the years. There were fewer parents at home during the day and few had time to volunteer.

Ann Woytovich, a PTA board member in charge of the new program, said the program was renewed to give parents peace of mind.

"It's our job as a school district, a parent and the PTA to make the community reasonably sure that our children are safe," Woytovich said.

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