PIMA - Parent of the Year

Donna TurnamianMrs. Donna Turnamian is the 2016-2017 Wicomico County Parent Involvement Matters Award winner for Wicomico County.  She also was named as one of the 5 finalists for the PIMA designation, an award program sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Mrs. Turnamian was honored for creating what might be called a 'broader family engagement network' for students attending Wicomico County's Evening High School.  She oversees for her church, the Wicomico Evening High School Faith-based Partnership [between the Faith Lutheran Church and the school].

Mrs. Turnamian at the PIMA banquet
after being named a finalist.

Five years ago, she and members of her church attended an interest meeting on faith-based partnerships, an initiative of community group Salisbury’s Promise. The church decided to partner with Evening High School.   

Donna Turnamian

Mrs. Turnamian is flanked by staff and a student of Evening High School.

The Evening High School serves several groups of students. Some are students who have dropped out of high school and come back to earn their diploma.  Some are students who experienced a health set-back (car injury, athletic injury) and want to catch up with their peers at their home school.  Still others are those who have not been successful in the traditional school environment. 

The school does not have a traditional PTA. Some students’ parents are not in the picture.  Others have parents who work two and three jobs [not uncommon in Wicomico County Public Schools where the FARM (free and reduced meals) rate reaches nearly 80% in some schools] and simply unavailable a lot of times.  Other students are parents themselves and are returning to school to complete their education. 

Donna Turnamian and Faith Lutheran Church entered the picture. She brought together caring adults who serve as ‘surrogate’ parents for these students.  Members provide a reception for two Evening High School graduations, a role that traditionally parents may have fulfilled.  They are there to cheer the students when they receive their diplomas. 

Other schools have Career Days where parents and community members come in to share about their jobs.  Evening High School did not have that.  Again, enter Donna Turnamian and the church’s members who volunteer on a regular basis to provide real life experiences and skills and help students learn about personal finance, how to conduct themselves on job interviews, and how to dress for success. 

 Mr and Mrs Turnamian

Mrs. Turnamian owes her passion to serve to her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Haak.

In addition, the church provides items for the students (hats, gloves, reflector vests) – especially those who have to get to school on their own (as walkers, skateboard riders, etc.) -- and ‘goody bags’ for classroom teachers.

According to the Parent Involvement Matters Award guidelines, to be nominated, a parent must be a consistent advocate of public education.  Donna Turnamian certainly fits that bill.  For the10+ years that her children have been in Wicomico County Public Schools, she has been an exemplary volunteer. She has always been the parent who can be counted on for the ‘grunt’ work as well as for implementing new ways to support students and their schools.

She has always a member of the Parent-Teacher Association [president at two schools] as well as a member of schools’ Instructional Leadership Team.  She was a member of Parents in Action (who challenged successfully the County Council to allot funding to build the new Bennett Middle School – opened August 2015).  She has served several years as the representative from her children’s schools to the Board of Education’s Parent Advisory Council. She served on the Superintendent’s Family Leadership Council.  She created a ‘student cupboard’ in the guidance counselor offices at James M. Bennett High School for students who were hungry but too embarrassed to admit they needed FARMs or had nothing at home on which to snack. 

Mrs. Turnamian through her latest project, Wicomico Evening High School Faith-based Partnership, shows that she is a parent who puts her whole heart and soul into helping students, staff, and other families. She knows that PARENT INVOLVEMENT MATTERS!

 Winner with EH and Board Prez

Mrs. Turnamian receives congratulations from, l. to r., Dr. Cathy
Townsend, assistant superintendent for Administrative Services;
Mr. Dave Harner, principal, Evening High School; Mr. Donald Fitzgerald,
president of Wicomico County Board of Education; Mr. Darian Collins,
EHS graduate; and Mrs. Rhonda Ford, EHS teacher.