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LEADER" On-line: Vol. 5, No. 2

Retired principal returns with parenting education

Coverage in a local newspaper aided NJ leader Jane Butler's cause

by Adrienne Affleck

New Jersey leader Jane Butler retired in June of 1999 after spending 30 years in education. For many, that would have been the end of the story, but Jane was motivated by her love for children to begin a new career in parent education.

Now she has teamed up with her husband, Al, and teacher Karen Murray to form "Active Parenting For The 21st Century." They are marketing five Active Parenting workshops in the two counties surrounding the city of Moorestown.

Jane first began teaching parenting skills in 1985 after receiving some materials from Active Parenting. Eventually she bought materials for the entire school district. As principal of Riverside Elementary, she implemented "Koffee and Kids," a monthly lunchtime program that was funded by the PTA. (To attract parents, she arranged for high school students to serve as babysitters.) She further championed the cause by using Active Teaching at teacher in-services.

Jane's post-retirement schedule is as busy as the one she had as a school superintendent. In fact, the day after she retired, the State Department of Education asked her to audit the city's schools. She has continued to teach future educators as an adjunct professor of the Alternative Teacher Route, a program that has grown from 120 students to twice that many in just three short years. She also uses the Active Teaching workshop at the Substitute Institute, where she first offered the workshop last October. Buoyed by its success, she offered it again in February, and has another one planned for next October.

Known county-wide, Jane has quite a network in place. She has contacts throughout Burlington and Camden Counties, where people know her as a PTA president and former principal. Currently, she is marketing four Active Parenting programs (1,2,3,4 Parents!, Active Parenting Today, Active Parenting of Teens, Parents on Board and Active Christian Parenting) through her 1500-member church, where she reaches about 100 parents each year. Once the school audit is over, she will actively market the workshops to the principals of the 100 elementary schools in Burlington County. Jane also hopes to present an informational program to all of the ministers in the community.

News of her program has been spreading, both through a newspaper article in the local paper and by word of mouth. The company is a Butler family affair in which her daughter designs brochures while her husband handles the paperwork and serves as her marketing agent.

As a seasoned educator, Jane knows where to look for the funding that is crucial to offering these effective programs. She is currently eyeing Title I funds for school based programs, and has contacted CASA, an alcohol and substance abuse group, for monies that focus on community-based programs.

Jane is fortunate to live in a city that cares about children and education. The local high school offers Active Parenting groups for parents of teens struggling with alcohol and substance abuse problems. The Riggs Adult Center, a community center for parents with children, also offers Active Parenting workshops.

To branch out, Jane has arranged to lead 1,2,3,4 Parents! at the YMCA this May. In summer she plans to prospect among area charter and parochial schools. She has even found a Florida public school that has successfully mandated parenting classes, using Title I funds to offer them at no cost to the parents involved. Jane fervently hopes that this is an idea that will catch on in her school district as well.

Jane feels that too much parenting is done in reaction to a crisis. Active Parenting teaches a more present-oriented approach to shaping children's behavior and attitudes. "We need to give children lots of unconditional love, and to tell them that we trust them to make good decisions," she notes. "Parents need to take the time to practice positive thinking, and to learn the language and attitudes that help build better relationships. Meanwhile, their children need to learn responsibility; something that is best practiced at home."

Clearly, Jane believes that this is what she was meant to do: to continue to serve children by helping parents become more encouraging, effective, and respectful.

Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2000 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.