GAETA, Italy — Parents who work on military ships have little time to go visit their children’s schools. So next week in Gaeta, the European affiliate of the National PTA is coming to them.

The European Congress of American Parents, Teachers and Students has worked with the Gaeta Elementary School and 6th Fleet to host a parents’ meeting on board the USS La Salle.

The Oct. 16 event is intended to reach out to parents who frequently are away from home, said Don Armell, ECAPTS president.

Dozens of parents in uniform are expected to attend the hourlong meeting at 2 p.m. on the mess decks of the 6th Fleet flagship.

“The parents who work on the ship are gone so often during the school year they can’t be involved in school as much as they like,” said Colleen Boyle, president of the Gaeta Parent, Teacher, Student Association and a distant education teacher.

“This gives them some practical ways they can actually be part of their kids’ education even though they’re gone so much.”

It may be the first time a PTA meeting has been held aboard a military ship since the organization was founded in 1897, said Jackie McCarthy, director for communications for the PTA in Chicago, though she wasn’t positive.

Armell, the featured speaker, said he will talk about how Department of Defense Dependents School students frequently outscore students in the States on standard tests.

“That ties right in with parental involvement,” he said.

He wants to discuss parent-involvement trends in DODDS, giving parents “a little bit of information on staying involved ... finding out what your kids did that day, finding out who your child’s friends are.”

The La Salle event originally was going to be a “dads meeting” for fathers and father figures of students. Armell said the plan was changed to welcome men and women.

About 20 ECAPTS dads meetings have taken place since they started three years ago.

“When you go out and do dads meetings, 120 men show up at 6:30 in the morning,” he said.

“In the States, it wouldn’t happen. They can’t get 120 parents to do it. There’s a real strong commitment on the part of DODDS and the military to get those parents out. Dads in the military have a strong sense of responsibility, and I think that spills over into the school system.”

Armell plans to hold dads’ meetings Oct. 17 in Naples, Italy; and Oct. 23 at Ramstein and Oct. 29 at Vogelweh in Germany. For more information, call ECAPTS at DSN 489-7273.

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