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My Dinner With Andre's Teacher Gustatory Glastnost

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A Denver businessman is betting that gastronomy can produce harmony, insofar as parent-teacher relations are concerned.

Seeking a way to encourage parental involvement at Jose Valdez Elementary School, a largely Hispanic school located near the offices of his television-production company, Philip R. Garvin has come up with a novel approach: paying for each 1st-grade teacher to take pupils and their parents to dinner at a local restaurant.

Mr. Garvin gave each of the school's six 1st-grade teachers $1,000 to compensate them for the extra work, along with $4,000 to pay for the food.

The meals have given teachers a chance to spend a few relaxed hours with parents, said Josie Garcia, a bilingual teacher who has attended 15 dinners this year.

"The parents came from Mexico to give their children a better chance, and they just need to be motivated and encouraged," she observed.

Mr. Garvin said his culinary generosity was an attempt to "create a new kind of culture between teachers and parents"--some of whom, he noted, may not have fond memories of their years in the classroom.

"It tells the student this is important, that school isn't just some place I'm sent in the morning to bide my time," he explained. "The parents are saying, 'This is a special occasion, it has to do with my child's school, and gee, this teacher is really quite nice."'

The press coverage his efforts have attracted "is kind of sad," Mr. Garvin mused last week. "It should be something that's happening often enough that nobody pays attention to it."--ab

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