February 10, 2012

HCC Part of Student Advocacy Day

By Joe Burris

Three years ago, Ben Fischer suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident that left him with slow cognitive skills. The Howard Community College student said that at the time doctors were uncertain whether he would to return to a traditional learning environment.

But Fischer battled back from the accident, and now advocates for students with disabilities. Earlier this week, he joined hundreds of community college students across the state to petition state lawmakers to boost funding to two-year schools.

The event is part of the annual Student Advocacy Day, which features speeches from student leaders, state lawmakers and community college presidents. Students also meet with their respective state delegates and senators.

Continue reading "HCC Part of Student Advocacy Day" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 6:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

January 24, 2012

Howard school board outlines possible redistricting plans

From Howard schools reporter Joe Burris:

The Howard County board of education on Tuesday briefed the County Council on possible redistricting plans for the 2013-2014 school year, which include forming a 12-member attendance area committee to advise the superintendent.

The school system outlined the plans at its quarterly meeting with the County Council.

Continue reading "Howard school board outlines possible redistricting plans" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 3:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

Bright Minds Foundation Awards Grants

Howard County public schools faculty were among several educators awarded funding to launch projects through the county’s nonprofit Bright Minds education foundation, school officials have announced.

Award recipients included Jamie Proctor of Wilde Lake High School, who won $2,000 for the project “STEM for Inquiry Based Learning,” and Ann Strozyk of the Howard County Conservancy, who won $2,000 for the project “Next Steps with GPS.”

Continue reading "Bright Minds Foundation Awards Grants" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 12:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

January 13, 2012

Dyer attempts to have board's removal request dismissed

From schools reporter Joe Burris:

Howard County school board member Allen Dyer this week requested that the state office of administrative hearings dismiss an attempt by his fellow board members to oust him from the panel, the second time he has filed such a dismissal since the board requested last year that the state board of education remove him.

The Howard school board voted to adopt a resolution requesting Dyer’s removal last June, accusing him of, among other things, breaching confidentiality requirements.

Continue reading "Dyer attempts to have board's removal request dismissed" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 5:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

January 10, 2012

Howard officials accept school site

The Howard County board of education has officially accepted the 20.2-acre site on the Northeast Route 1 corridor in Hanover to build a school, officials said on Tuesday. The Oxford Square property can serve as a site for either an elementary school or a middle school, officials said.

The acquisition culminates efforts to secure land to build a new school in the Northeast portion of the county, efforts that have been hampered by, among other things, concerns about proximity to an MBTA station and concerns over a proposed CSX rail cargo transfer station.

In October, the board officially approved the property as the site for new middle school, but staff is considering whether to request the board’s approval to use the site as an elementary school.

Continue reading "Howard officials accept school site" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 3:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

October 14, 2011

Program Teaches Kids About Science, Nutrition

The Elkridge Branch of the Howard County Public Library is hosting “Chemistry in the Library,” an event that demonstrates the relationship between science, nutrition and healthy living.

Slated for Saturday at 2 p.m., the hands-on event will feature a chemist from the American Chemical Society and is geared toward ages 7 and older.


Posted by Jennifer Badie at 7:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

October 12, 2011

Howard Co. lawmaker drops hybrid school board plan

A move to change the makeup of the Howard County school board stalled Wednesday, as a state lawmaker announced that he would drop a bill that would have added appointed members to the all-elected panel.

Del. Frank Turner, a Howard County Democrat, announced that he wouldn't pursue the legislation a day after a public hearing on the measure. School Board Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui complained Tuesday that Turner's measure would jeopardize the search for a superintendent and could hamper the progress of a high-performing school system. 

The bill had called for five members elected by district and two to be appointed by the county executive. The board now has seven members who are elected at large.

The hybrid school board model was voted on by a school board study commission created in August by County Executive Ken Ulman, who said he sought to address concerns by some county citizens that the board needed more racial and geographic diversity.

"This debate points to some of the frustration that many individuals experience on a daily basis." Turner said in a statement. "Achievement gap, possible loss of voters’ rights, geographic under-representation, economic disparity, recruitment of candidates, district vs. at-large seats and appointed seats were thoroughly discussed and I believe that the citizens are more aware of these complex issues as we move forward as a county.

-Andy Rosen

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Categories: Howard County

September 24, 2011

Howard Community College holds annual horse jumping meet

From Howard County schools reporter Joe Burris:

On Saturday, Howard Community College will hold its 24th annual thoroughbred-horse-jumping competition to raise funds for students as its enrollment exceeds more than 10,000 for the first time.

School officials said that the Howard Community College Grand Prix will feature show-horse jumping and equestrian competitions. The event will be held at Marama Farm in Clarksville.


Continue reading "Howard Community College holds annual horse jumping meet" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County

Vaillancourt opposes possible changes to school board

From Howard County schools reporter Joe Burris:

A Howard County study group formed by County Executive Ken Ulman to probe racial and geographic diversity on the county’s school board is expected to finalize a report on Monday proposing that the board be changed from comprising seven at-large elected seats to five seats elected via district and two appointed seats.

Continue reading "Vaillancourt opposes possible changes to school board" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

June 11, 2011

Asian Culture Day at Wilde Lake Middle

On Tuesday, Wilde Lake Middle School students will host Asian Culture Day, an interactive event that will feature demonstrations and craft making from such countries as China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

The event is part of the school’s sixth-grade reading and social studies curriculum, said Danielle Healey, Wilde Lake sixth-grade English teacher. The event begins at 8:05 a.m., and it will feature such demonstrations as bamboo dance, Asian book binding and martial arts.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

June 10, 2011

Howard County School Board Announces Transfers, Promotions

Reservoir High School and Marriotts Ridge High School will swap principals for the coming school year, and Hammond High School assistant principal James LeMon will become principal at Wilde Lake High School, the Howard County school board announced on as part of dozens of year-end transfers and promotions.

Reservoir High School principal Adrian Kaufman will become principal at Marriotts Ridge, while Marriotts Ridge principal Patrick Saunderson will take over at Reservoir.

Continue reading "Howard County School Board Announces Transfers, Promotions" »

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 7:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

May 12, 2011

Local Homeschooled Student a Presidential Scholar

Ellicott City resident Nathan Chai says that being home schooled enabled him to receive the one-on-one attention in subjects that he might not have excelled in had he been in a traditional class setting. He cites homeschooling among the reasons for being named a 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholar, joining an elite group of accomplished students nationwide.

The Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by then President Lyndon Johnson to annually recognize up to 141 graduating high school seniors. It is one the highest national honors for high school students, program officials said.

The scholars are awarded a Presidential medallion at a White House ceremony in June. Said Chai of the honor, “It really motivates me to work harder and really try to get things accomplished. I know I have been recognized in this way. I think it’s really important that now that I have achieved this award that I go out and achieve more things.”

Other local scholars included Eli Okun and Sandra Yan, both of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, and Clara McCreery  of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda.

Chai said that he attended traditional school until the sixth grade, when his mother decided that he should be home schooled. “She had some unpleasant experiences in middle school, I suppose,” said Chai. “It worked well and we decided to keep it up through high school.”

But there were times when the experience was difficult, Chai says. In an essay he wrote for the Presidential Scholars program, he spoke about being homeschooled last year while his grandmother moved in with his family during the latter stages of her battle with cancer.

“That was really, really tough for me because obviously I do all my schooling at home and when you have someone who’s living with you who has cancer and you know you have to take care of them and watch them and all the stress that comes with it kind of like comes crashing down around all of your academics and your school life,” said Chai, who added that his grandmother passed away last year.“One of the questions [on the Presidential Scholarship application] was to write about a difficult time in your life. I guess I was pretty honest about that.”

But overall, he says, being homeschooled was a rewarding experience. “I have to give credit to my mom on that one,” he said. “I took a lot of AP courses a lot earlier than I would have been able to in public school, and my mom was really able to give me the whole one-on-one thing for the entire school year. I think that was a definitely a huge, huge advantage. If I was trying to learn that stuff on my own it probably would not have gone over so well to be perfectly honest.”

Chai said he plans to enroll at the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall and double major in biochemistry and political science, with hopes of someday specializing in academic medicine or health policy.

Posted by Joe Burris at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

May 6, 2011

Reservoir High Student Wins National Award

Kamal Browne was 7 years old when he picked up a camera for the first time, and back then the now-17-year-old from Laurel didn’t get a snapshot of how taking pictures would become a passion.

But a photography course last year at Reservoir High School helped the junior develop a knack for photography and earlier this week his efforts paid off as he was named the 7th Congressional District’s winner of An Artistic Discovery, an national art competition for high school students sponsored by the U.S. Congress.

Browne won with a photo collage titled, “Growth,” which depicts human movement. The work will be on display in the U.S. Capitol and Browne will compete for national honors this summer with other winning artists from congressional districts.

“It’s a great honor, and it helps me get recognition by putting me out more,” said Browne, who hopes of becoming a photojournalist.  “I started really getting serious about [photography] last year when I took a photo class.”

He said that last year he knew he was onto something with photography when his teachers were so impressed with his work they had it displayed alongside other students’ work in an exhibit at Columbia Mall. “Then I really took to it,” he said.

Reservoir High School principal Adrianne Kaufman said that the junior should improve his craft more when he enrolls in an advanced placement photography class next school year. “He’s a humble student,” said Kaufman of Browne, “and in his own mind he never thought he would win. It’s always nice with a student that humble receives such an incredible honor.”

An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect name for Reservoir High School. The Sun regrets the error,

Posted by Joe Burris at 5:44 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Howard County

May 3, 2010

Howard County Student Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

A Howard County student has been named one of 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the nation.

Richard Li, a senior at River Hill High School, is one of four Maryland students to receive the distinction. The other three Marylanders attend schools in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The scholars will be honored in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22.

The students, who are chosen by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. Essays, school evaluations and transcripts are also used to determine the scholars.

“These student leaders and scholars show that setting high expectations and striving for excellence pays off,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today when he made the announcement. “Their academic and artistic achievements reflect a sense of purpose that we should seek to instill in all students to prepare them for college, careers, civic responsibilities, and the challenges of today’s job market.”

Since the award's inception 46 years ago, more than 6,000 students have been honored. More than 3,000 candidates qualify annually for the award based on performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, or by nomination through the nationwide YoungArts competition conducted by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

September 22, 2009

2009 High School Assessments

Liz Bowie had a story in today's paper about the 2009 High School Assessment results, which indicate that making the tests a graduation requirement hasn't presented as big of an obstacle to students as originally feared, according to data provided by state education officials.

This news has some folks wondering whether the bar is being set too low, particularly as state officials say only 11 students did not graduate solely because of the assessment requirement.

Liz will have another story in tomorrow's paper, taking a look at the future of the HSAs, and where we go from here. Stay tuned.  Also, you can check out the results on the state's Web site, which also has an updated state watch list for schools failing to make adequate yearly progress.

In the meantime...what do you think?  Do the HSAs set the bar too low?  What do you think about the small number affected by this requirement (the city, for example, reported no students kept from graduating only because of the HSAs - but did represent about 20 percent of the waivers given to seniors statewide)?

August 21, 2009

Flip flops, other 'fashion' frowned upon for Howard County teachers

Today the paper ran a story I wrote about Howard County's latest effort to thwart inappropriate attire for teachers.

"Expectations for Professional Attire" is a pamphlet that the school system gave to its teachers this year for the first time. From what I've been able to find, Howard County is the only school system in the area with something of this nature.

The expectations frown upon: garments that expose underwear; sheer clothes; torn, tattered or disheveled clothes; flip-flops; hats; clothing with obscene, vulgar or profane language or illustrations; clothing with sexual overtones; and shorts for employees who do not teach physical education.

The expectations also list as inappropriate visible tattoos that are provocative or obscene; and jewelry or any other objects that are connected to the nose, tongue, lip, eyebrow or other exposed body part that may be "deemed a safety issue," according to the pamphlet.

The school system folks say that these are not requirements, but simply recommendations. Something tells me otherwise.

So far there hasn't been an major resistence from the teachers. But, I'm sure there has to be at least one who is not doing back flips of joy.

What do you think? Is this going to far? Should teachers be allowed to wear what they want? Or do you agree with many of the new teachers I interviewed yesterday who believe that dressing in a professional manner earns them more respect from their students in the classroom.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:17 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Howard County

June 23, 2009

Tackling school dropouts

In my story today, I take a look at dropouts – and, more specifically, dropout prevention and intervention – the focus of a day-long summit at Randallstown High School yesterday.  Hundreds of state educators, believed to represent all 24 school systems, attended the event, said to be a first for Maryland.  It was sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance, an organization tied to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife and current chair, Alma.

One of the noteworthy moments during the summit involved a theatrical performance put on by a troupe from Garrett County, who portrayed seven characters – six students and a parent – explaining why they chose to drop out.  The writer of the play, called The Goodbye Kids, explained to the audience that the concept emerged from more than 20 interviews she did with dropouts.  The characters were composites of what she gleaned from those talks, she said.

The characters, all students at “Run of the Mill High School,” ranged from a boy who bellowed about how much his teachers bored him to a girl whose family never set a high priority on finishing school to a poor student who was sick of being mocked for his appearance – and stench.  Other highlights included a student who’d always gotten by – until that one teacher noticed his inability to read – and the mother of another who had been regularly mocked for being gay.

Interestingly, the profiles foreshadowed a later presentation from Robert Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University


Continue reading "Tackling school dropouts" »

June 18, 2009

Including more males in the classroom

In my story today, I wrote about efforts to increase the number of males in schools.

For whatever reason, males have been noticeably absent from the school setting. Recently there have been initiatives to reverse that. The program that I found at one Howard County elementary school encourages fathers at the school to spend the day helping out teachers, and serving as an addition set of adult eyes in the hallways.

What do you think about increasing the number of males in the school? Is it necessary? What other creative ways might work to accomplish this?


June 15, 2009

Administrative promotions and transfers in Howard County

A slew of administrative promotions and transfers were announced and approved at Thursday night's school board meeting in Howard County. The changes are effective July 1.

The board approved the following administrative promotions:

--Molly Ketterer, from Assistant Principal at Longfellow ES to Principal at Swansfield ES

--David Adelman from Assistant Principal at Deep Run ES to Principal at Ilchester ES

--Vicky Sarro from Assistant Principal at St. John’s Lane ES to Principal at St. John’s Lane ES

--Carol Hahn from Assistant Principal at Manor Woods ES to Principal at West Friendship

--Laurel Marsh from Math Support Teacher at Swansfield ES to Assistant Principal at Longfellow ES

--Nancy Richardson from Leadership Intern at Bellows Spring ES to Assistant Principal at Manor Woods ES

--Anthony Esposito from Grade Three Team Leader at Longfellow ES to Assistant Principal at Elkridge ES

--Julie Moraz from Grade Two Team Leader at Rockburn ES to Assistant Principal at Deep Run ES

--Gina Stokes from Assistant Principal at Elkridge Landing MS to Principal at Elkridge Landing MS

--Melissa Shindel from Assistant Principal at Patuxent Valley MS to Principal at Clarksville MS

--Carol Ketterman from Special Education Teacher at Patapsco MS to Assistant Principal at Patapsco MS

--Josh Wasilewski from Health Teacher at Mayfield Woods MS to Assistant Principal at Patuxent Valley MS

--Lisa Smith from Leadership Intern at Dunloggin MS to Assistant Principal at Dunloggin MS

Deputy Superintendent Sandra Erickson announced the following administrative transfers:

--Debbie Jagoda from Principal at St. John’s Lane ES to Principal at Bushy Park ES

--Corita Oduyoye from Principal at West Friendship ES to Principal at Gorman Crossing ES

--Becky Straw from Principal at Bushy Park ES to Principal at Northfield ES

--Jonathan Davis from Principal at Swansfield ES to Principal at Bollman Bridge ES

--Cheryl Logan from Principal at Gorman Crossing ES to Assistant Principal at River Hill HS

--Connie Stahler from Assistant Principal at Waverly ES to Assistant Principal at Guilford ES

--Anne Swartz from Assistant Principal at Guilford ES to Assistant Principal at St. John’s Lane ES

--Denise Lancaster from Assistant Principal at Waterloo ES to Assistant Principal at Waverly ES

--Tom Saunders from Principal at Elkridge Landing MS to Principal at Wilde Lake MS

--Scott Conroy from Principal at Wilde Lake MS to Principal at Lime Kiln MS

--Sue Brown from Principal at Mayfield Woods MS to Principal at Harpers Choice MS

--JoAnn Hutchens from Principal at Clarksville MS to Principal at Mayfield Woods MS

--Lori Willoughby from Assistant Principal Dunloggin MS to Assistant Principal at Burleigh Manor MS

--Julie Rout from Assistant Principal at Folly Quarter MS to Assistant Principal at Elkridge Landing MS

--Tammy Goldeisen from Assistant Principal at Ellicott Mills MS to Assistant Principal at Folly Quarter MS

--Nancy Eisenhuth from Assistant Principal at Patapsco MS to Assistant Principal at Ellicott Mills MS

--Bill Neugebauer from Assistant Principal at Oakland Mills HS to Assistant Principal at Mount Hebron HS

--Dale Castro from Assistant Principal at Atholton HS to Assistant Principal at Oakland Mills HS

--Adrienne Nasir from Assistant Principal at River Hill HS to Assistant Principal at Atholton HS

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 3:06 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Howard County

May 18, 2009

Bullying policies in Baltimore County and elsewhere

My story today takes a look at a bullying policy coming before the Baltimore County school board Tuesday.

But really, this could have been about any school board in Maryland, considering the state law that requires every district to develop and adopt such a policy.  School officials in the city, Howard, Harford, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties are in the midst of this process, which must be completed by July 1 (and submitted to the state superintendent).

In talking to some of my sources, I was struck by the fact that most everyone already has a policy like this - even if it's not in the exact words or format recommended by the state.  In fact, the state Department of Education worked with local districts in creating its model policy. 

A uniform stance on an issue can certainly be a good thing - particularly when it comes to the persistent, even timeless, problem of bullying.  But I did wonder what people on the ground think about this.  Will it make a difference in how educators handle harassment or intimidation among their students?

April 10, 2009

Fresh from the farm: school lunch

There’s an interesting op-ed in today’s paper praising Maryland for its Farm-to-School program. The program aims to put fresh, local food in school cafeterias and to teach kids more about where that food comes from. The op-ed considers the concept a win for everyone – students, farmers, local communities and the environment.

This focus on healthy eating is another facet of an ongoing conversation on childhood obesity and ensuring students are eating well during the school day. Even as they turn healthier, schools throughout the nation are simultaneously trying not to loose their young clientele by sacrificing taste. My colleague John-John Williams recently wrote about such efforts in a story about a Howard County contest allowing students to propose recipes for the cafeteria menu.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 12:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Nation, Around the Region, Howard County

December 23, 2008

Inappropriate relationships in Howard schools

Over in Howard County, a 61-year-old high school band director was arrested today and charged with sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl over two years. For all the problems in city schools, these teacher/student relationship scandals seem to surface far more often in the suburbs. Three teachers in Howard were arrested in the 2006-2007 school year for inappropriate relationships with students. I don't remember the last time a case like that was brought to light in Baltimore. I'm not saying there haven't been any, but if there have in recent years, they've been kept quiet.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:49 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Howard County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

November 14, 2008

Results Are In! Howard County tallies final votes

More than a week after the general election, the Howard County Board of Elections has announced the top three vote-getters in the race for the Howard County school board. The winners are current members Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles and newcomer Allen Dyer.

Siddiqui, a pediatrician from Clarksville who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board last year, led all candidates with 62,126 votes. Giles, the board’s current vice chairman, received 57,266 votes. Dyer, an attorney from Ellicott City who ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2006, received 54,148 votes.

Diane Butler, a community activist from Ellicott City who claimed that Dyer hurt her chances when he distributed campaign literature that was taken out of context and distributed without her permission, placed fourth with 53,459. Retiree Betsy Grater was in fifth place with 34,686 votes. University of Maryland student Di Zou finished sixth with 22,406 votes.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 4:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County

November 13, 2008

Reply on 'Intelligent Design' figures in school board drama

Just in case you haven't been following the happenings in Howard County education, there is a pretty interesting school board race in which one candidate says dirty campaigning could cost her a seat.   

The winners will not be official until tomorrow, as election officials say they need to finish counting 4,500 absentee ballots. During the week-and-a-half wait for the outcome, Diane Butler spoke out.  

Butler, who finished fourth in the contest for three seats, said campaign literature distributed by third-place finisher Allen Dyer was distributed without her permission and had taken out of context her reply to a question on creationism. Butler was trailing Dyer by about 1,000 votes. Read more here. (Current board members Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles are comfortably in first and second places. The top three candidates will serve on the board.)

"I'm not a creationism-teaching, right-wing, voucher-slinging, home-schooling mom," said Butler. She objected to the way the literature portrayed her views:


Continue reading "Reply on 'Intelligent Design' figures in school board drama " »

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

October 20, 2008

Parent involvement award

Sometimes a parent sees a need and decides to try to make a difference at a school.  Larry Walker tried to do that at Mt. Hebron High School in Howard County. You can read about it in a story I wrote that appeared yesterday.

Educators do a lot of talking about getting more parents involved in their childrens' schools, but rarely do they do much to improve improve participation. In some cases, schools aren't very welcoming. The Maryland State Department of Education and Comcast are trying to promote more involvement with an award given annually  to a parent who has had a real impact on students in a school. Larry Walker was the first winner. Beginning Nov. 19 they will be asking people to nominate a parent they believe has made a significant contribution to a public school.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Howard County

October 17, 2008

Freak dancing rules

In my story today about freak dancing, I explore the latest dancing guidelines established at Centennial High School, which were crafted in response to a back-to-school dance that got out of control.

My colleagues Nicole Fuller, Arin Gencer, David Kohn and Sara Neufeld were able to give me the policies that each of the school systems they cover follows:

Continue reading "Freak dancing rules" »

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:25 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Around the Region, Howard County, Trends

October 15, 2008

Lessons in academic self-reliance

Parents will have the opportunity Thursday to hear Brad Sachs, a Columbia-based psychologist, give a presentation about students learning to handle responsibility independently. The event, "Whose Homework is it Anyway? Promoting Academic Self-Reliance During the Teen Years," starts at 7 p.m. at Long Reach High School. Sachs' presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

HC DrugFree, a nonprofit organization based in Howard County, is sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public. "This workshop will help parents understand the hidden reasons why many teens struggle with homework and classwork," says Laura Smit, head of HC DrugFree.

Last year, bad weather thwarted the chance for parents to learn how to avoid overstepping boundaries, which can impede their child's academic self-reliance. Sachs says an increasing number of parents are hindering their children's academic growth when they attempt to "help" motivate them. This can manifest itself in the form of parents who place inordinate pressure on their children and parents who help complete their children's assignments.

If you're going, Long Reach is located at 6101 Old Dobbin Lane in Columbia.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

March 27, 2008

What are your gripes with NCLB?

Yesterday, after an hourlong discussion where Raymond Simon, deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, met with 19 of Maryland's high-ranking educators and fielded their questions and concerns about the No Child Left Behind Act, several superintendents were left dissatisfied.

While some said they were pleased with the opportunity to dialogue about some of the problems associated with the act, they also said that they were not pleased with some of Simon's responses.

During the discussion, the educators spoke about the shortage of qualified teachers, financial hardships caused by trying to meet the act's goals, and the challenge of closing the achievement gap for foreign-born students and special education students.

Sydney L. Cousin, superintendent of Howard County Schools, asked Simon about providing more testing flexibility for foreign-born students who are learning English.

Cousin explained that research shows that it takes five to seven years for foreign-born students to become fluent enough to take tests in English, yet No Child Left Behind gives them a one-year waiver before applying their test scores as part of a local school's achievement.

Simon launched into a spiel about holding accountable students who have grown up in this country.

Anne Arundel's Superintendent Dr. Kevin Maxwell immediately clarified that Cousin was talking about immigrant students.

“That is an issue that many of us are grappling with,” Maxwell said.

Simon responded that the one-year waiver was the result of a compromise between the federal government, local school systems, and advocates for foreign-born students. He also said that some schools have been able to offer assessment tests in the student’s native language. (Most of the superintendents appeared to be unaware of this option.)

Maxwell later said that Simon did not address the issue.

“I was a little disappointed by the response,” he said.

Cousin also wasn’t pleased with the response, but he said he did not have high expectations for the discussion.

"Given the limited amount of time, there really wasn't an opportunity to go into depth," Cousin said. "I don't know if that was the right forum."

Cousin was impressed by the fact that Simon wanted to meet with local superintendents.

"At least they said they want to hear what we have to say," Cousin said. "The follow-up is the critical question."

If you had the opportunity to talk to Simon about No Child Left Behind, what would you say? One reader e-mailed this morning and said he would have questioned Simon about the achievement gap among African-American students.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:10 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region, Howard County, NCLB

March 4, 2008

What do you think about harassing helicopter parents?

They hover. And many teachers say that they harass, and disrupt the learning process in the process. Helicopter parents are landing at a school near you!

My article today looks at the overbearing actions of parents in schools.

Take Howard County as an example. For the past two years, 60 percent of the teachers responding to a job satisfaction survey conducted by the Howard County Education Association reported that they have been subjected to harassment. Last year's survey specifically identified parents as the offenders in 60 percent of the cases. This year's survey will report similar results, according to Ann DeLacy, the HCEA president.

Through my research I talked to educators from school systems throughout the state who recalled numerous examples of over-zealous parents who made their lives miserable.

What do you think? Have you witnessed parents who overstep the boundaries and interfere with the learning process? Are you a teacher who has been harassed by a parent? Please share your experiences. Or, are you a helicopter parent?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Around the Nation, Howard County, Parents, Teaching, Trends

February 26, 2008

Is Howard County high school TB warning too little too late?

Who knew that the story I wrote about TB would be so popular?

The Associated Press picked it up. A newspaper in Delaware linked to it. I’m not even going to talk about the T.V. reporters.

My colleague Dennis O’Brien also did a blog post – with a neat graphic -- about it.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the story: Howard County health officials are investigating whether the county's first tuberculosis case this year, diagnosed in a student, spread the bacterial illness to staff members or other students at Hammond High School in Columbia.

The students and staff members at the Columbia school were told of the diagnosis Monday. The county Health Department sent letters Saturday to 50 students who ride the bus with the student, warning them that they might have been exposed and encouraging them to get tested.

Health officials learned about the infected student four weeks ago.

No one – other than the student – has contracted the disease, according to health officials. 

Do you think that the health department and school officials should have notified students and parents about the student immediately? Do you think they waited too long?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 3:40 PM | | Comments (1)

February 11, 2008

A Guide to Howard County School Board Candidates

Need a last-minute biographical sketch about the candidates in the Howard County Board of Education primary? Then check out their comments in this election preview I recently wrote.

The election features a mix of familiar faces – two current board members are trying to extend their stint on the board – and a few new names. Check out this tidbit about how race is playing a factor in this school board primary.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

January 15, 2008

Food fights becoming costly, popular in U.S. schools

For all those students American students who missed the memo from Mama that warned against playing with food, these examples should thwart any future thoughts of food fights.

Seven Wisconsin high school students, ages 17 and 18, are facing fines and four-day suspensions after being involved in a food fight in their cafeteria last month.

In Howard County, a high school principal made news when he offered students a $30 reward for any information about students involved in a food fight in December. Read more here.

While researching the phenomenon, I found a slew of YouTube videos with cafeteria food fights. I also came across this theory that suggests that the popularity of YouTube has contributed to a growth in food fights. Apparently students are trying to one-up one another by starting food fights and then posting the mayhem on the site.

What is going on with all these food fights? Are these just isolated incidents, or are food fights a major problem in U.S. schools?

When I was growing up food fights were almost a rite of passage. I didn’t participate in these childish antics. (Not that I was a goody-goody. I was a fat kid who wouldn’t dream of throwing away his lunch.)

While I can recall dodging french fries and chicken nuggets, I can’t remember students facing court-imposed fines, or principals offering monetary rewards for information leading to the lunch launchers.

January 11, 2008

Third Howard County teacher to go to court in March for allegations of sexual contact with students

I’ve spent most of the week in court covering the trial of Joseph Samuel Ellis, a 25-year-old former Glenelg High School history teacher accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with several female students. Read more about the outcome of that case here.

Turns out this week has served as a primer for what’s coming up in March, when I will likely cover the trial of Alan Meade Beier.

Beier, for those of you who are not familiar with the case, is a former River Hill teacher accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with students.

All three cases against Beier will take place in Howard County Circuit Court on March 26. Originally one of the cases was scheduled for February 12, but a motion on December 20, 2007, postponed that case, which allowed all three cases to go to trial at the same time.

Beier, 52, a former chemistry and physics, was arrested on January 12, 2007. He is accused of undressing and photographing a 16-year-old boy in his classroom and with fondling a 17-year-old female student. A third student also reported inappropriate contact with Beier.

Beier is the third and final Howard County teacher arrested during a two-month period during the 2006-2007 school year to appear in Circuit Court for allegations of having inappropriate sexual contact with students.

Kirsten Ann Kinley, 28, a former teacher at Marriotts Ridge High School, pleaded guilty in August to having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy while she was a teacher at Hammond Middle School in late 2004 and early 2005. The boy was not a student at Hammond Middle. Kinley was sentenced to serve 18 months at the county detention center in November.

Do you think that there are enough safeguards in place to prevent situations like these? Do you think these incidents are isolated or do they represent a growing problem? Before you comment, check out some of these stories here, here, here, and here.

January 4, 2008

Some Sad News About Natalie Wise Woodson

I came back from a long vacation to some devastating news.

Natalie Wise Woodson, the education chair for the Maryland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a retired Baltimore City principal, died Tuesday after a near two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 79.

She was a great advocate for children and was a proponent for closing the achievement gap long before No Child Left Behind mandates. She will be missed.

Mrs. Woodson came from a long line of educators.

At one point during her employment as a principal in Baltimore City, five of her cousins were also principals; four more worked as teachers.

"We were all instilled with the importance of education," she said in an interview I had with her for a profile I wrote about her in June. Mrs. Woodson was also featured on this blog’s Educator Spotlight June 26.

Mrs. Woodson was instrumental in leading several initiatives to help improve student achievement for African-American students.

In 1990 she launched Education Advocates for African Americans, an advocacy organization in which members accompanied African-American parents in Howard County to teacher conferences and meetings about individual education plans. She also worked with the Black Student Achievement Program, another Howard County school system initiative.

In 2000, Mrs. Woodson completed the first NAACP Education Report Card, a comprehensive look at attendance, graduation rate, drop-out rate, suspensions and assessment scores for African-
American students.

I saw Mrs. Woodson just before I went on vacation in December. She was at a Howard County school board meeting talking to board members about improving student achievement.

A viewing will be held Sunday from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Home, 4101 Edmondson Avenue at Wildwood Parkway in Baltimore.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Celebration Church, 6080 Foreland Garth, in Columbia.

In lieu of flowers, the Mrs. Woodson’s family requests that contributions be made to:
Natalie W. Woodson Scholarship Fund
c/o Mrs. JoAnn Branche
P.O. Box 8621
Elkridge, MD 21075 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City, Howard County

December 3, 2007

Leave the food and drinks at home at Howard County high school games!

Thinking about bringing food or beverages to a sporting event at a Howard County high school? Forget about it!

The school system has just announced that outside food and beverages will be banned at all county athletic venues including gymnasiums and stadiums. The effort is part of the school system’s attempts to thwart alcohol consumption and to keep their facilities clean.

The food and beverage ban in gymnasiums takes effect immediately. The stadiums ban takes effect when the spring sports season begins on March 1, 2008.

Read more about it in The Sun’s online edition.

What are your thoughts about the ban?

November 8, 2007

High School Assessment Perfect Scores

In the debate over the high school assessments, Howard County parent Sara Seifter asked a question that got lost in the shuffle of wider issues. She wanted to know why some highly able students she knows haven't scored in the stratosphere on these exams. She said these are kids who have aced their AP exams, get high scores on the SATs but don't score much above 490 out of 650 on these exams. Mind you, that is still about 100 points above passing. But she still wanted to know from the Maryland state school board why they weren't getting the maximum 650 or close to it. In her testimony to the state board she asked, "How is it that these students who are receiving 800s on their SATs are not receiving at or near a perfect score on the HSAs which are supposedly tests of basic skills?"

I asked Leslie Wilson, who's in charge of testing for the state board of education, to answer this question. She said there are some perfect scorers, but not many. Last year, of the roughly 55,000 students who took the test, 39 students had a perfect 650, the top score. Another 50 students scored in the 550 range or up.

Wilson says that the high school tests aren't designed like the SATs to measure high achievement or very low achievement. They are designed to concentrate on whether students pass or not...That is the English translation of the complexity of scoring.

Seifter would like the state to use a national test with a proved track record that students can look at and see where their weaknesses are.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region, Howard County, Testing

Teen stress and depression presentation tonight

Life got your teen stressed, depressed?

Tonight HC DrugFree, a Howard County nonprofit organization, is sponsoring a free program for parents and teens that will address the factors that can lead to stress, depression and substance abuse in teens.

Dr. David Gold, a counselor with Crossroads Psychological Associates in Columbia, will share tips about how to spot signs of teen depression.

Organizers of the program promise plenty of time for parents and teens to converse about their experiences.

If you are interested in going, the 90-minute program starts at 7 p.m. at Atholton High School, 6520 Freetown Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 1:12 PM | | Comments (1)

October 30, 2007

Less tricks and treats this Halloween

With pressures mounting from religious groups and parents, more schools are abandoning traditional Halloween parties.

Child obesity and wellness policies have also altered the traditional menus of candy corn, and cupcakes. Now, you’re more likely to catch a kid snacking on carrot sticks with reduced fat ranch dressing.

Take Running Brook Elementary School in Columbia for example. Tomorrow I’m heading to the school for their annual vocabulary parade. The school asks students to dress up as vocabulary words. If a student picks the word “rain”, he or she will dress as a rain drop.

The parade will be followed by a party featuring healthy snacks.

This definitely isn’t your mama’s Halloween party!

What are your schools doing this Halloween? Are schools going to far to curb the Halloween tradition?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 7:03 PM | | Comments (2)

October 26, 2007

Maryland's Siemens Competition Semifinalists

Here are some kids who are definitely smarter than I am:

Gabriella Biondo, George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, Towson

Sarah Kamel, Centennial High School, Ellicott City

David Lai, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Baltimore

Phillip Sandborn, Wilde Lake High School, Columbia

Liv Johannessen, Governor Thomas Johnson High School, Frederick

Paul Kominers and Damjan Korac, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda

Andrew Kung, Benjamin Lee, Boris Vassilev and Yang Yang, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring

These 11 students are Maryland's semifinalists in the Siemens Competition, a national science research competition administered by the College Board. They are among 295 semifinalists from 34 states, selected from a pool of 1,641 applicants. Another 95 kids nationwide -- including Benjamin Lu and Louis Wasserman from Montgomery Blair -- earned the even greater distinction as regional finalists. They'll compete to go on to the nationals, where they can earn up to $100,000 in scholarship money.

As evidence of how smart these kids are, check out this descrption of David Lai's project from a press release sent out by the Ingenuity Project, the program at Poly for kids gifted in math and science:

"Mr. Lai’s project, entitled 'Characterization of Genomic Instability in SGS1 Mutants,' is a part of the research on a cell’s ability to efficiently repair damaged DNA. Genes like SGS1 are important for the proper repair of DNA breaks in human cells. Mutations in homologs of SGS1 produce genomic instability syndromes, symptoms of which include premature aging and a predisposition to cancer. In the research, the SGS1 mutant yeast was used as a model for human cells. The results show that this approach can be used to give insight into the dynamics of certain specific cancer pathways."

Anybody care to explain what a homolog of SGS1 is?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County

October 24, 2007

Where are they now? Kimberly A. Statham

Today’s installment features Kimberly A. Statham, the former chief academic officer for Howard County Schools who resigned following allegations of a grade changing scandal involving her daughter.

Statham, 49, has resurfaced as deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia.

Statham's career as Howard County's chief academic officer ended after allegations that she intimidated school staff members at Centennial High School to obtain preferential treatment for her daughter, who was a student there. She resigned in 2004 and eventually was exonerated by the Howard County Board of Education. Statham was a consultant for the Howard County school system the next year.

During that period, Statham, who is African-American, was the victim of an apparent hate crime when someone used a chemical to burn a cross into the front lawn of her Ellicott City home.

Deborah A. Gist, state superintendent of education for the District of Columbia, said she was aware of the events that preceded Statham’s departure from Howard County.

 “We discussed it really briefly,” Gist said. “It seems clear that it was an unfortunate situation, and that Kimberly had done the right thing, and that she did not do anything that would concern me at all.”

Prior to her return to the Beltway, Statham had been working in the Oakland (Calif.) Unified School District. In fact, Statham was working as the interim chief executive officer for the 41,000-student system, when she resigned. She held that position for the final five-months of her 28-month stint.

Statham was instrumental in advancing the performance of Oakland's public school students, according to officials there.

She is credited with requiring all students to take the PSATs. In addition, officials say that the number of Oakland students accepted to the California state college system nearly doubled.

For more, check out today’s article.

Statham, who has never made herself available for an interview with me on numerous occasions during the past two years, was surprisingly not available for comment for today's story.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:50 AM | | Comments (1)

October 23, 2007

Guess who’s back to the Beltway?

Tomorrow as part of our “Where are they now?” feature, I will update you on the latest accomplishment of a former top-ranking Howard County Schools official who left Maryland shortly after a controversy erupted at a high school.

Turns out this educator has returned to the Beltway. Read about it online tomorrow. Comment about it on the blog after.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 4:48 PM | | Comments (0)

October 22, 2007

Sex abuse: Who is teaching your children?

The AP is reporting that American teachers commit an abusive sexual act at a rate of nearly three times for every school day. Wow!

A seven-month investigation reveals that there were more than 2,500 cases during a five-year-period where educators were disciplined for sexual misconduct.

Of the 2,570 educators, young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases. More than 80 percent of those were students.

This is a subject that I have dealt with extensively in Howard County. During a two-month-period last school year, I reported that three Howard County teachers were arrested for having inappropriate sexual contact with students. Their cases are currently making their way through the judiciary system.

There were also a slew of cases in the counties surrounding Baltimore.

What safeguards do schools need to take to ensure that abusive teachers are kept out of the classrooms?

October 18, 2007

The digital dirt in the education world

What are you’re thoughts about my story today that delves into digital dirt being used against people?

Were you surprised by the digital dirt that exists in the education community?

Are educators held to an unfair standard? Are employers over reaching in their efforts to monitor the actions of employees outside of the workplace?

I’ll be responding to any comments you have about this story throughout the day.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County, Trends

October 16, 2007

Staph deadly in Virginia; new case reported in Howard County

I informed you about the recent slew of staph outbreaks last week. Here’s an update. A 17-year-old Virginia high school student died after being hospitalized with the infection last week. As a result, officials shut down 21 schools for cleaning to keep the illness from spreading. Read more in this article.

Last week, Ruma reported that four local high schools - Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Old Mill and Chesapeake - had received reports of 28 staphylococcus infections over the past three weeks.

On Friday, Wilde Lake High School in Columbia informed parents that one student had been infected with the staph. The school shared the following safety tips to protect against the infection:

1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.

3. Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.

4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

5. Use a barrier between your skin and shared equipment.


5:20 p.m. UPDATE: Read this article about a disturbing CDC report. One official believes that deaths tied to the drug-resistant staph "superbug" could exceed those caused by AIDS.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 3:00 PM | | Comments (2)

October 9, 2007

Howard County School ‘shooting victims’ lied

Today the paper ran a story I wrote about two 11-year-old Howard County boys whom alleged that they were shot by pellets on their way to school last week.

Police now say that the two lied.

At this point police do not know what prompted the two to fabricate the incidents. In addition, no charges have been filed against either youth.

What kind of punishment – if any -- do these two deserve?

The police department used a helicopter and its K-9 units to search for the suspect that the two boys lied about. In addition, the accusations caused a panic in the area. One school held indoor recess. Many said that the incidents reminded them of the sniper attacks of October 2002.

Should the two have to pay the police department for the time and resources spent on these false claims? You decide.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Howard County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

October 1, 2007

The Madness At Mount Hebron High

I am on my way to cover the Howard County school board approval of the 2009 fiscal capital budget. One of the hottest ticket items this year is a renovation plan at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City.

Read this story for a brief recap of what's going on at the school.

What is your definition of bad school conditions? Parents, students, and staff at Mount Hebron High School think that their school is in desperate need of repair and attention.

Mount Hebron is among Howard County’s oldest.

Top-ranking school system officials have favored a renovation project at the school that includes mechanical upgrades, full systemic renovations and an expansion of the school's art, athletic and administrative offices.

Many parents at the school want the renovation project to correct a slew of deficiencies, which is in excess of 20, and would essentially require a replacement school.

Advocates have made the conditions sound like the school is a step down from Beirut.

Watch the YouTube video below, which was produced by students at the school. Judge for yourself.
In 2004 students made a video about the school. As a result, the school was featured on a morning television news show. The school later received a renovated auditorium.

Should the squeaky wheel get the oil? Are there other schools that do not get the resources they need because their parents, students, and staff are not as vocal and skilled in the arts of effective communications? You decide.

Do you know of schools with worse conditions that you would think are in more need of attention? Do you think that the conditions documented at Mount Hebron High warrant immediate attention?

In the coming weeks we will solicit input from you about unfavorable facility conditions in Maryland public schools. Believe me, this is an award that schools do not want to receive.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:01 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County

September 5, 2007

Secret Revealed

 Rev. Jesse Jackson will speak to the Wilde Lake High School student body Thursday morning. 
 Jackson, a former presidential candidate, will talk to the students about the importance of leadership and voting.
 Are there any questions that you would like to me to ask Jackson? If so, send your questions to the blog and I will try to work them into my interview…..
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 8:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

September 4, 2007

I Have A Secret

A former presidential candidate will visit a Howard County High School Thursday. Check out the blog tomorrow to find out the identity of this special guest.
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 1:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

July 26, 2007

Winning streak ends for local Jeopardy! contestant

 Kriti Gandhi is $10,000 richer thanks to intense preparation, a little luck, and a nudge of encouragement from her family.
 Gandhi, an 18-year-old graduate of Centennial High School, competed in the Jeopardy! Summer Games Teen Tournament, which has been airing on national television the last two weeks. On Wednesday night, Gandhi’s winning ways ended with a loss in the semi-final round.
 For making it to the semi-finals, she earned a $10,000 payoff. (She amassed $17,700 in winning her first round, but contestants don’t get to keep the opening round money unless they advance to the final round.)
 The road to the competition began last fall when Gandhi’s father signed her up for a tryout on the show.
 A series of tests, and additional tryouts followed, and within several months she was one of 15 teens picked for the show, which was taped in March in California.
 “I was actually surprised I got it,” Gandhi said about a callback to New York in November as part of the selection process.
 Sure, Gandhi had game show experience from the multiple rounds of tryouts and through serving as an alternate on Centennial High School’s It’s Academic Super Bowl team, but it couldn’t compare to the lights and cameras of Los Angeles.
 “Nothing can prepare you for just the experience of being on national TV,” Gandhi said. “It felt really, really good.”
 Gandhi got ready for the show by reading an almanac and using online Web sites such as Wikipedia — anything that would give her “as much knowledge about as many topics in a short amount of time,” she said.
 Gandhi said it has been difficult to abide by the contract she signed with the game show that prohibited her from revealing the outcome of the tournament prior to the airing of the shows.
 “I feel really bad not being able to tell people who I know and who have been so supportive of me throughout this entire experience,” she said. “But, they are pretty strict about that one.”
 A lifelong fan of Jeopardy!, Gandhi said she was surprised that host Alex Trebek was so friendly in person.
 “He appears acerbic on the show, but he is really fun,” she said with a laugh. “During the break, he was talking about fixing up his house. He was really fun and friendly.”
 Gandhi, who plans to attend McGill University in Montreal in the fall, admitted that some of her new classmates might recognize her when the semester begins. “It’s possible some people might recognize me,” she said sheepishly.
 But she thinks that the benefits associated with the show — the competitiveness and the lightning-quick responses — will help her.
 “The skills I’ve been able to gain on the show will come in handy in college as well,” she said.
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

July 24, 2007

Local Jeopardy! contestant getting it done

 Kriti Gandhi, an 18-year-old graduate of Centennial High School, won her opening round of Jeopardy! Summer Games Teen Tournament and has advanced to the semi-finals.
 Last Wednesday, Gandhi earned $17,700 and beat two contestants to advance. Gandhi’s semi-final round will be televised tomorrow at 7 p.m. on WMAR (Channel 2) in Baltimore and at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (Channel 7) in Washington.
 “It’s actually really surreal,” said the McGill University-bound teen. “I actually know all these [contestants] now. It’s strange. Seeing them on TV. It’s not an everyday experience.”
 Gandhi said she has been flooded with support throughout the entire process.
 “So many people called,” Ganhdi said about her opening-
round win. “Right after the show people were text messaging me. At one point I was talking to three different people on three different phones.”
 Gandhi, who is one of 15 teenagers competing in the tournament this month, participated in the competition in March, when it was filmed. She said she prepared for the show by reading the almanac and using online web sites such as Wikipedia.
 “I was trying to gain as much knowledge about as many topics in a short amount of time,” she said yesterday.
 Gandhi is no stranger to television game shows. In May, she was an alternate on Centennial’s It’s Academic Super Bowl team. That team finished second and earned $10,750 in prize money for the school.
 The It’s Academic competition helped Gandhi prepare for Jeopardy.
 “It gave me more knowledge and quiz show experience,” she said.
 Check in later this week, when I share more of my interview with our game show girl!
 What did she talk about with host Alex Trebek? What was the application process for Jeopardy! like? Is Jeopardy! more difficult than It’s Academic?
 Get the answers to all these questions later this week, here at Classroom Connections.
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

July 18, 2007

Best school for the buck

Howard County is one of the best school systems in the country for the buck, according to the July issue of Forbes Magazine.
Howard County ranks seventh in the business publication’s ranking that accompanies the article “Best and Worst Districts For The Buck.” Montgomery County ranks fifth on the chart, and is the top Maryland school system according to the magazine.
 Forbes uses per-pupil spending in school systems and compared it with college entrance exam scores, exam participation rates and graduation rates to determine the rankings.
 The higher ranking school systems on the Forbes list deliver high performance at low cost, according to the article.
 In addition to Montgomery and Howard counties, Frederick County ranks 21st, Carroll ranks 37th, Calvert ranks 51st, Anne Arundel ranks 75th, and Baltimore County ranks 89th.
 What do you think about this ranking? Do you live in any of these Maryland school systems? Do you think that your school system should have been ranked higher than Montgomery?
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:32 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County

July 16, 2007

Game girl!!!!!

  Check out the second item I wrote about in my Sunday education column. It’s about Kriti Gandhi, an 18-year-old graduate of Centennial High School, who will be one of 15 teenagers competing in the first-ever Jeopardy! Summer Games Teen Tournament this week. 
 The tournament shows will air Monday through Friday, today through July 27. Jeopardy! is shown at 7 p.m. on WMAR (Channel 2) in Baltimore and at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (Channel 7) in Washington. Gandhi will make her television appearance Wednesday. 
 Gandhi is no stranger to television game shows. In May, she was an alternate on Centennial's It's Academic Super Bowl team. That team finished second and earned $10,750 in prize money for the school. Gandhi plans to attend McGill University in Montreal in the fall. 
 Although the Jeopardy! tournament was taped in March, and contestants and staff from the show are prohibited from revealing results, I thought it would be nice to solicit words of encouragement for our hometown girl. So write in right now!!!!!
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

July 9, 2007

Super's salaries, backpack safety

Check out my most recent education notebook.
 This week, I address Howard County’s possible plans for backpack safety policies and I share how much area superintendents make a year.
 I was particularly interested in the superintendent salary data. It appears that working in an affluent, successful school system doesn’t translate to collecting a larger pay check….
 Should a superintendent’s salary reflect the reputation and academic results of his/her school
 Also, what suggestions do you have about limiting the weight of backpacks?
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

June 26, 2007

Educator Spotlight: Natalie Woodson

Educator Spotlight

Natalie Woodson

Education chair for the Maryland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  

The 79-year-old Columbia resident has been an advocate for African-American children for more than four decades.

Woodson worked in the Baltimore City Schools for 28 years as a teacher and administrator.
After her retirement in 1988, she continued to volunteer in the Cherry Hill community, where she served as principal at Patapsco Elementary School for 11 years.

In 1990 she launched Education Advocates for African Americans, an advocacy organization in which members accompanied African-American parents in Howard County to teacher conferences and meetings about individual education plans.

She  currently works with the Black Student Achievement Program, a Howard County school system initiative. She is also an active member of the Black Student Achievement Council of Elders, an organization of African-American senior citizens who volunteer and work as mentors for African-American students. 

In 2000, Woodson completed the first NAACP Education Report Card, a comprehensive look at attendance, graduation rate, drop-out rate, suspensions and assessment scores for African-American students. The three-month preparation process requires Woodson to collect hard copies of school system data - she doesn't trust the accuracy of computerized data - and analyze the information by hand. She then grades school systems using the data.

This year Woodson completed the laborious report card task despite receiving chemotherapy for an inoperable tumor that doctors discovered in September. 
For more information about Woodson, read a profile about her in Sunday’s Ideas section of the Sun.
Below are comments about Woodson from former colleagues. 
Loretta Wainwright, a retired Patapsco Elementary School teacher who worked with Woodson for 15 years, said: “With her, the children are number one. With them being primary, she possesses the power of nice. She considers staff and faculty and involves them in decision making. She makes everybody feel important. She’s just dynamic. She runs so many different programs. She keeps things going. She doesn’t let anything get stagnant. She’s just wonderful. The children and the teachers all respect and love her. I’ve been in the education field more than 30 years and she’s the most dynamic principal I’ve ever had.”  

Martha Dailey, a retired Patapsco Elementary School teacher who worked with Woodson for 10 years, said: “She was very, very strong and persistent with what she did with parents, staff, and the children. She was knowledgeable about every grade in that school. Nothing was too good for her to do when it came down to demonstrating what needed to be done. She did not mind subbing in the classroom when there was not a teacher or a substitute.”

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Howard County

June 18, 2007

Leaving A Legacy

Sunday, the paper ran a profile I wrote about Tom Brezinski, a media specialist at Clemens Crossing Elementary in Columbia. 
 Brzezinski, who was one of the first media specialists hired in Howard County, will retire at the end of this school year after working in Howard County for the past 42 years.
 “Mr. B”, as he is affectionately called, has made his mark by offering unique programs at the school such as showing after-school movies at the school and attracting popular children’s book authors to the school. 
 Do you know a retiring educator in your school system whom will be greatly missed?
 I want to know about these great educators. Drop me a line and tell me why this departing educator is so great.
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

April 30, 2007

After-prom parties

Good day readers,

It’s prom season and schools are encouraging parents not to throw after-prom parties where alcohol is served. Check out my story about what Howard County principals are doing.

Is this a major issue in your school system? Should parents be allowed to serve alcohol to their children in the "safety" of their own homes? What do you think?



Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County
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