The Montgomery County Board of Education honored 12 individuals and organizations during its annual Distinguished Service Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 4. The ceremony took place at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville.
The Board established the awards to recognize and show appreciation for exemplary contributions to public education and to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) by members of the community, businesses, MCPS staff and school volunteers.
“The Distinguished Service Awards honor those who have given selflessly of their time, their resources and their talents to make sure MCPS students receive a world-class education,” said Michael Durso, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.
[Learn more about the awards on the Board of Education’s website]
This year’s Distinguished Service Award winners are:
Officer Richard Reynolds, his community engagement team, and the entire 6th district have provided Watkins Mill High School invaluable support throughout the school year. Officer Reynolds and his team first came together with the school community for a Dinner and Discussion event during the Watkins Mill football team’s kneeling protest against police brutality and racial inequality. During this event, Officer Reynolds and other officers provided new perspectives on relationships between the police and youth in the community, including how to improve those relationships. Officer Reynolds had the innovative idea of hosting a flag football game between a team of Montgomery Village police officers and Watkins Mill football players against a team comprising Germantown police officers and Seneca Valley High School football players to help build relationships.
Kids in Need Distributors distributes food items to children eligible for the Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) program, so that they will have food available to them during the weekend. The program was founded in 2012 by Jeremy Lichtenstein. The program delivers free food to schools on a six-week cycle. The schools house the food and use volunteers from neighboring cluster schools to bag the food. The KIND bags allow children to leave school on Friday afternoon with a bag of diverse, healthy and easy-to-make meals and snacks. Mr. Lichtenstein also realized that if students are grappling with hunger, they may have other needs as well. At the beginning of the school year, KIND began delivering basic hygiene items, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and hairbrushes to students. Under Mr. Lichtenstein’s leadership, KIND is providing free snack bags to more than 1,700 children at more than 20 different schools, as well as an additional 4,500 meals during the summer for students attending summer school.
The Highwood Theatre has made many contributions to the arts program at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, a performing and creative arts magnet school. When Highwood staff contacted Loiederman last summer to begin a partnership, they generously offered their support to students at no cost. Last fall, Highwood was able to support Loiederman’s theater program, which serves more than 200 students in Grades 6 through 8, with offerings from Beginning Theater to a high school credit course. Highwood artists provided the advanced classes with lessons in musical theater. For the intermediate classes, Highwood provided students with an authentic experience in technical theatre by organizing an all-day field trip, during which students learned about set building, lighting, costumes, makeup and improvisation. Highwood also supports Loiederman’s after-school program.
Code.org is a national nonprofit organization, dedicated to expanding access to computer science education for students nationwide. Noting the dependence on computers, prevalence of computing jobs, and dearth of computer science students, Code.org believes that computer science is foundational for the 21st century student, regardless of his or her socioeconomic background. The partnership between MCPS and Code.org was established in 2014, with a commitment from 11 high schools to deliver the computer science curriculum in the first year. Today, 24 high schools offer the program, and six middle schools will offer it in 2017–2018. Code.org has a curriculum-writing team that has already modernized the course, a software engineering house that creates tutorials that students find fun to use, a coalition of tech companies that are eager to fill computer science jobs, and professional development to train instructors to teach the courses.
Steven Boden has been a dedicated MCPS staff member for more than 26 years. His leadership qualities are exemplary, and his title as supervisor of the Montgomery County Student Foundations Office hardly describes the totality of his contributions to public education. Boden’s primary responsibility is managing the Foundations Office, which operates three distinct, licensed, student-run businesses to promote career education: The Automotive Trades Foundation, The Construction Trades Foundation, and The Information Technology Foundation. Each program provides unique entrepreneurial experiences for students and produces a tangible product. Each foundation is governed by a board of directors comprising of local community business partners. Mr. Boden must also ensure compliance with government regulations, monitor an operating budget, maintain a relevant curriculum, and sustain relationships with vendors and inspectors for the operation of each business.
Daman Harris has been a classroom teacher, a staff development teacher, and is now an assistant principal at Wheaton Woods Elementary School. Harris has helped maintain a positive and safe school climate, where expectations are clear and concise. He also has made a tremendous effort to reach out to parents to keep them involved and aware of what is happening with their children’s education. Dr. Harris has had a positive impact by developing, guiding and supporting teachers. He was one of the first educators to help create the Building Our Network of Diversity (BOND) program, which seeks to support and retain male teachers of color, especially African American and Latino males. Dr. Harris drafted the initial white paper about the program and served as a member of the program’s steering committee. He also served as a mentor to several BOND members by providing insight on navigating through MCPS as an African American male teacher, conducting peer observations, and connecting them with other educators and resources.
Carol Petersen, administrative secretary at Hallie Wells Middle School, has provided exceptional service during her 24-year career. Her responsibilities have ranged from planning National Blue Ribbon Award ceremonies to arranging trips to the White House and providing everyday support to students and staff to ensure that the daily operations of school facilities run smoothly. She was the second employee hired at Hallie Wells. She was responsible for ordering furniture, books and supplies, as well as processing more than 1,000 applications, 150 interviews, and all of the paperwork for staff the school hired. As the new Silver Creek Middle School is being constructed, with a scheduled opening in August 2017, Ms. Petersen has been serving as a resource for staff to ensure a smooth opening of that facility.
Nicholas Saadipour, a classroom teacher and team leader, has worked to create a more diverse, multicultural and accepting community at Quince Orchard High School. Mr. Saadipour took over the theater program at Quince Orchard. He soon noticed the lack of diversity in the program and used time outside of the school day to offer workshops for students who did not have the opportunity to be trained privately. He organized theater students to promote theater and invited students who were not involved in the school community to join. He implemented a program to tackle the underrepresented minority male teachers in MCPS. Two years ago, he formed a club for men of color who were interested in becoming teachers or going into social work. As this program took off, the Minority Scholars Program (MSP), a student-driven initiative aimed at reducing the achievement gap by expanding the number of African American and Latino students in honors and Advanced Placement courses, came to the school. Mr. Saadipour merged the two clubs and now sponsors the MSP.
Michael Shpur has devoted his career to facilitating the design and construction of sustainable, flexible and positive learning environments. An architect, Mr. Shpur’s expertise in school design and construction, his awareness of the impact of design trends, and his remarkable institutional knowledge of MCPS facilities are invaluable to the school system. Mr. Shpur is involved in the planning, design consultant selection, and design review of hundreds of school construction and improvement projects. He lends his expertise to decisions regarding space planning, product selection and creative solutions. He spends countless hours attending community and public meetings related to MCPS projects. He also led the effort toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification of new schools. Mr. Shpur also is one of the coordinators of the Facility Project Request process, which involves the review and recommendation of 100 to 200 requests per year.
School Service Volunteer
Lisa Büttner has invested thousands of volunteer hours in building an edible garden from the ground up at Rolling Terrace Elementary School. Her vision, passion and dedication helped transform the school’s interior overgrown courtyard into an edible garden. She is a multitasking enthusiast, developing lesson plans tied to common core standards and organizing mulch deliveries and volunteer garden cleanups. Ms. Büttner meets with teachers and staff to develop a vision for the outdoor spaces, writes grants to share innovations, and leads lessons during and after school. When the children harvest their food, they are excited to pull up and try out the produce they have grown: purple carrots, multicolored beets, sweet potatoes, peas, herbs, radishes, and different varieties of lettuce. Her work has impacted neighboring schools, inviting others to informational meetings at Rolling Terrace to share best practices and show them what works. She collaborates with local master gardeners, the GreenKids program, The University of Maryland Extension, D.C. Greens and others.
Gary Temple has been volunteering in classes at Earle B. Wood Middle School since 2011, as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Volunteer Program. The program has 73 volunteers in 55 elementary, middle and high schools in MCPS, supporting almost 100 teachers to bring the real world of STEM to more than 10,000 students every week. With a degree in chemistry, a medical doctor degree, an internship in internal medicine and a post-doctoral fellowship in molecular biology, Dr. Temple has done an outstanding job of enhancing STEM education at Wood, and has also had a hand in developing and enhancing the middle school biology curriculum in MCPS. Dr. Temple is in Wood’s science classes on a regular basis, helping students, co-teaching lessons, preparing labs, and leading science investigations, in addition to helping with STEM Expo Night.
Patricia B. O’Neill has had a lengthy and distinguished career advocating for students and public education. She was a longtime Parent Teacher Association activist in the Walt Whitman Cluster, and served in various volunteer and leadership roles, prior to being elected to the Board of Education in 1998. She is currently serving her fifth four-year term on the Board of Education. She has served as Board president and vice president five times. Mrs. O’Neill currently serves as chair of the Board’s Policy Management Committee and is vice chairperson of the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation. Mrs. O’Neill is past president of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and past co-chair of the Washington Area Boards of Education. She is widely respected by her Board colleagues, the superintendent, staff and elected officials. She is adept at working behind the scenes to ensure that the needs of students are met and the larger goals of the Board are fulfilled. Her insights and understanding of education issues, as well as her institutional knowledge, are superb. By the end of 2018, she will have served a total of 20 years as an elected Board member. She is the second longest serving member of the Board and the longest serving woman.