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Board of EducationDistinguished Service AwardsWinners → 1999

Distinguished Service Award Winners: 1999


Pennie Abramson and Barry Scher

Are original members of the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation, which was founded in 1990. The foundation raises money to provide funds to schools for special programs not covered in the schools' budget. When the Foundation voted last March to sponsor the Paul Vance Retirement Celebration and to develop a scholarship (which raised more than $145,000 in Dr. Vance's name), Mrs. Abramson and Mr. Scher not only agreed to be co-chairs of the event, but also gave tirelessly of themselves to assure the great success of the event. Penny Abramson worked over 60 hours a week on invitations, seating arrangements, making name tags, and purchasing many items required to make the evening a success. Barry Scher of Giant Foods Inc. took on the responsibility of arranging for a Master of Ceremony, planning the program, phone calls, letters, music, script and hundreds of other details to help make the program a success. He arranged through Giant, to have a "school bus cake~ delivered to each table, arranged for the flowers, programs and other incidentals, all at his own expense. These two individuals gave of themselves so that the scholarship fund will provide funds to needy Montgomery County Public Schools students for college.

Giant Food Inc.

Was one of the first companies to partner with MCPS to develop a school to work transition program, which supplied entry-level employment to disabled high school students. When Giant began this transition in the early 1 980s each store manager assigned an advocate to train the student in a mentor capacity. Hundreds of MCPS special education students had their first work experience thanks to Giant and many are still employed by Giant. This program was one of the first to receive national recognition. For more than 25 years, Giant has been an employer for MCPS's Cooperative Work Experience Programs under the Career and Technology Education Department. Other training program managers regularly work with teachers to provide part-time work experiences for high school students. In addition, often a position has been created to help a student who needs a fresh start. Giant has provided money for the 1998 MCPS teacher recruitment video, paid for all videos provided Education Foundation brochures, and paid airfare for students to enter competitions. Giant also has sponsored It's Academic, a television show for over 30 years and has awarded scholarships amounting to over $2 million to area participant schools. "Apples for the Students" began 11 years ago and, to date, has donated more than $4.5 million in free educational equipment to MCPS. Giant clearly has demonstrated commitment and resources to Montgomery County students.

General Electric Information Services

Volunteers offer free courses to Montgomery County teachers about computer technology. Since 1997 employees have volunteered over 20,000 hours to community service. More than 1000 MCPS teachers have participated since the program¡s inception in 1991. Besides teaching classes and donating more that 1,609 computers and printers to MCPS, GE Information Services participates in Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Employees volunteer to be shadowed and are teamed with students who share similar career interests. GE Information Services also sponsors the STAR Scholarship Program. This program, in existence for 15 years, recognizes outstanding senior students of GE employees with $1,000 grants to help defray the expenses of college. The program also awards a $500 grant to the student¡s high school. Adopt-A-School is a nationwide program that pairs local businesses with a school. GE Information Services has adopted several schools over the years. The volunteers are paired one-on-one with a student for an entire year. The program is open to all students for assistance in homework, reading and writing workshops, and computer and science help. GE Information Services' close relationship with MCPS and strong commitment to education has truly been a great benefit to Montgomery County students and Montgomery County Public School staff.

Community Individual

Ron Leung

Has donated thousands of hours to the Paint Branch cluster as a volunteer. He served as an active member of Galway Elementary School PTA for five consecutive years, and at the same time has been active in Briggs Chaney Middle School. As the Technology chairperson, he was solely responsible for engineering the wiring and acquisition of "used" computers at Galway. He has made Galway a functioning global access school with the help of the school¡s PTA and outside business. This past summer he received a donation of seventy or more IBM compatible machines and through the help of PTA money was able to provide a computer in every classroom. Mr. Leung is recognized for his efforts not only on behalf of the teachers and administration at Galway, but also because of technology opportunities he has provided the students at Galway Elementary School.

Mrs. Lois Robertson

Her dedication to children is demonstrated by the many community activities with which she is involved. On Mondays, Mrs. Robertson can be found surrounded by fourth or fifth grade children at Washington Grove Elementary School helping with either math or reading. Often, to keep children¡s interests high, she purchases books or games to use with them. As a member of the local School Success for Every Student planning team, she offers suggestions each spring for this important plan. As a member of the Education Committee of the Greater Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce for the last seven years, Mrs. Robertson ensures continued support of the schools in the Gaithersburg and Watkins Mill clusters and all schools in the city of Gaithersburg. She planned a Youth Forum called STAR, Students Taking Action Reaching for Success, in March 1998. Mrs. Robertson started a clothing collection to help prepare students with appropriate interview apparel. Lois Robertson truly cares about children. She probably does not realize the gift she gives daily in so many ways to so many students.

Community Group

Montgomery County Branch NAACP Parents' Council

Its mission is to provide a forum through which interested citizens may offer assistance, guidance and support to minority parents and students of MCPS to pursue the highest quality education possible through encouragement, information sharing, training, positive motivation, critical evaluation, and advocacy. The Council, created to empower African American and other minority parents and to encourage them to take a more pro-active role in the education of their children, came from an outgrowth of the 1995 and 1996 Youth Summits. The Council is made up of parents, guardians, grandparents and others who share the goal of equal education for all children, particularly minority children. Representatives from each school, selected by the principal, work together within the county's 23 clusters for the purpose of training parents to be advocates for their children and to share information and resolve problems that affect their children. The Council meets monthly throughout the year to share information that parents can use to enhance their child's success.

After School Activity Coordinators Program (ASAC)

Created by the Interagency Coordinating Board (ICB) in 1997, the ASAC has had impact on students, staff, and the community-at-large. This program, implemented in 31 middle schools, coordinates 500 organized activities offered to approximately 10,000 students. After a 1997 study citing location, transportation and costs as reasons for students' lack of participation in community activities, Coleen Carone was appointed to coordinate middle school after school programs. The ASAC's job was to work with the principal to plan and implement, monitor and improve the after school program offerings at each school. An advisory committee was made up of parents, community volunteers, staff and administrators at each location. Program offerings were to reflect the needs of the specific community as identified by parent and student surveys. Thousands of students benefit each afternoon from programs such as homework help, sports or a supervised haven from the danger of the streets. Its continuous growth and cooperation with community resources indicate that the program is needed and, hopefully, here to stay.

Individual Pioneer

Gene W. Counihan

Has been involved in education as a teacher and administrator for over 29 years from 1963 until 1992. During this period, he was coordinator of Middle Schools, a math teacher, resource teacher, teacher specialist in staff development, junior high assistant principal and high school assistant principal, and, finally, facilities coordinator. In this last position he directed the planning process for building 20 new schools in the up county between 1984 and 1992. As a Maryland legislator in District 15, Delegate Counihan was a noteworthy leader among his fellow legislators in the effort to acquire new school construction funds for Montgomery County. As vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, he sponsored legislation creating the 1985 School Construction Task Force that resulted in the doubling of money to be spent for school construction statewide. He also sponsored the annual leadership seminar in Annapolis for high school student leaders. Since Gene Counihan¡s legislative service, Mr. Counihan has stayed involved in education. He was appointed to the Montgomery County College Board of Trustees. He co-chaired the planning committee for 3rd and 4th year college programs at Montgomery County¡s Shady Grove Campus for the University of Maryland. And finally, Governor Glendening recognized his expertise in educational leadership and appointed him as chairperson of a statewide Task Force on Education Funding Equity, Accountability and Partnerships. Truly, Gene Counihan¡s service has impacted the entire school system and community at large.

John L. Gildner

Over the past 20 years, Gildner has been instrumental in opening maintaining, and overseeing the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents-Rockville educational and therapeutic program operated by the state of Maryland and Montgomery County Public Schools severely emotionally handicapped children and adolescents. Before RICA was created, MCPS had little alternative but to send troubled and disruptive youngsters to distant and sometimes impersonal facilities or even out of state. Under John Gildner¡s administration, RlCA¡s sustained commitment to excellence has been recognized. It has been accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations since 1984 and has been accredited with commendation at the highest level attainable in its last three surveys: 1993, 1996, and 1999. As a retired United States Air Force Colonel, John Gildner came to RICA in 1979 and helped to establish the criteria for success and the exceptional quality of care RICA is known for today. Instead of pursuing more lucrative opportunities, John Gildner preferred a second career in public service that would benefit the children and families not only in Montgomery County, but also surrounding communities. Through John Gildner¡s efforts, the RICA program has educated, treated and successfully mainstreamed thousands of students. Many of these RICA alumni have become productive adult citizens. His devotion to children and adolescents has had a profound and immense impact on the families and communities of the state of Maryland.

MCPS Staff

Ron Feffer

Began work in the student affairs office of Montgomery County Public Schools in 1996. As staff advisor to the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MCR), he has worked tirelessly, serving as an effective link between the countywide student government association and the school administration. His warmth, support, and willingness to help each student are demonstrated to every student who has attended an MCR meeting. He works closely with the Student Board Member and has successfully seen the election of four members. His input has affected the lives of every student in school. He works on the Student¡s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities in Montgomery County Public Schools which helps students and parents identify some of the common procedures and routines that affect students. Mr. Feffer has worked for 32 years for MCPS starting as a social studies and law teacher at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School in 1967. He also served as a specialist in the Human Relations Office and as Assistant Principal at Eastern Middle School. Clearly, Ron Feffer is proud of the thousands of students with whom he has worked.

Mr. Kevin Keegan

Is an outstanding Montgomery County Public Schools teacher and has taught at Rockville High School for 22 years. He is truly a teacher¡s teacher. Students still aggressively pursue getting into his journalism classes. These students always come first to him, and he genuinely cares about the young people in his classroom. In 1993, University of Maryland students nominated Mr. Keegan as the teacher who most influenced their lives. He is often a guest speaker at the University of Maryland Honors Seminar in Teacher Education. In addition to his outstanding teacher record at Rockville High School, Mr. Keegan received the Maryland Award from Maryland Scholastic Press Association for Rockville High School¡s excellent newspaper, The Rampage. Kevin Keegan has coached the It¡s Academic Team for over 15 years, and his teams have won top honors. He has the longest record for coaching It¡s Academic in the country and, needless to say, is superb. Kevin Keegan is a model teacher in every way. He is very dedicated to the teaching profession and has always demonstrated a very caring attitude for his students¡ personal advancement whether in the classroom or on the academic field.

Madeline Griffin

Griffin, an administrative secretary at Georgian Forest Elementary School, goes well beyond the traditional role of secretary. She is that rare individual who combines moral support with a depth of knowledge that extends from computer graphics to filling out the correct forms. She is often referred to as a "mother hen" to young teachers, because of her wealth of knowledge about the community after 17 years at Georgian Forest and many more years as a resident of Silver Spring. Ms. Griffin is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and English. This is a true asset to new families coming into the school. Because she grew up in South America, she brings a special understanding of cultural difference, which helps those unfamiliar with new customs to interact with schools and teachers. As a member of the Georgian Forest family, she has arranged scholarships for students, mentors students, and always makes time to talk to those who need someone to listen to their concerns and provides just the right words of comfort or encouragement. As the secretary in a school with a single administrator, her value is unmatched. Her sense of the community, knowledge of human nature, and clear understanding of policies and procedures provide all with the support necessary to maintain a busy and productive school.

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