Distinguished Service Award Winners: 2008
- Community Individual
- Community Group
- Individual Pioneer
- Montgomery County Public Schools Staff
- School Service Volunteer
Watch Award Ceremony
Watch the award ceremony which took place October 23, 2008.
Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
Booz Allen Hamilton’s extensive collaboration with MCPS includes a partnership with the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education (MCBRE). When the school system sought help from business partners for input on several topics related to project management and implementation, Booz Allen Hamilton gave its time and expertise. Working with students, administrators and educators, the organization has provided innovative presentations during MCPS’s Student Professional Development Conference, helped educators at the Rigor through Relevancy Conference understand the importance of preparing students for work, and served MCPS administrators through its work with Operation Excellence.
Montgomery County Teachers Federal Credit Union
The Montgomery County Teachers Federal Credit Union (MCTFCU) sponsors many outreach initiatives. It has donated thousands of dollars and personnel hours to sponsor scholarships, host book drives and provide nutritious snacks to elementary school students. The credit union also participates in programs that teach students to be better prepared for the business world. Many MCTFCU employees volunteer their time through programs such as Junior Achievement. With nine in-school MCT branches, MCTFCU helps students learn about finance and gain work experience by volunteering as student tellers or student managers. The credit union also provides grocery gift cards, toys and clothing during the holidays and presents more than 100 financial seminars to students, parents, staff and the community.
Ana Brito works with MCPS Hispanic students, from kindergarten until their graduation from high school through the program Ayuda Especial. She founded the program more than 20 years ago in in conjunction with the Hispanic Methodist Church of Bethesda. The program helps students with their homework and offers tutoring in a range of areas. In addition, Brito offers classes to adults to help improve their English and computer skills so they can help their children be successful students. Ayuda Especial has succeeded largely due to Brito’s continuing effort to recruit committed teachers and tutors with a vision for helping their community. Brito’s students are successful MCPS graduates, and many have graduated from college.
Thomas DeGonia, II
Thomas DeGonia believes that every child should be given the tools, education and opportunities needed to be successful. As president of the Justice, Law, Government and Society Cluster Advisory Board, DeGonia coordinated efforts between MCPS and Montgomery College to create a new juvenile justice Career Pathway Program. In addition, he is working to develop articulation agreements for pathway programs that promote seamless transitions for students from MCPS to Montgomery College. These agreements allow students to receive free college tech prep credit for courses completed in high school.
Patti Twigg is an advocate on behalf of excellence in education for all children in the school system. Over the past decade, she has been not only an active PTSA parent, but also a PTSA president, a special needs chair, a cluster representative and a cluster coordinator, along with accepting numerous other assignments within MCPS and state-level PTSAs. Twigg has testified countless times before the Board of Education and the County Council on issues that affect education. One of her notable contributions has been in championing and implementing the use of listservs. She has coordinated and moderated e-mail groups and participated in writing new rules and guidelines to govern the use of listserv by local PTSAs.
Christ Episcopal Church of Kensington
The congregation of Christ Episcopal Church of Kensington has strengthened the educational program of Arcola Elementary School through gifts of time and talent. Church members have contributed groceries and gift cards for families experiencing economic hardship; donated winter jackets to families through a church coat drive; given more than 1,200 books so each Arcola student can have three books to read during the summer; and made many other contributions for holiday parties, special nights and a school dedication ceremony.
CollegeTracks was founded six years ago with the belief that every MCPS graduate deserves the opportunity for a postsecondary education. The organization works with students and families at Wheaton and Bethesda-Chevy Chase high schools who are most at risk of not attending college. College Tracks supports two full-time staff members at each of the high schools, and trained volunteers also spend hundreds of hours with CollegeTracks students each year to help them become aware of their postsecondary education options, successfully navigate the college admissions process and secure financial aid. CollegeTracks’ work on a task force with MCPS staff resulted in the Student Grades and Graduation Credit Report, an easy-to-understand document mailed to parents twice a year.
Padres y Alumnos Latinos en Acción (PALA)
PALA (Latino Parents and Students in Action) was formed by a dynamic group of parents who were concerned about the academic success of Latino students at White Oak Middle School. PALA holds monthly meetings on a range topics, such as getting into advanced classes, keeping children out of gangs, summer programs and communicating with the school. PALA has helped increase Latino families’ participation in the school, helping them make connections with staff and other parents and finding resources to help the students be successful. Among many contributions, the group organized a school beautification day and helped organize the annual international night to honor the school’s diverse cultures.
There is hardly a person involved in special education in Montgomery County who can remember a time when Joan Karasik was not tirelessly working on behalf of the lives of children and young adults with special needs. Karasik celebrated her 90th birthday in 2008 and is still an active advocate for children. She has served on numerous committees at the local, county, state and national levels. She has testified at local, state and national hearings. Karasik also continues to volunteer for the Woodlin Elementary School PTA even after her grandson left for middle school. Montgomery County owes Karasik a debt of gratitude for the longevity of her service, her tenacity in the search for solutions, her willingness to engage in courageous conversations with others to reach consensus on difficult issues, and her ability to reach out to all stakeholders and see all perspectives.
George B. Thomas, Sr.
The distinguished career of Dr. George B. Thomas, Sr. spans more than 40 years, beginning as an MCPS educator in 1957. He performed with distinction as an area associate superintendent and was instrumental in establishing the county’s first magnet schools to address further racial desegregation. Thomas probably is best known as founder, president and chairman of the board of The George B. Thomas, Sr. Learning Academy, Inc. (known as Saturday School). Now open to all students, the nonprofit community-based tutoring and mentoring program was begun in 1986 to help African American students be successful in school. The first Saturday School program began with 21 students and 19 volunteer tutors who met at a day care center. Now in its 22nd year, Saturday School serves about 3,600 students in grades 1–12 at 12 centers in schools throughout the county.
Giles Benson, director of the Department of Materials Management, and his staff successfully meet the day-to-day challenge of supplying MCPS’s nearly 140,000 students and 22,000 employees with assistance and critical resources. With his leadership, the approximately 1,050 employees he manages provide 13 million breakfasts and lunches to students each year; transfer approximately 20 tons of supplies, equipment and records among schools each year; and purchase $130 million of supplies and services for schools and offices. Benson has provided several innovative programs/services, including the Warehouse on Wheels (WOW) truck to meet immediate school needs for supplies between deliveries and a toner cartridge recycling program to help schools with escalating printer costs. Benson also is an active supporter of service to the community. Each of his divisions supports a variety of charities in the local area.
Andrea Bernal, a teacher at Silver Spring International Middle School, is a shining example of what a great teacher can be. Bernal’s students love her, and she has earned a reputation as a calm and compassionate teacher who listens to students, shows great concern for their progress and well-being, and gets along with everyone. Bernal has a long history of teaching children. Since 2003, she has been teaching English in the evenings at Albert Einstein High School, also has taught at John F. Kennedy High School. As an instructional assistant at Tilden Middle School, she worked with children with autism, which inspired her to get her master’s degree. She also has served as a missionary in Costa Rica, teaching parents about health education and helping mothers with parenting issues.
James Douglas is a science resource teacher at Sherwood High School. As president and director of the Montgomery County Science Fair, Douglas has been critical to its success. This year, more than 600 Montgomery County students registered. In addition, the four students MCPS sponsored to the global competition of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) were recognized with six awards worth more than $62,000. A 17-year veteran board member of the Montgomery Area Science Fair Association (also known as ScienceMONTGOMERY), Douglas’s fundraising and organizational skills are a major factor in the program’s success. He also provided the incentives and support for more than 80 Sherwood students to participate in ScienceMONTGOMERY.
For more than 30 years, Gail Fribush has worked with MCPS in capacities including teacher, counselor and pupil personnel worker. For the past seven years, she has been coordinator of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) at Julius West Middle School, the first middle school in Maryland authorized to implement the program. All students at the school are part of the MYP experience. Fribush supports teachers as they develop lessons incorporating MYP strategies and philosophy in all subjects and helps them develop and assess learning using international standards and tools. As chair of the school’s Human Relations Committee for the past 16 years, she developed a program where students’ first period class addresses topics related to the middle school experience, such as emotional intelligence, bullying, manners, goal setting, decision making, respect and current events.
Karen Woodson, director of the Division of ESOL/Bilingual Programs since 2003, has done an exemplary job of providing leadership and promoting educational programs and support for the school system’s growing number of English language learners. Woodson has applied her shared management style, along with her ability to collect and use factual data, to provide increasingly effective services to ESOL and school communities. The division has developed instructional pathways for English language learners that define course sequences for students with a variety of needs and abilities. ESOL has collected and analyzed comprehensive data to improve the provision of counseling and parent outreach services. Her close relationship with the ESOL/Bilingual Advisory Committee has resulted in a cooperative effort by the school system and the community to help students.
School Service Volunteer
Pat Adam has been volunteering at Gaithersburg Elementary School for more than 15 years. Over that time, her service has grown from a couple of hours a day to full time, four days a week. In recent years, Ms. Pat, as her students call her, has worked primarily in the media center. Students can count on her help in finding books and working on research projects. She takes a special interest in students, and they are more confident about reading and library skills as a result. For the past two years, Ms. Pat has been working one-on-one on reading with first and third graders. This year, she has taken over recording the reading time for each student at the school as part of the schoolwide reading encouragement program. She continues to mentor many former students outside of the school day.
In May 2006, Anjan Choudhury volunteered to coach the Walt Whitman High School Speech and Debate Club, determined to return the team to the national status that it once earned many years ago. Choudhury plunged into the assignment at a level no student or parent expected, helping the school recruit several new students and setting up twiceweekly evening "clinics," where he personally provided a curriculum in case research and preparation, rebuttal techniques, philosophy, argumentation structure, and debate theory and strategy. Immediately the team shot to sixth in the nation. Under his guidance, the group has grown from 40 students to 100 this year, and Whitman anticipates getting assistant coaches to help. Today, the team is among the top four in the nation.