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Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD  |   Vol. 1, No. 3   April 21, 2008

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B-CC mathematics teacher Chris Orlando is Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year PhotoChris Orlando, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School math teacher, displays his Teacher of the Year award at the Champions for Children gala.

Chris Orlando, mathematics teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, was the big winner at this year’s April 15 Champions for Children Gala, receiving the Teacher of the Year award and a chance to compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year.

Orlando, who is known for making difficult classes fun and understandable, is a major reason why advanced math is so popular at Bethesda-Chevy Chase these days. He teaches several sections of AP Calculus BC, one section of International Baccalaureate higher level mathematics and one section of multivariable calculus.

“Chris Orlando is the teacher we all wish we could have had in high school, and certainly the one we hope our children have today,” says Principal Sean Bulson. “Students respect him as a role model who mixes intelligence with charisma. He makes it cool to be smart.”

“There’s not one minute where I’m bored,” senior Jai Prased says. “He makes math fun. It was kind of a hard concept to grasp before I had Mr. Orlando.”

Math Department Chair Amanda Mollett says Orlando is great at breaking down difficult concepts. “I try to make every single lesson have some kind of application to something,” Orlando explains. That means lots of research, or calling friends in careers such as engineering to explain how they use mathematical concepts in their everyday lives. Orlando introduces the lessons by telling students where and how the concepts they’re learning are used.

Orlando is recognized as being a motivator in increasing students’ achievement on AP calculus. On the walls of his classroom are lists of the names of students who have received a perfect “5” on the exam. In 2002, there were five names. Last year, there were 45.

Champions for Children Awards Gala honors staff, leaders, volunteers

The sixth annual Champions for Children Awards Gala on April 15 honored outstanding Montgomery County staff, business leaders and volunteers. The event is hosted each year by the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education, in partnership with many supporters.

WJLA TV7 news anchor Leon Harris hosted the gala. Performing groups from Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Damascus, Kennedy and Watkins Mill high schools added to the festivities. In addition to the Teacher of the Year Chris Orlando, those honored include:

  • Teacher of the Year Finalists (Marian Greenblatt Veteran Teacher Award winners): Stephanie Colby Lee, sixth grade science teacher, Westland Middle School; Lori Martioski-Taylor, chemistry teacher, Richard Montgomery High School; Christopher Orlando, mathematics teacher, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
  • Greenblatt First Year Teacher Award: Sean Kelly, Emotional Disabilities Cluster Program teacher, Clarksburg High School
  • Dr. Edward Shirley Award for Excellence in Educational Administration and Supervision: Debra Mugge, principal, Argyle Middle School
  • Supporting Services Employee of the Year: Chris Lazor, building service worker, Spark M. Matsunaga Elementary School
  • MCPS Distinguished Alumni Award: Joel Snyder, arts administrator, educator and proponent of audio description for those who are blind
  • Volunteer Champion for Children: Montgomery Blair High School Parent and Community Volunteer Program
  • Business Champion for Children: Montgomery County Teachers Federal Credit Union
  • Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award: Suzanne Maxey, principal, Seneca Valley High School
  • Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award: Gwen McWhorter, math resource teacher, A. Mario Loiederman Middle School

Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education

MCPS by the numbers

294: The number of MCPS National Board Certified teachers
This year’s Board Certified teachers (PDF)

Budget situation remains challenging as Council considers options

This is the latest in a series of updates on the budget process. No final decisions have been reached yet about the FY 2009 operating budget, and we’ll keep you posted as changes occur.

The MCPS operating budget for the next fiscal year suffered a potential setback April 15 when the County Council decided to leave in place the preliminary FY 2009 spending affordability guidelines adopted in December 2007 rather than adopt new guidelines for the FY 2009 budget.

Previously, the county executive’s proposed FY 2009 budget included $51 million less than the Board of Education’s budget request of $1.98 billion. If the County Council follows the 2007 guidelines, the MCPS budget request could be cut even further, by almost $105 million (5.3 percent). It would take a vote of seven Council members to exceed the guidelines.

The County Council sets spending affordability guidelines, reflecting the amount of money that is available to allocate, as a framework to guide the Council as it makes detailed budget decisions.

The 2007 guidelines allocate almost $1.9 billion (excluding grants and enterprise funds) to the school system—$53.7 million less than the county executive proposed for MCPS in his recommended operating budget. Such a cut could have dramatic effects for the school system and could result in significant layoffs, larger class sizes and elimination of some successful reform efforts.

In its April 15 discussion of whether to revise spending affordability guidelines, County Council members emphasized the difficult fiscal situation facing the county this year in light of a weakening economy that is stretching the county’s resources and limiting state and federal aid.

An extensive County Council discussion followed the decision to leave the former guidelines in place. Suggestions from various Council members included limiting employee wage adjustments proposed by each county agency (including a 5 percent increase by MCPS), reducing the county work force (including MCPS) and exceeding the Charter limit on property taxes.

The County Council will continue to discuss various options, including tax increases, to close the budget gap. The council is scheduled to adopt the FY 2009 Operating Budget and Capital Improvements Program budgets on May 22.

Candid conversations on race work to close achievement gap

Glenn Singleton leads a conversation about race at a meeting of principals and administrators.

Courageous Conversations About Race, a book by author and educator Glenn Singleton, has been “required reading” this year for school system leaders. The book has provided background for a series of candid discussions about the role that race and racial stereotypes play in student achievement. Glenn

At a systemwide meeting on April 16, Singleton led a group of 400 principals and other administrators through a number of exercises designed to help educational leaders understand their own beliefs about race and move toward action that ensures that children are not required “to navigate a system that is not designed to meet their needs.” A healthy school climate, Singleton told the group, should include not only rigorous academic opportunities, but also teaching that makes subject matter relevant, and teachers and staff who establish relationships of trust and respect with their students.

A key part of this process is recognizing that consciousness of race is inevitable and that the only way to move past racism is to talk about it, understand its historic roots and acknowledge its effects on equity. “To be conscious of race is our best chance of not perpetuating racism,” says Singleton. For school leaders, this means not only self-understanding, but also knowing how to assist staff in this intellectual and emotional transformation.

Jones Lane Elementary School Principal Carole Sample has been working on courageous conversations with her staff for more than a year, with the help of the school system’s Diversity Training Unit. She is a great supporter of Singleton’s approach. “In terms of staff beliefs, there has been a big difference,” she says. “This is a process, and we aren’t there yet, but there is definitely a positive impact on school communications. We can talk about important things that we were not able to talk about before.”

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has supported courageous conversations as part of a multiyear focus on closing the achievement gap by race and ethnicity. “We must share the goal that, in MCPS schools, a student’s level of achievement will not be predicted by the race of that student,” Weast says. “That is our promise to students and their families.” Weast encouraged administrators to commit to action as a result of what they have learned.

Students continue to win national honors

Good teaching is helping produce outstanding students, as the number of students receiving prestigious honors in national competitions shows. The latest student recognitions come in the recent naming of Presidential Scholars semifinalists, Corporate National Merit Scholarship winners and students named National Achievement Scholars.

Five students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair and Richard Montgomery high schools were named semifinalists in the prestigious Presidential Scholars competition. They include Blair’s Julie Zhu, one of two people in the nation to be named semifinalists in both the academic and arts recognition components of the program.

Eleven students have won corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarships financed by companies, foundations and other business organization. The winners are from Montgomery Blair, Winston Churchill, Richard Montgomery, Walt Whitman and Thomas S. Wootton high schools.

Seven students have been named winners in the National Achievement Scholarship Program for outstanding African American students. They are students at Montgomery Blair, Col. Zadok Magruder, John F. Kennedy, Paint Branch, Poolesville and Walt Whitman high schools.

Read more about the programs and the winning students:
Presidential Scholars semifinalists (PDF)
Corporate National Merit Scholarships (PDF)
National Achievement Scholars (PDF)

Board of Education highlights (April 8)

High School Plus implementation
The Board discussed the implementation of High School Plus, a program designed as an alternative to Evening High School. High School Plus allows students to access classes they need to graduate at their respective home schools directly after the school day or during the school day. This year, elements of the program are being offered at all 25 high schools, following a pilot phase at Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Rockville and Wheaton high schools last year. The target population is students who failed courses required for graduation, including courses related to the High School Assessments. Einstein Principal James Fernandez told the Board that some of the school’s best teachers are participating in High School Plus.

The Board approved the following administrative appointments:

  • Karen L. Johnson, currently acting principal, Twinbrook Elementary School, as principal, Twinbrook Elementary School.
  • Benjamin T. OuYang, currently acting principal, Parkland Middle School, as principal, Parkland Middle School.
  • Katherine Diane Smith, currently principal intern, Farmland Elementary School, as principal, Farmland Elementary School.

Exploring a key data point
 The Board discussed a key data point in the M-Stat process—fifth graders taking Math 6 and higher. M-Stat is a method of data analysis designed to monitor student progress using critical achievement data. Teachers from several elementary schools demonstrated a variety of best practices they use in their classrooms. The Board viewed a demonstration of a Best Practices web site prototype that is under development.

Update on processes for program/initiative evaluation
The Board discussed development of a process for scheduling and prioritizing evaluation studies of the school system's key strategic initiatives and programs. The information provided by the evaluations is used to make decisions about delivery of effective academic programs and services.

Letter to State Board of Education regarding HSAs
The Board voted to send a letter to the Maryland State Board of Education regarding the negative impacts on students in linking the current High School Assessments to graduation for the Class of 2009.

Resolutions recognizing special dates
The Board endorsed a joint proclamation among county agencies and approved the observance in April of the Month of the Young Child. The Board also approved the April observance of Arab American Heritage Month and National Autism Awareness Month The observance of National Student Leadership Week April 13–19, Secretaries Week April 21–25 and Secretaries Day April 23 also were approved.

Board of Education

Board seeks to fill Ethics Panel vacancy

The Board of Education is seeking to fill one vacancy on its five-member Ethics Panel. The appointment is for a three-year term beginning on July 1, 2008. Applicants must be Montgomery County residents. Members serve without compensation.

Applicants must submit a letter of interest and resume or other documentation to support the application by close of business on May 5 to Suzann King, Montgomery County Board of Education, 850 Hungerford Drive, Room 123, Rockville, MD 20850 or e-mail Suzann_M_King@mcpsmd.org. For more information, call 301-279-3617. The appointment will be made at the June 10 Board meeting.

Board of Education Ethics Panel

Public comment sought on transportation policy

The Board of Education has requested community comment regarding its Policy EEA, Student Transportation. This policy establishes the operational standards and eligibility criteria for the MCPS student transportation services. It articulates how the school system will provide for the safety of students traveling to and from school and school activities, in collaboration with other agencies and in partnership with parents and students.

Copies of the draft policy and regulatory framework are available through the Public Information Office by calling 301-279-3391 or on the MCPS web site. To provide comments, respond in writing by April 30 to the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD 20850. The responses will be shared with the Board of Education.

Student Transportation policy


Final Comedy Club curtain at Lee. After 13 successful years, the E. Brooke Lee Middle School Comedy Club will hold its final two performances May 1 and 2. “Fresh from the Funny Farm—Local Laughs,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on both days. The student-written sketches include parodies of TV shows, movies and more. For more information, call co-founder Harry Bagdasian at 240-381-3196. Later this year, the Comedy Club will be moving to Northwood High School to offer creative writing and comedy sketch performance workshops to a broader segment of the area’s downcounty students.

JHU certification meeting. Johns Hopkins University and MCPS seek candidates for certification in Administration and Supervision. An open house will be held Wednesday, May 7, 4:30–5:30 p.m., at John Hopkins Shady Grove Center, Gilchrist Building (center building, room #301), 9601 Medical Center Drive, Rockville. More information

Auto, computer sale. Students in the Montgomery County Students Automotive Trades and Information Technology foundations will hold a sale of student-refurbished cars and computers on Saturday, May 10, 9–11 a.m., at Thomas Edison HS of Technology. The vehicles have been reconditioned by students enrolled in the auto trades program, and computers have been reconditioned by students in the information technologies program. For auto information, contact Mike Snyder at 301-962-4810, or visit www.autocareers.org. For computer information, contact John Brewer at 301-929-6975 or visit www.itfcareers.org.

Diversity panel. Council for Exceptional Children Montgomery County Chapter 246 will present a panel discussion on diversity Wednesday, May 14, 4–6 p.m., at Rock Terrace School. Speakers include ESOL instructional specialist Dusia Ekzarkhov, RICA Principal Darlene Simmons, Chinese immersion teacher Yinlee Eng, and paraeducator and University of Maryland CITE intern Deviani Gupta. RSVP to Lauree_Hemkee@mcpsmd.org.

Staff notes

Mathy Downing, a second grade teacher at Flower Hill Elementary School, and her daughter, Caroline, were presented with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International Human Rights Award in Los Angeles. They have been instrumental in lobbying for drug/health reform for children. Mathy Downing also was asked to speak in Mexico and Norway to health and education officials and dignitaries.

Kulsum Malik, English composition assistant at Gaithersburg High School, was awarded the National Outstanding Non-Traditional Student Award from the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) at its recent national conference. Previously, Malik received the 2007 UCEA award for Excellence as Outstanding Continuing Student of the Mid-Atlantic Region.

A recently published book by Denzel Washington titled A Hand to Guide Me: Denzel Washington, in which featured leaders and experts celebrate the people who shaped their lives, features Saundra Woods, physical education teacher at White Oak Middle School. In the book, fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner praises Woods as the teacher who most influenced her to excel and attain success.

School news

MCPS had three Grand Prize winners at the Montgomery County Science Fair: Re-I Chin, Walter Johnson High School, for his biochemistry project; James Iocozzia of Sherwood High School, for his project in the medicine and health category; and Paul Kominers of Walt Whitman High School, for his mathematics project. The three will compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta in May.

Roberto Clemente Middle School eighth grader Mike Morris won the Maryland National Geographic Bee. He will represent Maryland at the National Geographic Bee May 20–21 in Washington, D.C.

The "Westland Green Schools Innovators" from Westland Middle School won first place in this year’s regional School Building Week competition and will move on to the final jury in Washington, D.C., the end of April. Students Micah Arnson-Serotta, Karim Habib-Gomez and Hannah Silverman, and their tech ed teacher, John Swiatocha, along with volunteer mentor Stephen Diroll, will meet Congressman Chris Van Hollen and spend a day on Capitol Hill.

Springbrook High School was named a Grammy Signature School by the Grammy Music Foundation. The music program, under the direction of Wyman O. Jones, was awarded the Grammy Signature Gibson Award. The school was selected from among 40 high schools across the United States. Only 13 public high schools received the award.

Takoma Park Middle School students Beberly De La Cruz and Dalila Pineda received honorable mention in the 2008 annual C-SPAN StudentCam competition for their work “Immigration: Voice of the People.”

The James Hubert Blake High School Shakespeare Stage Company has been selected to present a 25-minute performance piece at this year’s Folger Shakespeare Library Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration on April 27. The celebration, which is free to the public, will be held from noon–4 p.m. The Blake company will perform between 1–2 p.m.

Walt Whitman High School’s Drama Department, under the direction of Christopher Gerken, has been selected to perform in the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August 2008 as part of the American High School Theatre Festival. Whitman’s performance, “Songs for a New World,” will be showcased in the second week of the festival in August. The piece will be presented locally at the school on May 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. and again on June 7 at Imagination Stage.

EAP Tip: Managing stress

Stress can be caused by many events, such as traffic, relationship problems, job troubles, arguments, or balancing work and family, to name a few. Everyone responds differently to stress. Some get headaches and stomachaches. Others experience anxiety, depression, irritability, sleep and appetite disturbances. Here are some “stress busters” that can help.

  • Breathe deeply. Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your lower abdomen to fill with air. Hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times.
  • Relax your muscles. Sit in a chair and focus on relaxing all the muscles in your body, beginning with your forehead and ending with your feet, progressively moving through your body. Some people find it easiest to tense the muscles first and then relax them.
  • Visualize. Take a mental vacation. You can use this visualization script or simply get comfortable, close your eyes and imagine a peaceful place in as much detail as possible.
  • Exercise. Exercise counteracts the body's physiological stress response. It helps lower blood pressure and releases natural endorphins (feel-good hormones).
  • Set limits. Learn to say no at least some of the time and not feel guilty. Know your personal and professional priorities.
  • Become a better listener. It really is a skill and improves with practice.
  • Learn to communicate assertively. Let others know what you expect and want in a respectful manner. Be specific.
  • Laugh. Watch a comedy, listen to a joke or simply have a sense of humor.
  • Develop positive self-talk. Become aware of the tape recorder in your head and the messages that are playing. Learn to praise yourself and others.

More tips from the Employee Assistance Program


The following staff members are retiring over the next two months. For staff members unable to attend retirement celebrations, contributions for gifts, cards or good wishes are welcome.

  • Noel Bettinger, Kathy Jaworski, Patty Ragan, Sequoyah Elementary School staff members retiring after more than 30 years of service. June 6, 4:30 p.m., at Noel Bettinger’s home, 8107 Seneca View Drive, Gaithersburg. Send $50 for food and gifts, or $20 for gifts if unable to attend, payable to Sequoyah Social Committee, to Megan Mills at the school by May 2.
  • Cora Coakley, first grade teacher at Capt. James Daly Elementary School. May 28, 4:30 p.m., in the school media center. Send $15 for party and gift, or $5 for gift only, payable to Daly ES, attention Sandra Morgan, to the school by May 21.
  • Tom Daugherty, physical education teacher at Highland Elementary School retiring after 43 years of service. June 7, 1–3 p.m., Mike's Crabhouse, Annapolis. Send $50 for all-you-can-eat crab buffet and gift to Highland, payable to Susan Wells, by May 30. For information, e-mail Susie Wells on Outlook or at susiewells226@yahoo.com.
  • Joan Foster, Karen Kresge, Arlene Permisohn, Mary Ellen Stevens, White Oak Middle School staff members. May 22, 6:30 p.m., The Oak Room, 17921 Brooke Road, Sandy Spring. Send $40 for dinner and gifts, payable to White Oak Middle School, to the attention of Carol Chaney by May 1. For information, e-mail Jennie Toy on Outlook.
  • Lana Grossman, resource teacher at Capt. James Daly Elementary School. May 31, 6:30–9:30 p.m., Westleigh Community Clubhouse, North Potomac. Send $35 for dinner and gift, payable to Daly Elementary, to the school by May 16. For information, e-mail Tonya Frazier on Outlook.
  • Yvonne Hudson, fifth grade teacher at Rock View Elementary School. May 31, 6–10 p.m., Green Angels Design Center, Columbia. Send $40 for dinner and gift, payable to Rock View Elementary Social Committee, to the school by May 1. For more information, e-mail Donna Gorjon on Outlook.
  • Deborah E. Kantrowitz, art teacher at Lakelands Park Middle School, is retiring July 1 after working with MCPS for 22 years. In addition to Lakelands Park, she has taught at Glen Haven and Burtonsville elementary schools and at Forest Oak Middle School.
  • Margarette Knuckle, second grade teacher at Capt. James Daly Elementary School. June 6, 5–9 p.m., The Hamlet at Rio. Send $28 for dinner and gift or $10 for gift, payable to Daly ES, attention Sandra Morgan, by May 23. For information, e-mail Katherine Ridgway on Outlook.
  • Bill Lea, physical education teacher at Galway Elementary School, retiring after 40 years with MCPS. May 17, 1:30–4 p.m., Clyde’s of Columbia. Send $35, payable to Ann Carlsen, by May 7. For information, e-mail Ann Carlsen on Outlook.
  • Armando (Sonny) Narvaez, media specialist at Montgomery Knolls Elementary School. May 30, 7 p.m., Holiday Inn College Park, 10000 Baltimore Ave. (Rte. 1) just off the Beltway. Send $45 for buffet dinner and gift, payable to Grace Morgenstein, to Montgomery Knolls by May 9. For information, call Grace Morgenstein at 301-431-7667 or e-mail her on Outlook.
  • Sherry Proctor, first grade teacher at Sequoyah Elementary School. May 30, 5-7 p.m., at Montgomery Country Club, Laytonsville. For information, e-mail Virginia J. Snoots, Geeta Mishra or Bina Langhnoja on Outlook or call the school office at 301-840-5335.
  • Diana Schroeder, ESOL transition teacher at Albert Einstein High School. Reception May 15, 4:30-7 p.m., On The Rocks Lounge, Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Rd., North Bethesda. RSVP and send $20 for appetizers and gift, payable to Yu-Ying Huang, to Thomas Wootton HS by May 9. For information, e-mail Yu-Ying Huang on Outlook.
  • Jacqueline (Jackie) Thompson, Sligo Middle School content specialist for arts, health, physical education and foreign language. June 5, 6:30–9:30 p.m., Hilton, Rockville Pike. Thompson also has worked at the former Western Junior High and Gaithersburg Intermediate. Send $60 for dinner and gift to Elizabeth (Kathy) Green, Room 253, CESC, by May 23. For more information, e-mail Anne Sammis on Outlook.
  • Virginia Webb Styer, Betty Williams-Hardy, Rosa Parks Middle School counselor and alternative teacher, respectively. May 8, 4-7 p.m., at Norbeck Country Club, Rockville. Send $50 for dinner and gifts, payable to Rosa Parks Middle School, attention Joan Davis, to the school by May 2. For more information, e-mail Joan E. Davis on Outlook.

In remembrance

Leroy W. Hackey, building service worker at Potomac Elementary School, died March 18. He had worked with the school system for more than seven and one-half years.

Paul A. Louviere, special education teacher at Herbert Hover Middle School, died March 31. He had worked more than four and one-half years with MCPS.

Smile awhile

During a first grade trip to the zoo, teacher Coleen Carone and her students watched a group of exotic birds in the bird house. As the birds cooed, she made a cooing sound like theirs, and the birds cooed back. One of her students looked up in awe and said, “Mrs. Carone, I didn’t know you could speak bird.”

Upon the students’ return, little Jessica came to drop something off in the office. When I asked her about the trip, she told me she saw gorillas jumping from cable to cable in their cage. I asked her how big the gorillas were. She said, “I don’t know.” “Are they as big as I am?” I asked. She looked at me for a moment and then said, innocently, “Yes, but you’re wider.”

Helen Chaset, Principal, Burning Tree Elementary School

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