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Farmland Principal Wins Mark Mann Award

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April Longest, principal at Farmland Elementary School in Rockville, is this year’s winner of the Mark Mann Excellence and Harmony Award.

The Mark Mann award is presented annually to an MCPS administrator who has shown exceptional performance in promoting academic excellence, positive human relations and community outreach.

In her 18th year as an educator and principal at Farmland for four years, Longest began her MCPS career as a long-term substitute teacher.

Colleagues call her a compassionate and dedicated educator, with interactions marked by respect and kindness. She goes out of her way to build meaningful relationships with staff and students. She can sometimes be found shooting hoops with students at recess or leaving a handwritten note on a teacher’s desk after a formal observation. Her small gestures do not go unnoticed.

She embodies a standard of academic excellence that goes beyond conventional metrics. She has an unwavering advocacy for creative instructional methods and endorses staff ideas for learning experiences, such as author visits, assemblies and student incentive programs.

She also dedicates her commitment to students through inclusion of students in Learning for Independence (LFI) classes into general education classrooms. These students work toward Alternative Learning Outcomes (ALO), and prior to Longest arriving at Farmland, there was no inclusion. She worked with special education teachers and supervisors to develop a plan; today, there are three LFI students included in general ed classes for the full day, and three others for part of the day.

She has also created a sense of unity that extends beyond the school walls. Parents and staff say she models how principals can foster thoughtful, inclusive and caring communities at their schools.

Farmland is a diverse community, with students hailing from about 80 countries. Longest has a strong commitment to community outreach, reflecting a dedication to inclusivity and engagement. She finds innovative ways to bridge the gap between school and the community. Collaborating with the PTA, she arranges parent meetings within the schools and at local community centers for parents who lack access to transportation.

This dedication extends to attending Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) meetings. Collaborating with the special education parent liaison, she identifies resources and guest speakers to support parents in accessing necessary resources. Along with the school counselor and Minority Scholars Program at Walter Johnson High School, Longest works to identify teenage mentors for students at Farmland, encouraging mentorship and support within the school community. She introduced Study Circles to students in fourth and fifth grades, and evening Study Circles to families. She has worked with parents and staff to build a community of leaders to make Farmland a “No Place for Hate School,” an anti-bias program with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). She’s also collaborated with the ADL to coordinate professional development for staff.

Longest holds a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary education from High Point University in N.C. and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Hood College. She taught third and fourth grades at Flower Valley and Garrett Park elementary schools, served as assistant principal at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School, and as principal intern at Oak View Elementary School.