Unlike some folks, Leslie Mobray really enjoys the challenge of working with young teen-agers -- 13- and 14-year-olds -- and it's a good thing, because he is the new principal at Severna Park Middle School.
Having begun his career in education as a social studies teacher at George Fox Junior High, followed by a five-year tour of duty at Central Middle, Mobray moved into guidance and administration during his eight-year tenure at Annapolis Middle.
Before coming to Severna Park this past September, he served as acting coordinator for the county's At Risk program.
"I feel very, very good about being here," the energetic Mobray says. He is confident that his experience and enthusiasm for this age group make him the right man for the job.
* Two categories of National Merit Scholarship Program winners at Severna Park High have been announced by Principal Oliver Wittig.
Semifinalists are in the top 1 percent of students taking the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test in Maryland and are eligible for numerous scholarships and grants. Heather L. Gomes is the school's one semifinalist.
Commended students are in the top 10 percent of those taking the PSAT.
Severna Park's Kimberly Aller, Alison Boesel, Amy Gathman, Sanjitpal Gill, Susan Harrell, Rebecca Henry, Ingrid Hogle, John Lee, Colin McGough, Ellen Moore, John Murphy, Elizabeth Roges, Janet Soeffing and Eric tenSiethoff were named commended students.
The tests, which were taken last spring by 24,990 Maryland students, denote performance in verbal and mathematical skills.
* From Belvedere Elementary comes a new angle on the old three R's.
Borrowed from the book "Time Well Spent," by Steffen Kraehmer, these are the three R's of memory-making: rituals, routines and the ridiculous.
Kraehmer writes that rituals, either formal or informal, such as a religious ceremony or a special popcorn night, provide emotional security and reinforce family bonds. Routines help children develop feelings of sameness and security. The ridiculous includes everyday activities with a twist -- for example dressing up as the "room fairy" to check kids' rooms.
Each has something a child looks forward to: A ritual is special, a routine has consistency and the ridiculous has spontaneity.
* Here's a local ritual that has become routine: the winning performances of the Severna Park High School Marching Band.
Because of its record, it is easy to forget that the band roster changes every year, as freshmen enroll and seniors graduate.
Director R. Thomas Powell must be skilled in a variety of professions -- counselor, teacher, and musician -- to produce winning bands year after year.
As usual, this season the band continues to add to its list of accomplishments. While attending the Fall Band Classic at Col. Richardson High in Federalsburg, the band won first place in its division and the specialty award for the best band front. The group took an important third against 40 other bands in the state tournament at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
The performers really did themselves proud during the final competition, the Regional Chapter IX Championships at Great Mills, by winning first place in their division and receiving specialty awards for best music, best drum major and best band front.
* If it's become a ritual in your family to find fresh Florida citrus fruit in your holiday stocking, pass this information along to Santa.
Archbishop Spalding High is taking orders for navel oranges and pink grapefruit until Friday, Dec. 7, for a Saturday, Dec. 15, pickup.
The 4/5-bushel cartons weigh about 44 pounds and cost $18 for oranges and $15 for grapefruits; the 2/5-bushel cartons weigh about 22 pounds and are priced at $10 and $9.
Play Santa twice -- once for yourself and, because all the proceeds go directly to Spalding and its students, once for the school.
To place an order, call 987-8325 or the school at 969-9105.
* If the names Fido and Fluffy appear on your Christmas list, you'll want to be in Annapolis Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Holiday Boutique.
Among the handcrafted items for sale will be dog-bone wreaths, painted animal critters, personalized cat and dog ornaments and SPCA canvas bags.
Remember that the shelter is the only non-profit animal welfare organization in the county.
For more information, call the shelter at 268-9388.
* Don't forget that this Saturday, two of Severna Park's oldest and largest holiday craft fairs will be held: from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church on Old B&A Boulevard, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Martin's in the Field Episcopal Church on Benfield Road.
* There's more. The Ulmstead Showcase will be held Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ulmstead Barn, Lynch Road, Ulmstead Estates in Arnold.
Arts and crafts for sale will include stained glass, pottery and original artworks, plus a raffle whose proceeds will benefit the Anne Arundel Hospice.