Four Howard County schools were given a surprise gift of money yesterday as part of the $2.75 million state effort to reward improved schools.
Patapsco Middle School and Bryant Woods, Hammond and Pointers Run elementary schools were given School Performance Recognition Awards worth $18,682 to $29,262 by the state Education Department.
The awards were based on schools' improved performance during the last two years.
In an unexpected awards ceremony in Prince George's County, 14 other Howard schools were verbally honored -- but given no money -- for their improvements.
"I was surprised and really thrilled for the school and the work they've done to make these improvements," said Stephen O. Gibson, principal at Patapsco Middle School, which got $22,778. "We have had relatively good scores, but last year we moved a lot of those numbers into the excellent category."
Andy Barshinger, principal at Pointers Run Elementary, said, "When they were giving out certificates and plaques, mine was the last award they pulled out. It was attached to $29,000."
Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said at a school board meeting last night awards will be spent by each school's improvement team, comprised of teachers, administrators and parents.
Howard has been the top performing school system in the state since the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program began six years ago, and this year was recognized for its systemwide efforts and improving its scores.
Yesterday's monetary awards recognized schools that showed significant test score improvements.
"Many of our schools would find it difficult to be selected [because] they already have very high scores and might not have much opportunity to show significant gains," Hickey said.
Students at Pointers Run will buy new equipment and books, and teachers will get funding help to attend development conferences, Barshinger said.
At Patapsco Middle, staff members likely will use the money to buy updated computer equipment to bring the Internet to each classroom at his 531-pupil school, said Gibson, who was named principal of the year by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals this year.
"This has not been a bad year for me, I guess," he said.
Pointers Run, named this year as a state Blue Ribbon School for excellence in several areas, was awarded $29,262.
Bryant Woods Elementary was given $18,632 and Hammond Elementary $24,812.
The other Howard schools honored were: Atholton Elementary, Clarksville Middle, Clemens Crossing Elementary, Deep Run Elementary, Elkridge Elementary, Forest Ridge Elementary, Guilford Elementary, Hammond Middle, Harper's Choice Middle, St. John's Lane Elementary, Stevens Forest Elementary, Swansfield Elementary, Waterloo Elementary and West Friendship Elementary.