JEFFERS HILL Elementary opened on Feb. 17, 1975. Since then, about 10,000 children have attended the Long Reach school.
On Monday, pupils, teachers and administrators who have passed through its halls will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the institution that was named for the neighborhood it serves. An open house, with cake and punch, will be held at 6 p.m. Cub Scout Pack 914 and Girl Scout Troops 811, 1283, 2202 and 2304 will present the flag at 7 p.m. After local dignitaries present awards and plaques, a student chorus, led by teacher Sarah Bluth, and the fourth- and fifth-grade string ensemble, led by Margo Guillory, will play.
Instructional assistant Linda Migliore and teacher David Ortega have worked at Jeffers Hill since its beginning. Migliore started her job on the day the school opened and Ortega arrived seven months later, at the beginning of the first full school year.
This is a bitter sweet time for Migliore, who is retiring at the end of the term.
"My first job in Columbia was right here," Migliore says, and the words catch in her throat.
The Beaver Brook resident says she has been offered other jobs in the county. She stayed at Jeffers Hill by choice.
"The people here are my family," she said. "I've seen the school go through many changes -- some for better and some for worse -- but it's always been a wonderful place to work."
Of course, retirement has its advantages, Migliore says.
"Summer is too short to spend with my grandchildren," she said.
Her husband, John, retired from the federal government five years ago and has been itching to travel.
"He has everything lined up for a cruise to Alaska," Linda Migliore said.
Migliore says David Ortega is one of the reasons she stayed at Jeffers Hill.
Ortega was 26 when he started teaching at the school. He met his wife, Sally, who is also a teacher, on the school's playground. She had fallen while chasing a rambunctious child.
Ortega says he stood there looking at her on the ground.
"She looked up at me," he recalls, "and said, `Well, aren't you going to help?' So I scooped up the kid in one arm and picked her up with the other."
He invited Sally to a crab feast, and the rest is Jeffers Hill history.
The Ortegas, who live in Kings Contrivance, have two children, both of whom attended Jeffers Hill -- James, 21, and Jason, 19.
Sally Ortega is teaching at Clemens Crossing Elementary School in the Village of Hickory Ridge.
Jeffers Hill PTA President Margaret Hunt says the school has many such stories. Hunt expects that alumni will bring plenty of memories to Monday's celebration. Every principal that has led the school is expected to attend.
Hunt says her family came to Jeffers Hill in 1986 when her husband, Walter, an officer in the Coast Guard, was transferred from New York City to Baltimore. She was pregnant with their son, Paul, now 13 and a pupil at Owen Brown Middle School.
The Hunts' two other sons -- fourth-grader Peter, 9, and first-grader Daniel, 7, attend Jeffers Hill.
When Walter retired from the Coast Guard a few years ago, the Hunts were free to move -- and choose new schools for their children. They couldn't envision their children in any other school than Jeffers Hill, they say.
A visitor walking through the front door of the school on Monday will find a display case filled with photos of staff members taken in 1975.
Hunt was surprised to find that some of the most familiar figures in the school were babies in that year.
A framed proclamation from Gov. Harry R. Hughes, thanking the children for their help in passing children's seat-belt legislation in 1983, hangs next to the photos.
The display includes a small placard with the ceremonial pen used by the governor to sign the bill. A "thank you" from then state Del. Virginia Thomas is written in the corner of the card.
Principal Steve Zagami has worked at three schools that have celebrated quarter-century jubilees. He noted that public and private histories are intertwined in the celebration.
"It's an important milestone for the community," he said.
Joe Wagner took a dip in the chilly Chesapeake last week.
Wagner was one of the shivering tribe of Marylanders -- including Howard County Executive James N. Robey, who led a platoon of police officers and firefighters -- who plunged into 32-degree water last week to benefit Maryland Special Olympics.
Wagner, a resident of Long Reach, is known for doing things like that. Marilyn Miceli of Special Olympics Howard County calls him a "super volunteer" because he is there for every event.
Bob Baker, director of the agency that sponsors sports events for the disabled, says he managed to keep his feet dry at the event.
"My family and I were bundled in our ski attire and were still cold," he said. "Can't imagine what it was like for those plunging."
He may find out next year. Miceli says the persuasive Wagner is looking for a team of Howard County volunteers for the next Polar Bear Plunge.
The time has come for me to give up this wonderful job. A new post at Phelps Luck Elementary School will absorb much of my time and energy.
It is hard to say goodbye. Writing the column has confirmed my suspicion that the world is full of good people. Vandals and crooks can steal the headlines, but the real news is in the stories about Scouting awards, school projects, selfless volunteers and other ordinary folk who do decent things because they want to help.
It has been great working with the "A" team of reporters, photographers and editors at the Howard County bureau.
Thank you, neighbors, for sharing your time and interests with me.