`A mark and a memory'

Loyalty: Members of the Howard school system were honored for long service at the annual service awards reception

April 14, 2000|By Karen Keys | Karen Keys,SUN STAFF

Wilde Lake Interfaith Center was filled with hugs and exclamations of "Congratulations!" as teachers and staff members of the Howard County public school system stepped up to receive recognition at the 12th annual service awards reception.

More than 400 custodians, secretaries, counselors, teachers and administrators were honored Wednesday with plaques, engraved pens, dinner cruises and kind words.

David Morrocco, the event's facilitator, said, "If you stay and stay and stay, eventually we can guarantee you will be recognized several times. Each person here has helped make schools a better place for children."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Friday's Howard County edition of The Sun about public school service recognition awards incorrectly identified a custodian who was honored. Helen E. Williams was recognized for 30 years of service.
The Sun regrets the error.

Morrocco noted the retirement of Michael E. Hickey, superintendent of schools, and Doris Novak, coordinator of the office of staff development.

"We will truly and deeply miss both of you," he said.

Of the service award gathering, Hickey said, "It's sort of like going to one of your class reunions."

Teachers and staff frequently move from school to school, even if they stay within the county. "The real richness of this county, this school system, is its human resources," Hickey said.

Skipp Sanders, deputy state superintendent for administration for the Maryland Department of Education, talked about service and teamwork during his keynote speech.

"The sense of community in the room tells me how closely some of you have worked together," he told the honorees. "You do leave a mark and a memory."

He ended his address, filled with jokes and anecdotes, by singing an inspirational meditation.

"If I can help somebody as I travel on, then my living shall not be in vain," echoed through the interfaith center.

Sydney Cousin took the 15-year service honorees back in time. He recounted events of 1985, when they started working: "We Are the World" was recorded, New Coke was introduced, Madonna married Sean Penn, and Hickey was finishing his first year.

In 1980, noted Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent for planning and support services, $11,300 was the starting salary for teachers; today it is $29,000. Students numbered 24,000; today they total 43,500. The school population was 17 percent minority; today it is 30 percent.

"In spite of these changes, you've led the county," Kalin said. "You've done a hell of a job."

Teachers and staffers honored for 25 years of service received engraved pens and were reminded of 1975 and the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin,' " the films "Jaws" and "Godfather II," and Howard County's population: 38,000.

Things really started to roll when Novak recognized the 30-year honorees. As each received an engraved mantle clock, Novak spoke about their s hard work and dedication.

Glenelg High School French teacher Susan Evans loves everything French, bringing enthusiasm to her students.

Majorie Gardner has taught at Guilford Elementary her entire career.

Each of the Hackett brothers -- George, James and Louis -- has worked to keep Howard County schools clean for 30 years.

Coach and adaptive physical education teacher Earl Lauer has led teams to 28 state championships.

Barbara Woodard is a custodian who loves her five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and going to Atlantic City, N.J.

The clock rolled back five more years to remember five 35-year honorees: Clara Boender, Thomas Bruner, Thomas Brzezinski, David Clem and Mary Day.

Boender began teaching in 1946 at Catonsville Elementary; Bruner is principal of Thunder Hill Elementary; Brzezinski opened Bryant Woods and Clemens Crossing elementary schools; Clem has won six national archery titles; and Day is principal of Howard High and a gourmet cook.

"This the moment we've all been waiting for," Hickey said when he introduced the 40-year honoree, Cornelius Freeman, assistant principal of Oakland Mills High.

"Your special characteristics are too many to list," Hickey said to Freeman.

Freeman, a 62-year-old Silver Spring resident, started his career at Harriet Tubman High in 1960 and remained there until the school closed in 1965. He worked at Waterloo Junior High, Howard High, Glenelg High and Hammond High before going to Oakland Mills High in July 1988.

Born in North Carolina, Freeman attended St. Augustine's, a small Episcopalian college in Raleigh, N.C.

He planned to retire after 30 years but was transferred to Oakland Mills.

"I thought, `I'll show them. I'll stick around for a while,' " he said.

"The years pass real quick," Freeman said. "[At Oakland Mills High] there are children of children I've taught.

He said he hopes past students think of him as "concerned and caring and always honest."

"I've never even thought about going anywhere else," he said about Howard County. "You feel like you could make a difference. You're not drowning in the numbers."

He said high school students these days, "are more intellectual, more independent, and naturally more technological."

"[You hope] they're going to make a mark on the world, and that mark is going to be positive."

At the end of the school year, Freeman will retire.

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