Tutor leaves legacy for school library

The Education Beat

Volunteer: Donations in the name of Sylvan Allan Hoffman, who in retirement made a second career of helping readers at Deer Park Elementary, are buying books.

May 07, 2000|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

HERE'S A TALE of two school libraries, one to be enriched, the other to be created.

When Sylvan Allan Hoffman died a year ago this month at age 82, his family asked that memorials be made to Deer Park Elementary School in Owings Mills.

Hoffman had been a pharmacist for 58 years, but in retirement at age 79 he had taken up a second career as a volunteer reading tutor in Karen Dolan's second-grade class at Deer Park.

For nearly three years, until he became too ill, Hoffman thrived. So did the children. Their reading scores improved, and so did their enthusiasm. "He always said he got more out of it than the children did," said Hoffman's wife, Deborah.

On a lovely afternoon in late April, Hoffman's family gathered in the Deer Park library with a group of the kids he had tutored, and with Dolan and Principal Beth Strauss. There, the family officially turned over the $1,640 in memorial donations. The money will be used for library books and a globe.

Five Deer Park children, now third-graders, read testimonials and presented them to the Hoffman family. "He would tell me the right way and get it over with," wrote Alicia McCarty, 8, adding that she referred to Hoffman as "the encourager."

Hoffman's son David, who traveled from Wisconsin for the occasion, said his father's nearly three years as a tutor "were much more enriching than his 58 years as a pharmacist. He would say that if you can read and write well, you can do just about anything."

Highlandtown Elementary is getting a new library

Highlandtown Elementary School No. 237 is going to get a new library.

Officials announced Mondaythat the crowded school at 231 S. Eaton St. will be refurbished over the next two years, and a library will be included in the project.

That was good news to parents and teachers gathered at one of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's "town hall" meetings.

The 3rd District Democrat toured the old school, which also lacks an auditorium and cafeteria. Lunches are shipped in from nearby Highlandtown Elementary No. 215. Principal Gloria Pulley is sharing her office with the school nurse. Because she has no electrical outlets, she uses battery-operated clocks.

Cardin said he found the conditions "shocking," but the lack of a library is more than shocking, it's insulting. "A library is not a luxury. It's a basic requirement," said David Jackson of the Maryland Education Coalition, at the meeting.

No. 237 used to have a library, but the books were destroyed in a flood a few years ago. The same calamity befell Cross Country Elementary in Northwest Baltimore, but that school, thanks to generous donations and a two-year refurbishing, has a brand-new library.

The neglect of No. 237 can be traced to North Avenue school headquarters, where officials for years quietly planned to close the school and place its youngsters in the other Highlandtown Elementary, a few blocks away.

But No. 237 continued to grow until officials placed a moratorium on new pupils and began planning an overhaul. The Highlandtown project is part of a $670 million backlog in city school construction needs, schools chief Robert Booker said.

After I wrote about the plight of No. 237 nearly two years ago, book donations poured in. Alas, because No. 237 has 250 children in space designed for 195, it has no room for more books. Most are in boxes stored at a nearby church and in the school's dank basement.

Second-grade teacher Joan Hitt is perturbed. She notes the brand-new Walgreens pharmacy three blocks away at Grundy and Eastern. "If Walgreens can build a nice new pharmacy in three months, why can't we get a library?" she asks.

Adding a Md. winner in handwriting contest

Last week's column on handwriting omitted one of the Maryland winners in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. Brittany Ogunmokun, of Lanham Christian School, won the fourth-grade contest over 849 other Maryland contestants. Maryland had 4,500 entries, and children from nonpublic schools swept all five of the awards given by the publisher of handwriting textbooks.

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