SANDY MCGEHEE knows how to network. A former employee of the federal government, the Clarksville Middle School science teacher linked information about a government surplus program with contacts she made as a soccer mom to provide her school with a networked personal computer lab.
The Howard County school system supplies Macintosh computers to schools, but McGehee says "most of the great science software runs on PCs. NASA has really great software that runs much better on a PC, and so does the automated weather system software."
So she set out to find enough personal computers to set up the laboratory at Clarksville Middle School.
"I found out that there was an executive order that states that government surplus computer equipment should be donated to nonprofit organizations with an emphasis on schools," McGehee said.
In 1996, she had gotten 30 surplus computers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Last fall, she obtained 25 more-powerful Pentium 200mhz computers with monitors, keyboards and five laser printers from the General Services Administration.
McGehee donated the 30 computers she had acquired in 1996 to Wilde Lake Middle School.
After the new computers arrived, McGehee said, "We realized we really needed them to be networked to have them work most efficiently. A networked system allows a student to log on using their ID and save to their own folder on the drive of the server."
"Students can print from any station and will eventually have access to the Internet from all of the PCs," she added. "Networking the computers offers a larger variety of educational opportunities.
She encountered only one problem. "I had all the pieces I needed for a computer lab except for the knowledge about how to connect them," McGehee said.
Standing on the sidelines at her son's soccer game during the fall, McGehee struck up a conversation with another mother, Mary Dal- nekoff.
"It just so happened that her son, Steve, is in the tech magnet program at Long Reach High School, and he knows a lot about networking," McGehee said. "He was also looking for an Eagle Scout project."
To earn Eagle Scout rank, Scouts must perform a community service project that will have a lasting effect and gives the Scout an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills. McGehee started working with Steve, a 17-year-old senior, in December.
"It feels good to be able to take the skills I learned in school and plug them into an everyday situation," Steve said. "It makes what I've learned worthwhile."
With the help of four friends from the tech magnet program - Blaine Frank, Matthew Wilson, Ali Choudhary and Nishant Patel - Steve taught McGehee and some of her pupils how to make cables and install the equipment needed to network the computers at the school.
Sixth- and seventh-graders - Wossen Ayele, Jason Wetstone, Rushi Talati, Piotr Roman, Sheri Balsara, Josy Naylor, Katherine Davis and Jeff Lasser - worked after school and on a weekend to set up the lab.
"All the hardware is installed now, and we're just tweaking the software," McGehee said. "It's really cool. I think it's impressive that Steve is taking the knowledge he's learned through the tech magnet program and actually using it to help another school in the Howard County system."
Fran Kroll, associate professor and coordinator of Howard Community College's teacher education and early-childhood training programs, has been named Outstanding Faculty Member for the 2000-2001 academic year.
Kroll has been employed at the college more than 16 years. She established a Teacher Education Field Experience course, which places HCC students in classrooms, and played a key role in the planning and design of the school's new Children's Learning Center.
Kroll received a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and a master's from George Washington University.
As part of her award, Kroll will serve as faculty marshal at commencement in May and will speak at the dean's list reception.
Congratulations to the west Columbia winners in the PTA sponsored Reflections program at the county level.
In music, winners were Rachael Carter, Longfellow Elementary School; and Jason Shafer, Wilde Lake Middle School. In photography, winners were Jeffrey Chiariello, Longfellow Elementary School; and Elizabeth Klaczynski, Atholton High School. In literature, Kathryn Green of Atholton High School was the winner.