School board honors PTA volunteer

Parent Terry Chaconas recognized for building support, problem solving

Friends of Education awards

Panel also fetes lawyer, retirees who coached students in their efforts

April 12, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

When budgets get slashed, tempers flare.

When Howard County schools are crowded, overwhelmed by mounds of red tape, some people wring their hands in frustration.

When plans for improvement are delayed - again and again - many sigh in exasperation, "What is that school board doing?"

And then there are those who appear perpetually calm, whose helping hands are always busy, and whose favorite question seems to be, "What can I do to make things better?"

Last night, the Howard school board recognized PTA parent and volunteer Terry Chaconas as one such person - and, amid dozens of smiles and a standing ovation, called her a "Friend of Education."

"Ms. Terry Chaconas is a community builder, problem solver and education advocate," Sandra H. French, the board's vice chairwoman, said at an awards presentation. "It is through these three avenues that she has supported the school system's mission and goals."

The year-old Howard County Friends of Education award was designed by board members to show appreciation to select community members and businesses who "have made exemplary contributions of time and talent to public education."

In addition to Chaconas, the board gave awards to lawyer Clarke Ahlers, who has volunteered as legal coach to the Hammond High School Mock Trial Team the past two years; Vantage House Retirement Community, which has sent groups of residents to St. John's Lane Elementary School to help children read once a week for more than nine years; and to the National Security Agency and the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.

Chaconas also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the school board.

"I was really thrilled. The recognition is wonderful. I was also very humbled by it," said Chaconas, of Woodbine. "I know that in the county there are a lot of people who support education."

Chaconas has volunteered at Glenwood Middle School and Glenelg High, advocating building improvements, generating community support for the capital budget, conducting surveys, analyzing data, chairing committees and coordinating speakers series and online message boards, board members said.

The mother of two - a daughter in college and a son who is a senior at Glenelg High - said she believes giving back to one's community makes it stronger.

"I think the schools are a great place to start," she said. "Even though the schools are a place where things move slowly sometimes, it's still gratifying. Like when you hear that a school hasn't been renovated in 30 years. Rather than say, `Why not?' I say, `Well, let's make it happen.'"

In addition to granting community awards, the school board approved amendments to the proposed operating budget for the 2003 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The board was awaiting approval of new employee contracts before agreeing on a total for next year's spending request to be submitted to the county executive.

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