An educational accomplishment

Goal: The principal aims to bring Folly Quarter Middle pupils, faculty and parents together for success at new school.


January 14, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's 7:45 a.m. on a Monday at Folly Quarter Middle School in Ellicott City - five minutes before the first class of the day begins.

Effervescent schoolchildren cling to each other as they swap stories about their weekends, while others dash to their lockers to grab forgotten books and notebooks.

The scene is typical of most middle schools across the country, but the difference at Folly Quarter is that it is happening in a new school.

To alleviate crowding, Folly Quarter, a 96,000-square-foot building costing more than $12 million to construct, opened to great excitement in August. The school, which has 661 children and 47 teachers, is equipped with computers in every classroom and a high-tech media center.

"I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment," said Principal Carl Perkins. "We went from a hole in the ground to almost 70 percent of our students on the honor roll."

Perkins appeared confident and relaxed in his office recently as he outlined short-term and long-term goals for the school. His first order of business: Make sure that people who have a stake in the success of the school - children, parents, teachers and staff - are getting along well.

"I want to make sure we're able to effectively bring all groups of people together," he said. Perkins plans to accomplish that goal through activities coordinated by those groups.

At the beginning of the school year, the sixth-graders held a get-acquainted event on a farm, and the eighth-graders had an ice-cream social.

The seventh-graders participated in a Renaissance Bash during which they dressed as knights and maidens and collected 155 pounds of food that was donated to Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia.

The PTA coordinated a holiday toy drive that generated more than 500 toys for needy children.

Outlining objectives

As for long-term goals, Perkins wants to achieve objectives outlined in the school's School Improvement Plan - a document required of each Howard County school outlining its particular goals.

"We will be taking a look at what we as a school are doing in [subject areas] such as math and reading," he said.

Perkins is quick to point out that there are good teachers at Folly Quarter. One of them, he says, is Shiney Ann John, the eighth-grade team leader and reading teacher.

John, like Perkins, said she wants to make sure pupils feel a sense of ownership at their school.

"We have three or more feeder schools for this school, so one of the things we're working on is group bonding," she said.

"As a school, we are also making sure we have cohesiveness among teachers."

John added that since last summer, youths and teachers have participated in team-building activities, including attending camps and working on projects that highlight each other's personality traits.

The fact that the student council meets on a regular basis is a testament to the good work going on at the school, John said.

"I'm very proud that student council is off and running," she said. "When you're invested in something, you're going to make it work."

Role of staff

And the Folly Quarter staff has played an integral role in ensuring the school's success, John said.

"The staff is incredible ... and they make being a team leader easier here," she said.

John added that she understands the difficulty some children may be experiencing, having moved to a new school. But, she explained, the staff is committed to a smooth transition for them. "We are trying to connect these kids," she said.

Jenna Conway, 13, president of the student council at Folly Quarter, said she has adjusted well to the new school.

"A lot of my friends came to the school with me," said the eighth-grader. "And everyone has been so welcoming."

She added that running for student council president was also enjoyable.

"It was really fun putting up the posters," Jenna said.

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