Elementary pupils to learn meaning of peer leadership



Pupils who serve as peer mediators, safety patrollers, peer mentors and student government representatives will gather Thursday at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory near Laurel for "Super Leaders," the third Peer Leadership Conference.

The event, sponsored and coordinated by school counselors, will bring 450 pupils from 22 Howard County elementary schools and is intended to give pupils a sense of empowerment that they can take back to their schools.

"The objective is for students to leave the conference with a better understanding of the importance of their individual roles within their schools and the impact that they as individuals can have on the student body," said Beth Ivey, a counselor at Bellows Spring Elementary School.

"Even though they are in fourth or fifth grade, they can really make a difference in their school. We bring them in, pump them up and send them back to their schools, where they will spread it around."

The conference will include workshops, Texas-based keynote speaker Aric Bostick - known as "Mr. Enthusiasm" - and sessions by school system staff members on topics such as conflict resolution.

Ivey said the conference has been well-received in the past.

"I've heard comments like `This is the best field trip I've been to in my life.' They are excited that they have been able to go and leave there very excited."

Construction funding

School construction funding - and how to make it more predictable - will top the quarterly "chat" Wednesday between the school board and County Council..

"We are going to talk about long-term systemic shortfall in our budget," said school board Chairman Joshua Kaufman.

Money from an excise tax approved in 2004 will run out when the system receives an estimated final payment of $5 million for fiscal 2007. After that, the system will have no dedicated funds for capital requests and will have to lobby along with other government agencies for funding.

Hovering in the background Wednesday is the school board's combined $654 million operating and capital budget requests, though lobbying will not dominate the discussion, said Kaufman. "That's a whole separate thing," he said, referring to coming budget meetings with the council. "We will grab a cup of coffee and chat [Wednesday]. These are informal meetings."

Also on the agenda are the system's newly approved wellness and physical activity policy and efforts to improve mathematics scores.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. in the boardroom at the Department of Education, 10910 Route 108 in Ellicott City.

Multicultural conference

Nearly 600 educators gathered at Reservoir High School recently for the Maryland Multicultural Coalition's state conference.

Participants had the choice of attending more than 30 workshops on such topics as increasing mathematic proficiency of underachieving African-American males to fighting bias and stereotypes.

Educators from 14 counties turned out for the conference, including Howard County Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin and board members Patricia Gordon and Mary Kay Sigaty.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a 7th District Democrat, was the keynote speaker.

"We set the bar very high to have a successful conference," said Min Kim, coordinator of equity assurance for the system and executive board member for the coalition. "It was huge and wonderful."

Howard County was chosen for the conference because it is centrally located, because of the system's efforts to embrace cultural proficiency and because several key members of the coalition, including the conference's chairwoman, Debbie Misiag, work in Howard, Kim said.

But the conference was not all workshops.

It included performances by a jazz ensemble, traditional Korean dancers and salsa dancers from Reservoir High School.

Members from the Chinese Language School, the Muslim Council of Howard County and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays worked at booths and distributed information.

"They also presented information to teachers on how to work with students and what you need to know about the culture to share with the students," Kim said. "You have to know who you are teaching to teach them best."


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