Safe, effective learning environment earns honors for Oakland Mills Middle, 11 other schools


August 06, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

Yvonne Smith, principal of Oakland Mills Middle School, noticed a change this past academic year.

Office referrals and pupils with repeat discipline problems decreased, and she attributed the changes to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, a program that rewards good behavior while discouraging bad behavior.

Oakland Mills Middle was one of 12 county schools honored recently by the Maryland State Department of Education for work with PBIS to maintain safe and effective learning environments. Other middle schools included Hammond, Murray Hill and Wilde Lake.

Bollman Bridge, Deep Run, Guilford, Hammond, Laurel Woods, Longfellow, Rockburn and Stevens Forest elementary schools also made the list.

A total of 108 schools in the state were named "Exemplar Schools."

Smith and her staff implemented a "Four R" campaign -- ready, responsible, reliable and respectful -- at the start of the school year. Pupils were expected to refer to the R's throughout the day.

"Children need to know what the expectation is in order to meet it," Smith said.

At Oakland Mills Middle, Smith and her staff used a system that awarded tickets to pupils for good behavior. Pupils used the tickets for prizes and activities that the school sponsored throughout the year, including an end-of-the-year raffle for an iPod.

"The children knew how to apply those R's," Smith recalled. "We made it known to them that they could apply them to everyday life, as well."

A visit from home

Korean pupils involved in a summer cultural exchange program that took place in Howard County this summer received a visit from home on their last day of class.

Bae Sook Cho, a member of the National Assembly for the Republic of Korea and chairwoman of the Culture and Tourism Committee, spoke to the 24 pupils during their three-hour English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, class at Patapsco Middle School.

Cho, one of the highest-ranking women politicians in South Korea, represents Iksan, the southern city where the pupils live. She spoke to them about the importance of travel and commerce, said Young-chan Han, a specialist with the system's International Student and Family Outreach Office.

"She gave encouraging words to the children," said Han, who added that Cho was instrumental in starting the program. "It was a very nice closing ceremony."

While there are no definitive plans in place for the program, Han said dialogue between Howard County and the Iksan Board of Education will continue.

"Whether or not we do this again, or whether or not we send students, staff [to South Korea], we want to dialogue," Han said. "[The program] was so successful."

The program, which was sponsored by the Korean Embassy and the Washington Youth Foundation, placed Korean middle school pupils with Korean-American families for three weeks of classroom learning and field trips.

The pupils, who are part of the Iksan school system, were required to pay $2,500, and the Iksan Board of Education paid the rest. Participants also were required to pass an English-proficiency test. More than 50 South Korean parents applied so that their children could participate.

Selecting a name

The process of selecting a name for the new Ellicott City elementary school has begun with a request for community input by the School Naming Committee.

The school, on Route 103 across from Long Gate shopping center, is to open in August next year.

The committee, made up of administrators and parents from feeder schools, collects input from pupils and community members before it forms a list of names. The committee's list eventually will be approved by the county Board of Education.

Schools are usually named after geographic features, including street locations, neighborhoods or community identifications.

Suggested names, along with a rationale for the suggestion, should be submitted in writing by Sept. 4 to:

Marion Miller, administrative director, Howard County Public School System,10910 Route 108,Ellicott City 21042.

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