In a word, a new twist on the traditional Halloween celebration at Running Brook


October 29, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

Running Brook Elementary decided to put a new twist on the traditional Halloween treat this year.

The Columbia school held its first Vocabulary Parade on Friday in the place of typical Halloween celebrations in schools across the nation. Students and teachers were encouraged to dress in costumes inspired by vocabulary words that included fancy, enlightened, intelligent, muscular and tiger.

The students showed off their costumes during a parade, and had fruit and vegetables, instead of sugary treats.

"We're trying to lean away from commercialism and gory costumes," said Assistant Principal Troy Todd. "We wanted to tie it into academics."

The school also incorporated walking and healthy snacks to reflect the system's new wellness policy, Todd said.

"The kids are really excited about it," he said.


Every school in Howard County last year made adequate yearly progress, or AYP, the performance yardstick under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to findings released by the state last week.

AYP is determined by factors including standardized tests scores and is used, among other things, to determine whether parents can transfer their children to higher-performing schools. It also can affect federal funding.

"The school system is really committed to using a continuing improvement model," said Terry Alban, Howard's director of student assessment and program evaluation. "We have excellent teachers, strong curriculum and a lot of professional development opportunities that we provide to our staff and our administrators."

Alban also attributed the success to the collaborative nature in the school system.

"We're all willing to roll up our sleeves and make sure we do what needs to be done," said Alban, who has worked in the county for two years.

Howard County is taking several steps to ensure that progress continues, Alban said.

"Even though the overall picture is very good, we will disaggregate the data and plan initiatives that will focus on those [challenging] areas," Alban said.

Two areas in need of attention are English Language Learners and Special Education students, Alban said.

"It's hard work to maintain [academic success]," Alban said. "Sometimes people don't always think about that."

Unlikely sources

The unlikely pairing of Board of Education candidates Di Zou and Allen Dyer recently received endorsements from unlikely sources: their former opponents.

Marcelino M. Bedolla, a science teacher in Baltimore; Paul Aliprando, a self-employed packaging supply distributor, and Peter A. Sola, a professor at Howard University, all signed a letter of endorsement dated Oct. 23.

"Allen and Di will raise the critical questions, hold individuals accountable, and open up the decision making process," the three wrote in a letter of endorsement. "Allen and Di are interested in the education process and not the political process. They have no plans for furthering their political careers as some current board members have shown."

After finishing in the bottom third in the Sept. 12 primary, Zou, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Dyer, a 59-year-old computer consultant and lawyer, joined together for the Nov. 7 general election.

The two want to bring back vocational education to local schools, provide more information technology training and support, establish a feeder school system and provide online access to information that is public under the Open Meetings Act, such as board minutes.

PAC support

The Public School Accountability Political Action Committee has endorsed Larry Cohen, Roger Lerner and Janet Siddiqui for the Nov. 7 Board of Education elections.

Cohen 56, is a retired principal, assistant principal, administrative liaison, pupil personnel worker and teacher; Lerner, 52, is a business lawyer, business owner and adviser; Siddiqui, 45, is a pediatrician.

Endorsements were based on an evaluation of the candidates' written campaign materials and statements made at public forums.

Candidates also were evaluated on how closely their views related to goals of the committee, including promoting personal responsibility and character development of students; meeting individual needs of each student; fostering greater community involvement in the school system; and supporting innovation and improvements in the school system.

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