Visitors from China form strong bonds at Long Reach

Education Notebook

November 05, 2006|By John-John Williams IV

Two weeks ago, they started as strangers, divided by language, culture and country. By Monday, students and staff members from Long Reach High School and Schoo1 No. 22 in Beijing were crying and sad to part.

The tears marked the end of a weeklong visit to the school by two teachers and five students from the Beijing school. The two schools have formed a partnership that school administrators want to continue for years to come.

"It was such a connection," said Long Reach Assistant Principal Rose Friss, who with Principal Edmund Evans visited China during the summer. "There were tears. Boys were crying. It was so moving. You didn't need a word said. They really became a part of these families."

Kaitlin Cardozo, 15, whose family was host to one of the Chinese students, said she has a better sense of another culture.

"I thought they would be like robots," Cardozo said. "I thought they would be very orderly and very focused."

After a week of living with the exchange student, her views changed.

"I didn't think they would be so much like us," Cardozo said. "It kind of surprised me."

Julio Jimenez, 14, said his guest, Qin Liu, fit in immediately.

"My mom came up the stairs [one day] and was yelling `Who is playing Xbox?'" said Jimenez, who added that his mother did not expect the guilty party to be Qin. "The only difference between us is the language. He is crazier than me. He is hard-working, but he has a sense of humor."

The recent visit to Long Reach is the latest in a series of contacts between the school system and China, said Friss.

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin visited China last year and established contacts with school systems there.

This year, a group of Chinese delegates came to Long Reach. And in June, Evans and Friss visited Schoo1 No. 22.

Next summer, several of the Long Reach students and teachers who participated in the recent visit will live with host families in China.

In the fall of next year, a basketball team from School No. 22 will visit and play Long Reach's team. An orchestra from the Beijing school also will be at Long Reach.

"We want to take it a step further," said Friss, who recently attended a workshop on cultural awareness. "We're looking at how we really further embrace cultures at Long Reach."

Incident at game

Howard County police are investigating an incident in which several fans at a girls soccer game between Mount Hebron and Wilde Lake high schools were hit by paint balls fired from a wooded area near the game.

"We are taking this seriously," said Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for the Police Department. "We know that one person received a minor injury to the face. This is a concern."

Three police officers were at the game at Mount Hebron but were unable to find suspects.

"Any time a weapon or anything that resembles a weapon is used in proximity to a school, we are concerned," Llewellyn said.

The incident prompted Mount Hebron officials to send a message to parents on the school's online newsletter.

Mount Hebron administrators also are investigating the incident. A letter of apology also was sent to Wilde Lake Principal Restia Whitaker.

"The staff and students of Mount Hebron are truly sorry that this event occurred," the letter said.

School name

The Howard County school board is expected to approve a name for a new elementary school in Ellicott City at Thursday's board meeting. But determining a name has proven to be a touchy subject.

The system's school-naming committee recommended the name Veterans Elementary School for the facility, which is scheduled to open in August. But, some have said the name does not adhere to the system's policy of naming schools after geographical features.

Members of the Yingling-Ridley VFW Post 7472 -- the organization that sold the land for the school -- have said that Veterans Elementary is a fitting name for the school.

This is not the first roadblock that the school has faced.

In August, a county Circuit Court jury determined that the school system should pay $825,000 for additional land that was needed to complete construction.

The decision resolved a dispute between the school system and J. Chris Pippen, a developer who owned the 1.3 acres on Montgomery Road across from Long Gate shopping center.

Candidate

Robin Shell, Howard County's first school ombudsman, will be following Tuesday's election with added interest. She is a candidate for the Prince George's County school board.

Shell faces Rosalind Johnson, a retired Prince George's County teacher, for the District 1 seat.

Shell, 44, mother of four children who attended Prince George's County schools, has said that she is seeking a seat because she has a vested interest in the system.

Howard County school system lawyer Mark Blom said Shell is allowed to seek a position in Prince George's County and, if she is elected, she can hold both positions.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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