Courtney Watson attempted to hold back tears as she sat in her seat at last week's school board meeting. After a four-year term, which included a stint as chairman, it was time to step down.
"It's been an honor to serve the people of Howard County," said Watson, who added that she is extremely proud of the progress the system had made since she joined the board.
Tuesday's meeting also marked the end of the board careers of Mary Kay Sigaty and Joshua Kaufman.
Sigaty and Watson will serve on the Howard County Council after winning in the Nov. 7 general election. Kaufman was not elected to one of five board seats.
Sigaty, who served half of her four-year term, said she was "honored" to serve on the board. County Executive-elect Ken Ulman will appoint someone to Sigaty's position.
Kaufman, who was appointed to the board in 2003 and elected chairman by board members last year, called his stint on the board a humbling experience.
"The opportunity to touch so many lives is a wonderful experience," Kaufman said. "It's a lot of hard work. ... I hope that I've been able to leave the board better than I found it."
The board will look considerably different Dec. 14 when it expands from five to seven members and includes newly elected board members who will attend their first meeting.
Diane Mikulis, the vice chairman, and Patricia Gordon, who was re-elected, will be joined by Frank Aquino, an attorney and general counsel for an environmental consulting and engineering company; Larry Cohen, a retired school system administrator; Sandra H. French, a retired educator, former chairman of the board and a substitute teacher in county secondary schools; and Ellen Flynn Giles, a senior editor and analyst with Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill Co., who has been a fixture in school PTAs and systemwide committees for 22 years.
New board members will be sworn in at a ceremony Dec. 4.
The makeup of the Board of Education was not the only thing that received a makeover this fall. The boardroom was renovated, and the $365,000 worth of changes have drawn rave reviews.
"It obviously is a much more pleasant environment to be in," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "The technology is wonderful. It is going to be more convenient for staff at the board meeting, but it will also improve the broadcast on Cable 72. The whole sound system is a huge improvement."
The new boardroom features four 60-inch flat screen plasma monitors that allow board members and the audience to view presentations and videos. There also are several digital clocks that time verbal testimony.
The seating area for board members has been expanded to accommodate a position for the student board member and two new board members. An additional seating area has been added in front of the board. That area is occupied by top system personnel such as Bob Glascock, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; Mamie J. Perkins, chief of staff; and Linda Wise, assistant superintendent for school administration.
The front of the room has been spruced up with additions of golden wood panels, accented with light blush paint.
The color scheme in the back of the room has been changed from off-white to a warm yellow.
The carpet also has been replaced.
"It was full of holes," Caplan said. "It had seen better days."
The room has a storage area that allows the board to fully use its space, Caplan said.
"Now we just have to get more comfortable chairs for the audience," Caplan said with a laugh.
Visit various county schools, and a large green-and-yellow Abitibi Consolidated Corp. collection bin is bound to catch your attention.
The bins are popping up across the county as schools become more environmentally conscious -- while making a few dollars from collected bundles of paper.
The program is simple. Small bins are placed in the schools. Each bin is used to collect discarded mail, magazines, office paper and newspapers.
When the bins are emptied, the contents are weighed by Abitibi, which pays the school for the paper it collects, said Paula Reed, Baltimore-Washington area manager for Abitibi.
"People can earn as much as they like," said Reed, whose company pays $20 a ton. "The more you collect, the more money you can make."
A Girl Scout troop in Glen Burnie makes about $200 a month, she said.
The program is in place at Reservoir High School, Gorman Crossing and Atholton elementaries and Cradlerock School.
Gorman Crossing Principal Cheryl Logan implemented the program at her school this year.
"We have to save Mother Earth," Logan said. "We really need to encourage our kids. It's a good thing for our kids to see. I'm not looking at how much money [we make]. We are going to be doing good for the environment."
Reed said schools also are noticing a change in attitude about recycling.
"Kids go home and say, `Mom don't throw that away, recycle it,'" she said.