Pupils fight hunger through reading

education notebook

Howard educators bask in Japanese spotlight

December 10, 2006|By John-John Williams IV

About 300 third-, fourth- and fifth graders at Cradlerock School opened their books Friday to help feed the poor.

In conjunction with Scholastic Read for 2007, a national program that encourages youths to read for 35 uninterrupted minutes, the pupils planned to raise money and donate it to an international charity.

Heifer International Read to Feed is a charitable organization that provides poor communities with animals that produce multiple products like milk, meat, eggs and wool.

"They [pupils] are extremely excited about purchasing an animal for a community that is less fortunate than they are," said Tracy Stansbury, a third-grade teacher who led Friday's efforts.

The school will hold an assembly Friday when the amount of money raised will be unveiled.

Transition instruction

Even though they were sworn in last week, new Howard County Board of Education members have been preparing for weeks for a seamless transition through a series of training sessions.

Last month, Ellen Flynn Giles, Frank Aquino and Larry Cohen attended a five-hour session that covered such topics as negotiations and open-meetings laws.

The session was led by vice chairman Diane Mikulis and departing board member Mary Kay Sigaty.

At that session, the three new board members spoke to Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin; Sandra Erickson, chief administrative and academic officer; Raymond Brown, chief operating officer; and school system attorney Mark Blom.

"This training arose from Mary Kay and my experience," said Mikulis. "We got into things and realized how much we didn't know. Our orientation was one two-hour session."

It is important to give new board members a sense of what to expect in their new role, she said, adding "We will fill in some gaps that we experienced."

The three board members also received large canvas bags filled with policy manuals, state regulations, the names of every school principal and secretary, and directions to each school.

Sandra H. French, a former school board chairman who was also elected to the board, had a prior commitment and was unable to attend.

Last week, the new board members attended a two-day conference sponsored by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

Japanese scholars

A group of Japanese scholars spent Wednesday in Howard County and observed the system's dedication to parental and community involvement.

The visit was in association with the National Network of Partnership Schools, an organization of more than 1,000 schools, and 140 school systems that focuses efforts to improve schools, parent and community involvement in education.

"It takes all three spears of influence to develop children's learning," said Jean Lewis, a family and community outreach specialist in Howard County. "We all work together, we are all responsible. It is the village."

The group from Japan visited Swansfield and Talbott Springs elementaries, met with Cousin and visited an after-school tutoring program.

The group included two professors, a research fellow and a graduate student from Osaka University and Kansai University in Osaka, Japan.

Joyce Epstein, director of the Center on School, Family and Community Partnership at the Johns Hopkins University, said she chose Howard County because it follows the goals of her organization.

"They [Howard County] are trying very hard," said Epstein. "They are making progress each year. This is not an event, it is a process. It should get better each year."

Howard County has been a member of National Network of Partnership Schools since 1997. The partnership model began in 1996.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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