Cradlerock students get encouragement from several Hollywood celebrities


March 25, 2007|By John-John Williams IV

Cradlerock School students received star-studded support as they prepared to take the Maryland State Assessment tests this month.

A slew of celebrities -- including Academy Award winners Jennifer Hudson, and Forest Whitaker, comedian Chris Tucker and actress Jada Pinkett Smith -- recorded a video with words of encouragement.

The students watched the inspirational messages March 13, the day testing began.

The messages were put together by Entertainment Tonight reporter Kevin Frazier, a Howard County schools graduate, who attended Owen Brown -- which is now part of Cradlerock -- as a child.

Frazier interviewed the celebrities at the 38th NAACP Image Awards that was held in Los Angeles this month.

On the video, Fraser told the students: "Do well, make this alumnus proud. ... Make everyone in Hollywood proud."

The messages were well received by the students, according to Cradlerock's principal, Jason McCoy.

"They were just amazed," said McCoy, who has led the school for two years. "They couldn't believe that such notable celebrities were saying `Cradlerock.' They were very motivated."

The students were not the only ones inspired by the words of encouragement.

"The teachers were extremely excited about it," McCoy said. "This was a nice morale builder. We felt that we were in the limelight."

Last year, Frazier visited the school and spoke to students just before the MSAs were administered.

"He stressed the importance of reading and writing in school," said McCoy, who is a friend. "The students really walked away with the message of academics.

"He loves giving back to the kids," McCoy added.

13 teachers honored

Thirteen high school teachers in the county were recognized at the school system's 2007 Outstanding Teacher Award luncheon.

The teachers were chosen by each school's senior class. The award has been given annually for more than a decade.

Teachers are selected for their ability to exemplify the school system's goals that each student meets or exceeds rigorous performance standards and that each school is safe and nurturing.

Each teacher was given an engraved pen set and a plaque at the luncheon Thursday. A student from each school read a testimonial in support of the selected teacher.

"It went very well," said the event's organizer, Roger Plunkett, the business, community, government relations officer for the school system. "There was a lot of positive feedback. It was outstanding."

This year's winners are Nena Davis, an English teacher at Atholton; John Costantini, an English teacher at Centennial; Lawrence Glaser, a math teacher at Glenelg; Ben Grabenstein, a sociology teacher at Hammond; James Burrows, an English teacher at Howard; Heather Johnston, an English teacher at Long Reach; Franco Aiello, a math teacher at Mount Hebron; Jessica Palumbo, an English teacher at Oakland Mills; Kelley Thomas, an English teacher at Reservoir; Roger Demaree, a math teacher at River Hill; Betsy Fetchko, an English teacher at Wilde Lake; Robin Grey, an English teacher at Marriotts Ridge; and Clarice Custer, a teacher at Homewood.

The teachers were joined at the luncheon by their principals, student government, members of the school board and administrators, including Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin.

Sock soup?

Come June, McCoy and Stevens Forest Elementary School Principal Ron Morris could be taking a sip of soup made of smelly socks, riding around the parking lot on a scooter dressed in a tutu, or hand-washing the other's car.

These are some of the suggestions that students at Stevens Forest and Cradlerock are dreaming up as punishment for the principal who loses a Maryland State Assessment challenge between the two schools.

The school with the higher MSA scores will win the challenge. The principal from the school with the lower scores, which will be released near the end of the school year, will have to complete an embarrassing task.

"We are modeling good sportsmanship," McCoy said. "The kids like it when we can laugh at ourselves. It is motivation. We want our kids to do their best."

McCoy is not worried about the prospect of drinking the sock soup.

"Certainly I'm not going to lose," he said.

"It's good for the learning environment," McCoy said. "It takes away the pressure for the kids. It takes away the testing anxiety. It is already naturally stressful enough."

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