Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

June 03, 2007

Howard High School principal is praised

I was sorry to read the claims of low job satisfaction at Howard High School in your May 27 article ("Howard High low in job satisfaction"), not because I sympathize with the dissatisfied staff, but because they suggest how much work there is yet to be done at the school.

Our oldest child just graduated from Howard, and the difference between the school that he entered and what Howard is today is like night and day. We admire the work Ms. Regina Massella has done as principal. Her efforts to showcase academic achievement, such as introducing the AP Scholars program and awarding "varsity" letters to Honor Roll students, stress that the primary value of the school is learning.

Surely, some of her initiatives have met with resistance among a subset of the staff and might have cost her a high political price, but they were done to improve the education of our children and are appreciated by families like ours.

As far as your article itself goes, I think it is important to note that all statistics are given in terms of percentages, e.g. "fifty-six percent of Howard High employees responding to the 2006-2007 survey said." The article cites neither the number of individuals that responded to the survey nor the size of the staff at Howard High. This makes it impossible to understand whether the various percentages represent the opinion of the entire staff of the school or just a small group of individuals who chose to respond to the survey. There is no way to tell from the information given.

What I can tell you without hesitation is that during our visits to Howard in the last couple of years, we have sensed a much happier and more confident atmosphere throughout the building than we did during our first year there.

Our family believes that Ms. Massella is moving the school in the right direction although she has much more work to do and many more attitudes to change among teachers, staff and families. We hope she is successful in pushing everyone to do their best, perhaps even more than they might have planned to do.

Bernadette Tutinas Ellicott City

Massella has raised expectations

I would like to respond to the article in The Sun regarding the staff morale at Howard High posted this past weekend. I am a parent of two Howard High students, a junior and a graduating senior. My daughter was a student at Howard under both the former principal and Gina Massella. I feel I am in a position to make a comparison of the changes and impact on my children as well as the overall morale that I have observed at the school.

Ms. Massella has brought a level of accountability to Howard that was sorely missing. Prior to her arrival, several of the major academic departments at Howard High were in shambles. Many very important classes were barely being taught and there appeared to be little response by the leadership to the poor performance of several of the department head staff or the low scores of the students. I had seriously thought about pulling my children out of the Howard County public school system. With further thought, however, I decided to give a new principal a chance to make a difference. And I am glad I did.

The person at the top sets the pace of work and the expectations. Ms. Massella has raised the expectations and pulled the standards way up, as evidenced by the tremendous improvement in student performance, as the article points out.

Ms. Massella is a very serious, firm and hardworking leader and interestingly, both my children highly respect her and appreciate that she has done great things for the school. They see her as invested, caring and fair. The number of hugs she got from the students at graduation was impressive, and I think that says something about how the students regard her.

Regarding the request for transfers, according to the article, there are four high schools with higher requests than Howard. I'm not clear what the issue is here.

I am not a teacher, and I have no idea what the experience is from their perspective. But clearly the transition to working for Ms. Massella is a significant one when one considers the drastic change between how the classes and programs operated prior to her arrival and how things work now.

Whenever new leadership comes into an organization, there is reaction and resistance. That is to be expected. I do think that communication between the staff and administration is critical to long term success, and if that is lacking, then it is prudent for Ms. Massella to address this. ... And it sounds like she has put in place mechanisms to improve this. No one likes change, particularly if it means more work or harder work. I suspect Gina Massella expects both from her staff. Our children have benefited immensely.

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