International-program leader to leave county school system

Coordinator will be on loan to the state to work as parent-involvement specialist with Title 1 schools

December 30, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

The recent graduation ceremony for the fourth class in the Howard County schools' International Parent Leadership Program was bittersweet, because it also marked the departure of its coordinator, Young-chan Han.

Han -- who has accepted a job as parent-involvement specialist with the Program Improvement and Family Support Branch of the Maryland State Department of Education -- will work with families in Maryland's Title I schools, which serve large numbers of low-income children.

"I was ready for a challenge and something different," Han, 46, said. "I think that it is a good match."

Since joining the school system as a liaison in 1999, Han has quickly become known for her ability to mobilize members of the county's growing international community.

"I think she helped us realize our vision of outreach to our growing non-English-speaking community," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "She is the hardest-working, most passionate person about providing this support to families who are new to this country."

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said he appreciates the work Han has provided his changing school system.

"It's going to be a challenge to replace her here in Howard County," Cousin said. "Her knowledge and innovation ... will be hard to replace."

Han earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Goucher College and holds two master's degrees, in Asian studies and in ministry, as well as a graduate certificate in administration and supervision, all from the Johns Hopkins University.

She is married with three children, all of whom are products of Howard County public schools.

In Han's new job, she will be working on loan to the state -- a practice that is common in Maryland, she said.

"I am still employed by the county, but I report to the state," she said.

Han will try to expand to the state level some of the initiatives she launched in Howard County .

"The work I was doing in the county could reach a larger audience," Han said.

Student diversity

Students from more than 80 countries representing more than 70 languages attend Howard County schools.

Han has coordinated high school assessment test nights for Korean, Haitian, African-American and Hispanic parents; she also helped to acclimate displaced Burmese families last summer.

One of her greatest success stories in Howard County has been the International Parent Leadership Program.

Seventy-three people -- including 16 in the most recent graduating class -- from 13 countries have completed the program.

"Many [graduates] have joined a number of advisory committees and policy review committees, actively participate in the PTA and volunteer in classrooms," Han said.

"Knowing that many of these parents are well-equipped, it is a great feeling to know that we will continue to hear their voices," she added. "The opportunities are there for them."

Cousin said the program is Han's most significant contribution to the school system.

A `model' program

"It has really served as a model for other school systems in Maryland and in the nation," Cousin said. "It is really unique. Young-chan was essential to making sure we involved the diverse communities in the school system."

Caplan agreed.

"I'm not sure that there are so many people who could have brought that same type of commitment, energy and compassion," she said. "She is an incredible professional and a wonderful person. I miss her on both levels already."

Although Han will no longer coordinate the program in her new position, she will keep tabs on its progress.

"As a part of the state staff, I can continue to support the program," she said. "I would love to see a program like that in other counties."

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