Brainstorming ways to thwart violence in county schools

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

November 02, 2008|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

A group of Howard County students and staff members weighed in on school safety at a statewide summit held last week in Greenbelt.

The group, made up of seven students and four staff members from various county schools, spent the day brainstorming ways to thwart violence in schools. The event was organized Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Adejire Bademosi, Howard County's student member of the school board, said the summit was valuable.

"We get an opportunity to talk," she said. "You get to talk to Congressman Cummings, Superintendent Grasmick. You also get to talk to other students. It's kind of informal. It's a great opportunity."

About 250 students from middle and high schools attended the summit at Martin's Crosswinds. Every jurisdiction in Maryland was represented, according to organizers, who said they plan to use the students' observations and ideas to craft plans to stem violence.

"We wanted to make sure we had a mix of students: athletes, artists, academics," said Vanessa Diggs, director of youth programs for the state Department of Education. "We asked for a mixed group."

Howard County students were chosen by counselors and administrators, said Patti Caplan, the school system's spokeswoman.

Diggs said she hoped to hear candid input from students. She said she was encouraged by hearing students favorably comment about the summit.

"Some other kids high-fived each other," she said.

Ann DeLacy, head of the Howard County Education Association, who attended the summit, said past job satisfaction surveys collected by her group reveal that some teachers in Howard County fear for their safety.

"It is time that it is addressed," she said. "People leave with their feet. If they feel unsafe, they leave."

The idea for the summit came out of a similar meeting that followed several high-profile incidents last year involving violence in schools. They included the beating of a Baltimore teacher that became national news after it was recorded on a student's cell phone and posted on the Internet.

Many of the ideas offered at the six-hour meeting will be shared with a school safety advisory committee, Grasmick said. Participants in yesterday's event will be asked to fill out a survey in January, with the results to be analyzed in the spring at a regional conference put on by the State Department of Education.

A Siemens finalist

Henry Zheng, a senior at Centennial High School, is one of 100 students nationwide to be named a regional finalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.

The Siemens Foundation announced the semifinalists and regional finalists Oct. 24.

Zheng began his research on a statistical simulation for prosthetics as a sophomore, while working with his mentor at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Jeff Lesho, and his Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher Michelle Bagley.

Zheng is an intern with Dr. Soumya Acharya at the Johns Hopkins University Thakor Lab.

He presented his paper, "Multisensor Data Fusion for Prosthetic Control," at the 11th International Conference on Information Fusion in June in Cologne, Germany. His paper will also be presented at a conference on biomedical engineering in Singapore in December.

This year, 1,893 students participated in the competition with a total of 1,205 projects. Regional finalists will be called to compete at one of six regional competitions held over three consecutive weekends in November. Awards and scholarships range from $10,000 to $100,000.

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