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School's Out...

Final Bell Brings Joy For A Girl Headed To Greece, A Parent's Sadness As An Elementary Closes For Good, Excitement For A Boy Eager To Spend Time Writing And Time To Reflect For A Principal Ending His First Year

June 13, 2009

Life and Death Forever fills one spiral-bound notebook and has spilled over into a second. The novel, written in Terrell's upright, precise hand, tells the story of a girl who is incapable of staying dead.

"She has a superpower in her that causes disasters," Terrell says. "She's on a journey to find out what it is, so she can control and master it."

Terrell has at least two superpowers of his own: imagination and charm.

At Margaret Brent, he's known for making daily rounds, for sticking his head inside every office just to say hello. The school crossing guard refers to Terrell as "my baby." Here's a kid who comes to school up to a half-hour early every day. When she asked why, he told her: "School is my job, and I have to prepare for it, just like I do for any other job."

But for all Terrell's seriousness, he's looking forward to bike rides, kickball and video games - even to running errands for Dorothy Johnson, the aunt with whom Terrell is living in Southwest Baltimore, he says, for now.

But mostly, he's looking forward to writing.

Terrell hunches over a child-size table and begins to read aloud, his legs crossed at the ankle and kicking back softly. "I always wondered why I am here and how I got here," he reads. "I was born when the universe started."

He seems completely immersed in the world he's created. His brow furrows and releases, his mouth tweaks up at one corner, his eyelashes dance.

Terrell Kellam is in his happy place.

- Mary Carole McCauley

As the intense 192-day school year yielded to the leisurely rhythms of summer, George Roberts still had a day's work ahead of him: The first-year principal at Perry Hall High joked with teachers, chased a knot of teens from a stairwell and high-fived the occasional boy or girl, all the while bragging about the school's traditions in service (the seniors amassed 64,000 volunteer hours), the arts ("our band is top-notch") and unity ("we're large but we're small").

He learned all this by making his first year "a listening tour," he said.

In his untucked Perry Hall polo shirt, with his long, authoritative gait, Roberts seemed both approachable and commanding as he strolled the place to say his farewells Friday.

"The last place you want to be is in your office all day," said Roberts, 37, who took over the 2,200-student high school, Baltimore County's largest, in August. "I try to be in the hallways and classrooms, seeing things from their perspective. It demystifies my position."

A few students spilled from a classroom, where they had been helping a teacher pack. "He's awesome," said junior Stephanie Graff, 16, the president of the Honor Society and the sixth Graff to attend the school. "He comes to my volleyball games. You always see Mr. Roberts doing things."

Later, Roberts pondered his journey from last summer, when he was the anxious newcomer, to now, as he watched teens board the 42 buses that whisked them away.

"It's hard to let go of people you may not see again," he said. "But 500 new faces will come in in a few weeks, wide-eyed with enthusiasm, the kind we grown-ups forget. It's like a new baseball season. Hope springs eternal."

- Jonathan Pitts

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