Heidi Miller

Heidi Miller, right, the principal at Relay Elementary School, helps fourth-grader Khiana Gilmer assemble a rubberband car during a special class about engineering led by guests from Northrop Grumman on June 1. Miller, who came to the school in 2007, will take over as principal at Timber Grove Elementary July 1. (Staff photo by Brian Krista, Patuxent Publishing / June 1, 2012)

After making great gains over the previous five years, Relay Elementary School will suffer a loss this summer.

The Baltimore County Public School system will transfer the school's principal, Heidi Miller, to Timber Grove Elementary School in Owings Mills effective July 1.

Test scores on the annual Maryland School Assessments at Relay have shown consistent progress each year since Miller took over in 2007.

"When I found out she was leaving, I cried," said Sara Toscano, the incoming PTA president at the school. "She's turned Relay around into being one of the gold standard schools."

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When Miller became principal of Relay Elementary, her first job as principal, she took control of a school that had showed fewer than 90 percent of its students test proficient or advanced on the Maryland School Assessments that test reading and math skills.

In spring 2007, 93 percent of Relay's third- and fourth-graders tested as proficient or better in the math assessments, according to data from the Maryland State Department of Education.

That year, 89.5 percent of third-graders and 90.1 percent of fourth-graders were proficient or better in reading, the data showed.

Of fifth-graders, 79.7 percent were proficient or better in math and 82.4 percent were proficient or better in reading, the data showed.

Through a steady increase, 95 percent or more of the students tested proficient in math and reading in 2010 and 2011, the final year data was available. The data will not show rates exceeding 95 percent.

Toscano said Miller works well with students, staff and PTA members

"I can't put my finger on what she does, but she works magic," said Toscano, whose daughter, Marleigh, will have a new principal for the first time as a fourth-grader next year.

Miller recalled walking through the doors of the school on Salford Road for the first time.

"I was very impressed with the students, with the manners they had, coming in. They were very respectful, very polite children," Miller said. "The teachers were so hard working."

"We shared the same vision and I think that's the most important piece," she said. "We all wanted to improve. We all wanted to make refinements and make things better in many ways."

Miller implemented Doughnuts with Dads and Muffins with Moms at Relay Elementary to get more parental involvement.

The school has also focused efforts on acquiring and integrating technology into classrooms.

Miller rattled off a list of technological advancements at the school, including interactive white boards, voting tools that graph students' responses and netbooks for each fifth-grade classroom.

For the progression in test scores and advancements in technology, Miller credited teamwork among the staff as key.

"I work to recognize talent in people and I work very hard to bring out talent in people," Miller said.

Saying goodbye to the students and staff will be difficult, and Miller said she will especially miss the PTA.