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Edmondson Heights Elementary School parents pass on transfer option from Catonsville school

With a new administration and renewed focus at the school, few students at Edmondson Heights Elementary School are taking advantage of the opportunity to transfer out of the school.

The transfer option is given to students at Title I schools that show a low percentage of students who had passing scores on the annual Maryland School Assessment exams, said Charles Herndon, spokesman for Baltimore County Public Schools.

Title I is a grant program for economically disadvantaged schools, according to the website of Baltimore County Public Schools.

Yasmin Stokes, the new principal at Edmondson Heights, said on Sept. 15 that only about 30 of the school's students have explored the transfer option.

"I can't say a whole lot of parents took advantage of it," Stokes said of the transfer option. "Most of the parents stayed. Even some of the parents who signed up to take the option decided to stay here."

Deadline to apply for the transfer option was Sept. 16.

Official numbers for this school year are unavailable, but last year the school had 498 students, according to the website of Baltimore County Public Schools.

Stokes came to Edmondson Heights this year after working at Powhatan Elementary School, which previously had been designated as Title I.

"I have a position I love doing and can't see myself in any other place," Stokes said. "We are going to challenge our students' thinking. We are going to hold them to a higher standard."

Stokes said she can tell the faculty has committed to improving because the school's parking lot is filled with cars at 7 a.m., nearly two hours before school starts.

She said her students are entitled to a quality education that includes rigor and critical thinking and that her school will integrate more technology into the classroom.

Simply having a new administration may have inspired parents to not pursue the transfer option.

"For parents, it brings the sense of hope. It brings that sense of change," Stokes said of having a new administration run the school. "That's not to discredit the previous administration. But just a different leadership style (can) convince parents that that's where they want to be."

Kim Williams, the mother of twin fourth-grade daughters Kellie and Charlie, noticed the difference the first day of school.

Williams said she hear soft music playing as Stokes greeted parents and students and it seems the new principal's presence has not wavered since.

"She's there every morning. She's there every evening. She answers all our questions," said Williams, a member of the school's PTA for five years. "She has a presence, and it's one that we welcome."

Despite having the option to transfer her daughters to Woodbridge or Woodmoor elementary schools, Williams said she never considered it.

She chose to live in a neighborhood near the school because it reminded her of the close-knit community in Anne Arundel County where she grew up.

Kellie and Charlie, Williams said, play with their friends in the neighborhood and go to the school with them.

"There was never a question of me leaving," Williams said. "It's a wonderful environment. I don't know how many people (chose the transfer option), but it was never an option for me."

For Stokes, the responsibility of providing a good education doesn't fall only on the school but also the parents.

That's why, she said, it's important for parents to be involved with the school.

"Parents want to feel that they are welcome to be a critical part of their children's learning process," Stokes said. "They really are a big part of their child's academic achievement and growth."

Stokes said she has told parents that her priority at the school will be on kindergarten, first and second grades.

This year, 10 Baltimore County public schools offered the transfer options, according to a release from Baltimore County Public Schools. The option was available at five schools last year and two the year before.

Including Edmondson Heights, nine of the schools offering the transfer option were elementary schools.

Those schools included Baltimore Highlands, Featherbed Lane, Hawthorne, Hebbville, Middlesex and Riverview elementary schools, Halstead Academy and White Oak School.

Lansdowne Middle School is the only middle on the list. There were no high schools.

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