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Kamenetz checks in at Stoneleigh to open American Education Week

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Tuesday kicked off a two-day, four-school tour to commemorate American Education Week, visiting students, teachers and parents at Stoneleigh Elementary School.

The visit not only launched the annual education week events, but also provided a status report on Stoneleigh, which is being housed this year at the former Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, off York Road.

"I think it was wonderful," said Stoneleigh Elementary Principal Christine Warner after the visit. "I wanted him to see this wonderful facility and what's been done on our behalf, but more importantly, we got to showcase and spotlight instruction. He got to see various groups of students interacting with teachers, parents, and each other."

Tuesday was Kamenetz' first visit to see the accommodations made by the school system's facilities department to allow Stoneleigh to go on what Warner has called its "180-day field trip" to Carver while Stoneleigh undergoes an $18.8 million addition and renovation.

Kamenetz' visit coincided with Stoneleigh's fourth-grade parents day, affording the executive the opportunity to see students who were particularly easy to please.

In Michelle Lane's classroom, Lane was preparing her fourth-graders to begin learning division by teaching them the similarities between that and multiplication.

Down the hall, James Ballard used a diagram of a carton of eggs to teach his students mathematical expressions. Merry McCracken used tables and chairs to teach her fourth-graders multiplication properties, while Brendan Gieron, with a test on multiplying decimals coming up Wednesday, had his students combing through supermarket circulations to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for under $75.

"What was nice was watching how each teacher has the freedom to engage their students based upon those children's skill levels," Kamenetz said.

"In our field, we call that differentiation," Warner said. "A teacher is given a group of students to work with, and it really is their responsibility to take that content or that curriculum, and then design their delivery based on the needs of the students they're working with.

"When you go into different rooms, you're going to see different things, and I think (Kamenetz) saw that today and walked away feeling like we're in the business of learning — and that's what we are," Warner said.

The tour didn't end with the fourth-grade wing, though. As Kamenetz and Warner trekked back toward the main entrance, the principal showed the executive some of the major changes made to the Carver building to accommodate her students. The instrumental music classes are held in the old cafeteria, while the new cafeteria is in Carver's old black box theater, which was painted white and filled with lunch tables.

Several dance rooms were repurposed as indoor recess rooms to make up for the lack of outdoor space at Carver, but Warner said the largest undertaking was the school's first-grade wing, which formerly housed Carver's wood shop and sculpting studios.

They left some small mementos of Carver hanging around, such as a sign requiring protective eyewear and the old fire extinguisher, but the expansive classrooms were freshly painted and readied for the molding of first-grade minds.

"It's been a great adaptive reuse of a building, and importantly, the parents, the kids and the staff are fully engaged in the new site as much as they were in the old site," Kamenetz said.

Kamenetz will visit Holabird Middle School, Catonsville Elementary School, and Westchester Elementary School on Wednesday.

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