National Hall of Fame teacher honored

Nancy Reynolds, vice president of the Harford County Board of Education, reads from a certificate honoring Bel Air Middle School teacher Rebecca Gault, second from right. Gault was recently inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Looking on are HCPS Superintendent Robert Tomback, left, and Gault's 11-year-old daughter, Anna Rozmiarek. (DAVID ANDERSON, AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / April 23, 2013)

Two Hall of Famers came before the Harford County Board of Education Monday, but neither had played for the Orioles or the Ravens – although one of them once coached an Oriole who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Regardless, each were heroes to countless Harford County children.

The board honored Donald R. Morrison, recently inducted into Harford County Public Schools' Educator Hall of Fame.

Morrison, a Harford County native and 1962 graduate of Edgewood High School, spent eight-and-a-half years during the 1970s as a teacher and a baseball and basketball coach at Aberdeen High School. He coached future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. at Aberdeen High.

After a hiatus of 15 years writing for The Aegis, Morrison returned to the school system, where he served as director of public information until his retirement in 2008. He created the school system's Educator Hall of Fame and Teacher of the Year programs during his time in that position, among a number of other accomplishments, according to a biography provided by HCPS.

Morrison is the 176th former HCPS educator to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Morrison received honors from Patricia Skebek, HCPS' former interim superintendent and a member of the Hall of Fame, as well as from Robert Thomas of the Harford County government, County Councilman Richard Slutzky – a fellow coach at AHS who noted Morrison connection to Ripken – and HCPS Superintendent Robert Tomback.

"Having been involved in the first 135 inductions into the Hall of Fame I have an idea of the caliber of people who are in the Hall of Fame and that makes me doubly humble," Morrison said.

Board members also honored Bel Air Middle School teacher Rebecca J. Gault on her recent induction into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, one of five teachers across the United States to be inducted this year.

Gault, who teaches sixth grade language arts at Bel Air Middle, has been teaching for 22 years. She is the third teacher from Maryland to be inducted into the national Hall of Fame, and is the first female teacher from Maryland to receive the honor, according to HCPS officials.

Board of Education Vice President Nancy Reynolds – and a former principal at Bel Air Middle – presented several certificates and pins to Gault, who stood in front of the audience with her 11-year-old daughter, Anna Rozmiarek.

"I am very humbled to be a teacher, because I do believe they are on the front lines of our society dealing with kids and everything that kids face these days, and so I am one of all the teachers in Harford County who try every day to bring their gifts and talents to our children," she said.

Jim Boord, supervisor of music for HCPS, was honored on behalf of Harford County's recognition by the NAMM [National Association of Music Merchants] Foundation in its 14th annual survey: "Best Communities for Music Education."

"Even in the days of incredibly tight budgets, which we're quite familiar with around here, the music program still goes on, because the people find that it is an important part of every student's education, Boord said.

Make your voice heard

School board members encouraged HCPS parents, and all Harford County residents, to express their views on what they think should be the top budget priorities in the coming fiscal year, as county leaders shape the budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which includes funding for public schools.

The school system is already struggling with cuts in state funding. Kathy Carmello, facilitator of government relations for HCPS, told board members Monday the schools would initially lose more than $4 million in state funding.

Thanks to action by members of Harford County's delegation in Annapolis, and new legislation that updates formulas for calculating allocations of state funds to school districts, the cuts will not be as severe.

In a detailed legislative update to board members, Carmello also noted cutbacks to Special Education and grants to programs serving Limited English Proficiency students.

"Our enrollment [in Special Education] has decreased, but the intensity of the needs of students with disabilities has increased," Special Education Director Ann-Marie Spakowski said.

All board members urged county residents to contact county leaders and let them know what they feel is important in education.

"It's incumbent upon you, the citizens, to get out there and get engaged before we get to the end," board member Robert Frisch said. "By then, it's too late."

Stakeholders can visit http://www.hcps.org/budget for more information on HCPS' budget for 2014, e-mail budget@hcps.org or call 410-838-7300.