At the Howard County Board of Education meeting Thursday, May 9, Superintendent Renee Foose recognized the four winners of the school system’s first annual Crystal Flame staff awards. The awards are for achievements by groups or individual staff members in any school or the central office for work aligned to the school system’s strategic goals.

The categories were leadership, communication and public engagement, continuous improvement and cultural proficiency.

The Homewood Circle Champions, a team of teachers and administrators from the Homewood Center led by Assistant Principal Christina Krabitz, took the top spot in the leadership category. The group’s practices, like community conference circles, improve communication and develop a nurturing school climate, according to school officials. In one semester, disciplinary office referrals dropped 58 percent, school suspensions dropped 30 percent and average daily attendance increased by more than 15 percent compared to last year.

Harriet Lee, a Black Student Achievement Program mentor at Reservoir High School, won the Crystal Flame for communication and public engagement for her work in uniting the school community.

At Clemens Crossing Elementary School, gifted and talented team members Anjan Nath and Laura Register won the continuous improvement award for increasing diversity and depth in the school’s G/T program.

The cultural proficiency award went to Maha Abdelkader, an ESOL teacher in the school system’s world languages office, for her work creating “an instructional environment conducive to diverse learners’ needs and for promoting culturally proficient co-teaching throughout the county,” school officials said.