Three North County Schools Open with New Principals

The signs of summer's end are everywhere. Kids are descending on stores to buy their school supplies. School bus drivers are memorizing their stops and practicing their routes. Teachers are putting up creative bulletin boards and getting their first pop quiz ready.

Baltimore County Public Schools and Our Lady of Grace School open for students on Mon. Aug. 29, but St. James Academy students don't have to report until Wed. Sept. 7.

Here's a glimpse into what students will find at each school on that first day.

Hereford High School:

Hereford High School's new principal isn't new to Hereford at all. Andrew Last, former assistant principal at Dulaney High School, came to Hereford as a student teacher in 1997 and then as foreign language department chairman and Spanish teacher from 2002-2005.

Law graduated from Towson University and taught Spanish at St. Paul's School for Girls and Parkville High School. He also spent a year teaching English in Costa Rica.

Last, 54, is from Colchester, England, where he worked restoring old buildings. He moved to the United States in 1989 and decided to try a new career.

"I went to a career counselor, took all these tests, and every one said I should be a teacher," he said.

He eventually got a master's degree in education administration from Towson University and became an assistant principal at Dulaney High School in 2005.

When he learned he was taking over for retiring principal John Bereska, Last visited Hereford and met with faculty and students. He already knew many of the teachers from his time as department chairman.

"This is a dream school," he said. "My job is to motivate teachers so we can all work together to make this a great experience for kids. I don't want the kids to feel like they're just a number."

Last said he wants to focus on recognizing students who achieve in all areas — music, art and creative writing — as well as athletics.

Last expects the school to open with about 1,400 students and 87 teachers. Hereford lost 10 teachers who retired or transferred and were not replaced. Most class sizes will be slightly larger, he said, but Hereford will offer 23 Advance Placement classes, the same as last year.

"I've been so warmly received by the community," said Last, who is married, has two children and lives in Towson. "It's humbling."

Hereford Middle School:

Hereford Middle's 950 students might not be too pleased, but the school has just joined Edline, an on-line system that allows parents to check on their student's test scores, attendance and homework. Hereford High School already uses the online communication program.

"It is more work up front for teachers, but they all love it," said Cathy Walrod, Hereford Middle principal. "The site is updated every two weeks and parents get notified by email when there are new grades to see. Teachers love it. Parents love it. The kids? Let's just say they don't love it."

Carroll Manor Elementary:

The Baldwin school should open with 335 students, roughly the same number as last year, said Principal Will Cirrincione. There are two classes in kindergarten, first and fourth grades, with three classes in second, third and fifth grades.

He said a successful Tech Trek fundraiser last year enabled the school to purchase 11 laptop computer for teachers.

Fifth District Elementary:

Fifth District's new principal has spent 36 years with the Baltimore County school system — 18 in the classroom and 18 as an administrator.

Bob Findley, 57, grew up in Overlea and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Towson University.

Over the years, he has taught grades one, two, three, five and six at Seneca Elementary, Martin Boulevard Elementary, Fullerton Elementary and Orems Elementary.

Findley then went on to be assistant principal at Oliver Beach and Hawthorne Elementary schools, and was principal at Edgemere Elementary School for the past eight years.

"It was a bittersweet feeling to leave Edgemere, but I came here to visit in June and the kids were all smiling at me, waving at me," he said. "They gave me posters and cards to welcome me."

He replaces Carole Quental, who retired.

At an expected 279 students, Fifth District is about half the size of his previous school.

"My first goal is to get to know the students, parents and teachers," Findley said. "I will treat the teachers as professionals and want to empower them to make decisions as they're needed, not on a cookie-cutter basis. I trust them to know what's best for their boys and girls, and I'll support them."

He said he enjoys observing teachers in action and seeing different teaching methods.

The school will have two of each grade except third grade, which will have three classes.

Findley, who is married with three adult children and lives in New Freedom, Pa., said he looks forward to extra time he'll have since his commute to work has been cut in half.

"I've always liked challenges and being at a new school still excites me," he said. "This school has a very, very strong instructional program and I hope to help bring it up a notch."

Jacksonville Elementary:

Enrollment at Jacksonville is expected to be about 580 students, roughly the same as last year, said Principal Debbie Glinowiecki. The school will welcome new personnel, including three classroom teachers, a media specialist, a special education resource teacher and a para-educator.

Prettyboy Elementary:

Prettyboy's new principal has been involved in all aspects of education since she joined Baltimore County schools in 1984.

Sue Truesdell, 53, has been a teacher, an assistant principal, and an administrator working in the school system's headquarters in Greenwood for area superintendents.

And now, she has a school of her own.

"I was ecstatic when I got the job here. I'd been to Prettyboy when I observed instruction, so I already knew what a strong school it is," Truesdell said.

She was an ESOL teacher (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at Reisterstown Elementary School for 14 years, then was assistant principal at Reisterstown for two years before moving to Greenwood where she was assistant to assistant superintendent of Zone 1 schools.

Truesdell replaces Stacey Durkovic, who is now principal at Carney Elementary School.

Prettyboy expects to open with 434 students, about the same as last year. Prettyboy will have three classes in each grade, but there will be four classes of second-graders.

She had a chance to meet her new staff and PTA officers before school ended for the summer and learned Prettyboy will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year.

She described her leadership style as collaborative and a collective decision-making process.

"I have high expectations of the wonderful staff here, but the first thing I'll ask them is, 'How do I help get you there?' I hope to build teachers' capacity to be leaders. But my ultimate goal is to be with students when they're learning. That is my joy."

Truesdell, who is married with two grown daughters, lives in Finksburg with her husband. They share the household with a Great Dane named Otis and Milo the cat.

Seventh District Elementary:

Assistant Principal Daniel Pizzo joins Seventh District this year, replacing Cathy SantaCroce who retired. He comes from the school system's office of Research Accountability and Assessment.

The school should open under capacity with about 405 students. That number matches last year's figures, said Principal Leslie Brooks.

Seventh District is piloting a new aspect of its Early Childhood Learning Support program that has run at the school for years. In addition to 3-year-olds with special needs, the program will accept up to five typically developing 3-year-olds.

Sparks Elementary School:

Sparks will open with 570 students, about the same as last year. There are five second-grade classes and the other grades all have four classes. First grade will use four teachers and a part-time reduction teacher who will reduce class size by teaching reading and math.

St. James Academy:

The private school in Monkton will say goodbye at the end of this year to Betty Legenhausen, who has headed up the school for the past 25 years. Legenhausen is retiring.

When she first started, St. James had about 100 students. In September, it is expected to open with about 320 kids in kindergarten through grade eight. Last year, the middle school earned World School status awarded by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

The school will hold the "Get Ready, Get Set" program from Aug. 22 to 26 in which students can sign up for refresher courses in math and English. On Sept. 29, it hosts representatives from 25 high schools who will answer questions.

Our Lady of Grace:

Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton will start the year with two new designations: Archdiocesan Collaborative School and Maryland 2011 Green School.

The ACS status means that Our Lady of Grace now has a school board that will have an active role in making decisions for the school and will work with the Department of Catholic Schools to receive training and support. The board will make policies and procedures about finance, marketing and advancement. It will also develop and oversee a strategic plan for the school.

Enrollment is expected to be 200 students from preschool 3-year-olds to eighth-graders, about the same as last year, said Principal Byrdie Ricketts.

She said all grades will be involved in activities that are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) oriented.

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