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Howard County school system names top principal, teachers of 2021 | EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

From left, Denise Lancaster, Deep Run Elementary principal; Niklas Berry, Oakland Mills High social studies teacher; and Amy Woolf, Oakland Mills Middle science teacher, were named as the 2021 principal and teachers of the year by the Howard County Public School System.
From left, Denise Lancaster, Deep Run Elementary principal; Niklas Berry, Oakland Mills High social studies teacher; and Amy Woolf, Oakland Mills Middle science teacher, were named as the 2021 principal and teachers of the year by the Howard County Public School System. (Photo courtesy of the Howard County Public School System)

The Howard County Public School System has announced its 2021 principal and teachers of the year.

The winners are Denise Lancaster, principal at Deep Run Elementary; Amy Woolf, science teacher at Oakland Mills Middle; and Niklas Berry, social studies teacher at Oakland Mills High, according to a news release from the school system.

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“Congratulations to each of these outstanding educators,” Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said during the April 15 Board of Education meeting. “Each is an exemplary representative for our school system and for all educators in Maryland and our nation.”

In her 24th year with the school district, Lancaster has worked at several schools as a speech-language pathologist, assistant principal and principal. She’s been at Deep Run since 2016 and was chosen for her “outstanding leadership” and “compassion and creativity,” per the district’s release.

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Woolf, who teaches seventh-grade science, started at Oakland Mills Middle in 2014. She’s also involved in multiple extracurricular activities, such as musical theater, Girls on the Run, and the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Oakland Mills Middle and High schools. Along with being recognized as a 2021 teacher of the year by the school system, Woolf is also a candidate for the Maryland State Department of Education Teacher of the Year award for her “ability to engage, inspire and connect with students,” according to the release.

Berry, who has been a history teacher at Oakland Mills High since he started his career in 2014, has also served as a teacher development liaison and an instructional team leader. He was selected for his innate ability to “build excellent relationships” with students, according to the release.

A reception with the school board and Martirano to celebrate the three educators is planned for Sept. 23.

Howard High wins ‘It’s Academic’ region competition

The Howard High School “It’s Academic” team won the Baltimore Metro Championship earlier this month.

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The Lions, led by Tyler Nguyen, Will Tom, Adam Hermann and Samara Rahman, scored 540 points in the championship match to defeat Pikesville (525) and Centennial (520). The virtual match will air on WJZ-TV Channel 13 on June 26.

“So proud of this team,” Howard High Principal Nick Novak wrote on Twitter. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching them compete on various Saturdays and Sundays this year. Such an awesome accomplishment.”

“It’s Academic” began in 1961 and is the longest running quiz show in TV history. High school students across the country compete against other schools in their region and then nationally for the top spot. The competition is typically held in person, but the past two years’ matches have been conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Howard, coached by math teacher Charles Boling, beat out 80 other teams for the regional title. The Lions will go on to compete for the Intercity championship against the winners in the Washington and Central Virginia regions.

Digital Education Center survey data released

Survey results about the school system’s plan for a Digital Education Center show that 1,630 families are interested in enrolling their children exclusively in virtual learning this fall.

That number represents more than the 1,250 students the district projected would be enrolled for the first year in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The survey, which was sent out to parents March 31 and remained open for two weeks, asked parents about their interest in the digital option. The form, however, wasn’t an official decision, and Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said during last week’s board meeting that families will be asked to make a final commitment “in the coming weeks.”

Martirano also said during the meeting April 15 that the district told staff interested in participating in the Digital Education Center to complete a voluntary transfer request.

The Digital Education Center, which is still subject to budgetary approval, is a virtual learning program irrespective of the pandemic. School system officials have said the program could look different for every student in it, with some students taking all of their classes in the center, which requires its own staff, administration and learning tools, while others also would take in-person classes at their assigned school.

In the proposed plan, courses would be offered during the fall, spring and summer semesters and could be offered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The center would cost $6.2 million in the fiscal 2022 budget.

In Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s budget, which he released Monday, the school system is being given $12.5 million more than last fiscal year but $37.6 million less than what the school board requested. With the district possibly receiving less than it requested, the initiative could be removed from the budget before final adoption later this spring.

Fewer educators chose to stop working than expected

Two months ago, when planning its hybrid learning model because of the pandemic, the school system asked its 8,000 educators whether they’d return to school buildings in March.

In that survey, nearly 85% of those surveyed indicated they would return, while 12% requested accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act and 3.3% chose to stop working — either by taking leave, resigning or retiring. If that 3.3% figure came to fruition, more than 250 educators would have chosen to stop working in February or March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the figures are significantly higher than in a normal month, in both February and March, only 62 chose to stop working.

In February, 39 educators stopped working, including eight who retired, 10 who resigned and 21 who took long-term leave. In March, according to numbers released by the district, 23 chose to stop working, including 17 resignations, four long-term leave requests and two retirements.

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