Five Maryland teachers and principals learned yesterday that each has won a $25,000, no-strings-attached prize from the California-based Milken Family Foundation.
They include Peter R. Litchka, a teacher at North Carroll High School; George L. Boarman, principal of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County; and Kenneth Gill, principal of Elkridge Landing Middle School in Howard County.
The others are Faustena "Penny" Vahsen, a teacher at Magothy River Middle School in Anne Arundel County; and Miriam B. Dyer, a teacher at Colonel Richardson High School in Caroline County.
"We wanted to do something strong for public school educators," said Lowell Milken, president of the foundation. "Something that would make a powerful statement and elevate the profession."
He said educators expect little when it comes to monetary awards. When the foundation first suggested its awards to California school officials, educators there indicated that $250 would be generous.
The local winners were speechless when they learned the real reason they were summoned yesterday to the Maryland State Department of Education in Baltimore.
They had been told they were attending a news conference and task force meeting concerning statewide goals for what high schools should teach. That was what the gathering was about for the first 30 minutes, although most of the other 75 people in the room knew that the somewhat dull proceedings were just the buildup.
The winners went from confusion to smiles within moments as Mr. Milken introduced himself, the award and then their names.
"I guess the equivalent of this is playing in 2,131 [baseball] games in a row," Mr. Litchka said of excitement. "I don't know what I'm going to do [with the money]. I'm going to put it in the bank really quickly."
The foundation will distribute $3.75 million in awards to 150 educators in 30 states this year -- a fraction of the more than $600 million in fines and civil penalties paid for securities fraud violations by the foundation's co-founder, 1980s junk bond king Michael R. Milken. Mr. Milken, who lives in California, served 22 months of a 10-year prison sentence and is completing thousands of hours of required community service.