GREENBELT -- Keeping a promise to reward successful schools, Maryland officials yesterday showered $2.75 million on 102 elementary and middle schools that made significant and continued progress on state standards.
In a surprise ceremony for local school officials -- complete with drummers and lavishly wrapped gold-and-white packages -- schools from 18 counties got financial incentives, ranging from $14,500 to $51,400, to keep up the good work they had shown over two years.
Forty-five of the schools are in the Baltimore metropolitan area, with Baltimore County receiving the most of any county -- $453,000 for 16 schools. Four Baltimore City schools received more than $100,000.
More than 300 other schools from every county, except Talbot, received honorary awards for one year's progress.
Only the superintendents from each school district, a handful of organizers from the state Department of Education and some elected officials knew the real purpose of yesterday's surprise event.
"The schools represented in this room today are not getting better because you are doing things the same old ways," state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick told more than 500 people at Martin's Crosswinds. "We set the bar high you are meeting those expectations."
Said Gov. Parris N. Glendening: "You are doing a wonderful job you are the true heroes of today."
The schools were chosen according to how much they improved based on state-mandated criteria, as measured by the 1994 and 1995 Maryland School Performance Assessment Program "report cards." The MSPAP tracks a school's performance on annual tests for third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, along with attendance and functional test scores of older students.
The state has also used the report cards to identify 42 failing schools in three systems during the past three years.
This is the first time, however, that the department has offered a carrot along with its stick, inaugurating the School Performance Recognition Awards after the General Assembly allotted the money last spring. The 1996 report cards will be issued next month.
The amounts of the monetary awards are determined by a school's enrollment, with an allocation for each student.
Each school may determine how it will spend the money, though general state guidelines indicate that the funds must be used to continue "progress in student learning." The money may not be used to hire staff or award bonuses.
"I see computers written all over it," said Lenore Huffer, principal of Showell Elementary in Worcester County. Huffer will be receiving $31,148 for her school.
Like most schools, Edgewood Elementary in Harford County will enlist its school-based improvement team in the spending spree, said Principal Jackie Haas.
"While it would be nice to have things, the team will say, 'What's going to make the most difference quickly?' I think it will be a combination of services with intensive staff development.
Edgewood's award is $22,602.
Baltimore County Principal Ricky Archambault said that as he sat through the awards program, "I hoped it would be a couple thousand dollars, enough to really do something with."
He was surprised when he learned that his school, Perry Hall Middle, was not only a money winner, but the state's largest -- $51,394.
"I am still walking on the clouds," the principal said hours later, just before announcing the award over the school's public address system and leading students and teachers in a round of applause for themselves.
Pub Date: 11/27/96