TODAY MARKS MY first Neighbors column for Northwest Carroll.
As a Uniontown resident, I have always made it a point to read Judy Reilly's weekly column. We will all miss Judy, and I have big shoes to fill. Many of you who kept in touch with Judy will receive calls and visits from me.
One of the first things I wanted to do was to introduce myself to the principals of the six schools in this area. My visits yielded so many good stories I felt as if I were back in Florida covering the school beat for the newspaper I used to work for.
The day I called Mary Stong, principal of Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge, she was very happy. The day before, her school had received a Maryland School Performance Award of $31,050, given for "substantial and sustained academic progress" for 1995 to 1998.
"This doesn't happen to your school every day," Stong said. "And when the improvement took place, we were in the old building."
According to Stong, the School Performance Recognition Program is part of the Maryland School Performance Program, which supports efforts of schools to improve teaching and learning.
Maryland recognized 94 schools, which received funding awards. Another 143 schools received certificates for one year of substantial improvement. Elmer A. Wolfe was the only school in Carroll County to receive the monetary award.
During my visit with Stong, she had two other reporters in to interview her. Fifth-graders Sam Groves, 9, and Whitney Kazer, 10, both of New Windsor, were there to do an article for the school's paper, the Elmer A. Wolfe Sun. The pupils asked their first question: How do you feel?
"I'm very, very excited," Stong replied. "We got the award because of you, because of your performance."
Stong said she informed the faculty during a meeting.
"You could hear them all the way to Westminster," she said of their response.
Stong said she wanted to share the news with the pupils at New Windsor Middle School.
"I need to go to New Windsor Middle School and get on their public address system and let them know they, too, won, because some of the children who are there now were here during the award period."
Stong said the school hasn't decided how it will spend the money.
"Our school improvement team will be getting inputs from everyone. But everybody has been saying math should be a priority," she said.
Runnymede 500 Race
They may not be old enough to drive, but that didn't keep the pupils at Runnymede Elementary School from racing in the Runnymede 500.
Today, Matt Barnes, point champion of four-cylinder class racing, will talk to pupils about the importance of reading.
Barnes, who owns Barnes Service Center in Westminster, will bring his Thundercar and talk about safety.
Also on hand to help pupils celebrate the end of their race will be the Cleveland Brothers Go-Cart.
The racing gun cracked Sept. 13 and each grade level, including preschoolers, was to go to the finish line with 500 hours of reading on their "wheels."
For the school to meet the 500-hour goal, each of the 569 pupils would need to read about 15 minutes each day, according to Joy Dain, Runnymede's reading specialist.
The "race" is a reading incentive program designed to get and keep pupils interested in reading. Dain and instructional assistant Wanda Weller thought of the racing idea last school year.
"We were listening to the kids and realized they were following the races," Dain said.
Weller became the contact with Barnes and persuaded him to visit the school.
"My brother is his mechanic and my uncle is one of Barnes' sponsors," Weller said.
Dain said the school conducts a reading incentive program every other year.
During the monthlong program, pupils had a sheet of paper with a racetrack on it, divided into 10-minute intervals for a total of three hours possible for each sheet. Pupils would take the sheets to school Monday.
Larry Henning, a fifth-grade teacher, added up the sheets each week. Artist Mark Wieber designed the reading sheets and the giant race car track put up in one of the school's hallways.
"The teachers and students have been really enthusiastic," Dain said.
The final tally for the school was 1,800 hours of reading.
Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.