Dan Michaels, Howard County's director of school administration, looks wild. He's winking, with his head cocked to the right at a 45-degree angle. He's sporting a goofy half-smile, and his face is covered with red dots that gently shade his skin.
That's how Ellicott Mills Middle School eighth-grader Matt Schmauder sees him, at least.
Howard County school officials posed for art classes last month for a countywide art project on display at the school system's headquarters in Ellicott City through Feb. 27. Students from every grade used oil pastels, tempera paints, charcoal, watercolor, crayons, photography and other media to portray school officials who volunteered as models.
Participants said the experience allowed school officials and students to connect in a unique way.
"A lot of staff here don't always get as much opportunity to be in schools as we'd like. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to get out there and see what's going on, and it's a good way for the students to become familiar with some of the people that help run the system," said schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan, who posed for a portrait.
"I was drawing someone I'd never met, so I got to work with something very new to me," Matt wrote in comments posted next to his drawing.
School board member Sandra H. French said she was flattered by the students' depictions. One picture shows her face long and round, another small and pointed. But French preferred the illustrations for what they didn't include.
"They didn't see the gray hair, didn't put in the wrinkles," she said. "Bless their hearts, they gave me 20 years back."
The projects represented a range of styles, from collages to 3-D projects to simple pencil drawings.
Long Reach High School student Tim Dadourian made a cube with photographed expressions of local assessment coordinator Fran Albert on each side. A class at Gorman Crossing Elementary School bound its drawings of Robert Glascock, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, into a book that allows the viewer to mix and match parts of his face from different drawings.
Fourth-graders at Elkridge Elementary made collages by placing a head shot of special education director Jim Walsh in various situations - he's in the driver's seat of a car, the groom in a wedding and on a Larry Bird statue in a child's bedroom.
Fifth-graders from Northfield Elementary depicted M. Casey Burns on U.S. currency. Burns, an accounting officer, appeared in place of presidents on bills and coins. One coin read, "In Casey we trust."
Then there's Superintendent John R. O'Rourke, who, after being dogged by grade-changing scandals and personality clashes, was told by the school board last month that his contract would not be renewed. Patrick Goodspeed, a fifth-grader from Pointers Run Elementary, drew a stoic O'Rourke, emotionless, with his hair neatly parted. In the background is a billowing American flag, with the words "Howard County" floating over his head.
The exhibit is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays until Feb. 27 at the Department of Education, 10910 Route 108 in Ellicott City.