Paper ballots - and all their potential complications - were nowhere in evidence as Marriotts Ridge High School conducted its first student government election, using an online computer program called eduBallot.
The program is being used by a handful of schools in the state, said Mark Dubbs, a social studies instructional team leader and student government adviser. It allows voters to link to a candidate's platform, picture and speech within seconds. Each voter is assigned a PIN to thwart election fraud.
"We knew we were heading down a unique road," Dubbs said. "The whole way through, we could track what was going on. ... We could track which kids had not voted yet so we could track them down."
Dubbs said that more than 96 percent of the students participated in last week's election, and that students were pleased with the speed and accuracy of the program.
"They were literally in and out within a minute," he said. "Voting took place in social studies classes. It was a real positive response."
The new technology also made the election different from the traditional process found at other schools. For example, no speeches were made by candidates in front of an audience. Instead, candidates posted their speeches on the eduBallot site.
Minh Pho, 15, who was elected student government association president, made his message conversational and catchy.
"I would have liked to do it in person," the new president said. "But either way we get to get the message out."
The teenager said his classmates have had only positive responses to the election. "It was all good," he said. "I didn't hear any negative comments."
Besides electing SGA officers, the school, which opened last year with freshmen and sophomores, held elections for its first sophomore and junior class councils.
Green schools, kids
Nine pupils and seven schools were recognized Thursday by the Board of Education for energy-efficiency accomplishments.
They were part of the Alliance to Save Energy's Green Schools program, not to be confused with a state program of the same name.
Begun in 1996, the Alliance to Save Energy's Green Schools program has been adopted by 200 schools in Maryland, California, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Students conduct energy audits and come up with ways their schools can reduce energy costs.
Howard's two-year, $80,000 project is being funded by the Educational Foundation of America, the Maryland Energy Administration and the school system.
Seven county schools participated this year: Mount View, Harper's Choice, Lime Kiln, Elkridge Landing and Clarksville middle schools, Oakland Mills High School and Homewood School.
Harper's Choice seventh-graders Ashley Hayes, Rachel Robbins, Karen Berry, Maria Zare, Jonah Scheinerman and Amy Greaney won first place for an energy-efficiency plan used to enable a family to save enough money to throw a birthday party. The group was lead by teacher sponsor Ptery Iris.
Clarksville Middle sixth-graders Brian Guerinot and Ashwin Reddi won second place for a PowerPoint presentation, "Just Turn It Off," which showed how much money could be saved by implementing energy conservation tips.
Third place was awarded to eighth-graders Brian Chow, Evan Eshelman, Brittany McMullan and Samuel Rhody of Lime Kiln Middle, who made an iMovie about appliance misuse at their school. Their teacher and sponsor is Lauren Landerman.
The Howard County Education Association, the union representing 5,500 teachers and support personnel employed by the school system, has announced its endorsements of five candidates for the Board of Education elections in November.
Earning the nod were :
Joshua Kaufman of Elkridge, current board chairman.
Patricia S. Gordon of Ellicott City, a current board member.
Larry Cohen of Columbia, a retiring pupil personnel worker.
Frank Aquino of Ellicott City , a lawyer who ran in 2004.
Ellen Flynn Giles of the Scaggsville-North Laurel area, an advocate for students.
Grant for teachers
A new federal grant will enable the system to elevate 30 history teachers to the master level, where they eventually will be expected to serve as mentors to other teachers.
The $999,797 grant provided by the Teaching American History program, part of the U.S. Department of Education, will target 10 elementary, 10 middle and 10 high school teachers in lower-performing schools.
Teachers in the program will participate in summer sessions for three years and will receive academic credits that can be used for a master's degree or another graduate degree.
The recruiting and selection process for teachers will begin in the fall, said Mark Stout, secondary social studies coordinator for the county school system. Training will begin next summer through a series of classes.
Teachers will complete training with historians from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Howard County school resource teachers, experts from the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland State Archives, and the Howard County Historical Society.
"It is a very competitive grant," said Stout, who added that the system had unsuccessfully applied for the grant twice before. "We are really excited about it."