Scurrying after elusive pest

The Baltimore Sun

What is it about Mount Hebron High School and rodents?

On Wednesday, students in a food and nutrition class saw a "large rodent" scurry across the room and hide under a heating and cooling unit.

A pest control technician came to the school and set several traps. No rats were found and there was no evidence of an infestation, said Principal David Brown. More traps were scheduled to be set Friday, he said.

Officials believe the rodent in question is a "deer mouse," which is larger than a common mouse. A deer mouse was caught outside of the school in December, according to Brown.

Parents were informed of the incident via e-mail.

"We will take appropriate steps to ensure that the intruder is removed from the building," Brown wrote. "At this time we do not know how the rodent got into the building."

Brown said staff members will take precautions to ensure that doors to the school remain closed during warmer weather.

Wednesday's incident is the latest chapter in the school's "rodent-gate" saga.

In March last year, Ken Roey, the system's executive director of facilities and management, said he walked through the school and saw a dead rat. He said the school did not have an active infestation.

In September last year, Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin denounced a story in the Baltimore Examiner reporting that six rats fell from the ceiling of the school cafeteria that month.

"We live in a school campus that is surrounded by woods and wetlands," Brown said. "It is probable that we will have an occasional rodent problem. When we've found problems, we've corrected them."

Mount Hebron has been the source of frustration for top school system officials as a renovation plan has been debated for two years. Recently, the school board approved a $57 million construction plan to expand and renovate the school. The County Council is expected to vote on approval of the proposed budget that includes school spending Thursday.

Disaster impact

The disaster in Myanmar has captured the attention of the world. But the destruction caused by the deadly Cyclone Nargis on May 3 has hit home more directly for a group of Howard County students.

Dozens of Burmese families registered for school in the county at the start of the academic year. Many of the high school students attend River Hill High School, which has a newcomer-student program.

The program helps immigrant students with little or no English skills acclimate to American schools, culture and language.

"A number of students have been trying to get a hold of family members there," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

Many of the students have been unsuccessful in their attempts to make contact with loved ones, Caplan said, rendering them more distraught.

The students have been encouraged to talk about stresses caused by the events.

"They really haven't been doing anything except for letting them talk about it," Caplan said.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross estimated that the death toll in Myanmar could reach 128,000, the Associated Press said.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has also seen clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and the military that rules the country.

Many of the Burmese who have settled in Howard County have spent time in refugee camps in Malaysia, which created challenges for the school system.

The system has needed to find interpreters fluent in Burmese and Chin. Many of the parents speak Burmese, while many of their children speak Chin because they were raised in the camps in Malaysia.

Spring fair

At Glenelg Country School, 70 freshman are putting the finishing touches on the 10th annual Spring Fun Fair, which provides a day of activities for students with disabilities.

The Glenelg Country students have been planning activities for the students of Cedar Lane school for the past month. The fair is the culmination of an in-depth lesson for Glenelg Country's freshmen about disabilities.

In April, the students visited Cedar Lane, a public school for students with severe mental and physical disabilities in Fulton. After their visit, they crafted activities for the 30 Cedar Lane students who will visit their campus tomorrow at 10 a.m.

"The most rewarding part to me is to see the joy on the faces of the Cedar Lane students," said David Weeks, Glenelg Country civic leadership director. "It's something that they look forward to."

Bias suit settled

The school system's insurer has decided against an appeal and will settle a discrimination lawsuit that was won by a former English teacher at Centennial High School.

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education tapped into its liability pool instead of continuing the court fight against the teacher, Michelle Maupin.

"They have the contractual right to settle the case, and that's what they did with this case," said Mark Blom, general counsel for the Howard school board.

Maupin will receive $152,503. Her attorney, Michael Coyle, will be reimbursed $92,783 in fees. The school system must pay $8,693 in costs.

Maupin, who is African-American, alleged that problems began shortly after she arrived at Centennial in August 2003 when white parents complained to Principal Lynda Mitic about Maupin's teaching style, according to court documents. Maupin accused Mitic of making racial remarks about her instead of supporting her, documents say.

Maupin, who now teaches at Wilde Lake High, also alleged that after she complained about Mitic, she was harassed by colleagues who interrupted her classes, questioned her teaching methods and ignored her at school events.

In July, a jury awarded Maupin $237,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for harassment. After Judge Lenore R. Gelfman reduced the award, the school board is responsible for paying $165,000, while Lynda Mitic must pay $4,000, English department leader Margaret Polek $5,000 and current Principal Scott Pfeifer $1,000.

After the school system appealed, Gelfman reduced the amount awarded to Maupin by $62,000 because of an error that improperly awarded damages for the same acts based on state and federal statutes. The decision reduced Mitic's original amount by $2,000.

Blom said the system does not agree with the settlement.

"The reason that we - the Board of Education - were not in favor of the settlement was that we thought that it was imperative that the judgment against Lynda Mitic, Margaret Polek, and Scott Pfeifer be reversed," he said. "We think those judgments are completely without merit. They are unjustified. They are a stain on their record of service."


Graduation ceremonies for Howard County public high schools will be at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (Cedar Lane School will hold its graduation at 10:30 a.m. May 28 at the school.)

Here is the commencement schedule:


1 p.m. - Centennial

4:30 p.m. - Atholton

8 p.m. - Marriotts Ridge


11:30 a.m. - Long Reach

4 p.m. - River Hill

May 29

8 a.m. - Howard

noon - Mount Hebron

4 p.m. - Glenelg

8 p.m. - Oakland Mills

May 30

8 a.m. - Reservoir

11:30 a.m. - Hammond

4 p.m. - Wilde Lake

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