Steve Guthrie, superintendent of Carroll County public schools, and veteran community leaders Jean and John Lewis were recently recognized by the county's Human Relations Commission for their contributions to the community.
The honors took place at the commission's 23rd annual awards dinner on March 30 at the Zigler Conference Center at the Brethren Center in New Windsor.
Guthrie is in his fifth year as superintendent. He was initially appointed to a four-year term in 2010 and reappointed in July, 2014 by the Board of Education. He was honored in part, for being named Maryland Superintendent of the Year last year by the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland.
He was nominated by Jean Lewis for his efforts in recruiting and retaining a diverse work force, building cultural proficiency, and working to close the achievement gap in the school system. Much of this has been achieved by the implementation of a five-year organizational plan entitled "'Vision 2018."
The commission chose the Lewis husband-and-wife team for the 2015 Carroll County Human Relations Award for their work in the community dating back to the 1950s. John and Jean continue their work on a number of community initiatives today.
Jean Lewis has served as the president of the Carroll County chapter of the NAACP for the last nine years and has worked on a number of initiatives in the county, in addition to her extensive volunteer work with the county's public schools.
For many years, she has traveled to recruitment events with the school system in an effort to hire and retain minority candidates for Carroll County.
Her husband, a past president of the local branch of the NAACP, is considered by many to have been instrumental in reconstituting the local civil rights advocacy group in 1999 after it had faded in the late 1990s.
According to a presentation at the dinner by Pam Zappardino, "John's life of 70 plus years has been spent working for civil rights... He grew up in a poor family of 12 in Johnsville, in southern Carroll County. He lived through the rumors of the Ku Klux Klan riding through his neighborhood … He was the first president of the Carroll County Human Rights Commission and Task Force. This group worked to desegregate the county in the mid 1960's and 70's. Its methods were simple… There was no violence or arrests and he used what he called the 'back-door approach talking' to desegregate the county… Because of this, he received many death threats…
"John attended the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963… In 1964, he spoke before the Maryland General Assembly in support of the Public Accommodation Law," Zappardino said.
The Carroll County Human Relations Commission was formed in 1989 to promote harmony and understanding among the citizens of Carroll County. Twenty-five years later, the work of the commission continues.