Sunday, August 30, 2009

SAT scores crater as more take test

County average falls well below state, national marks
Friday, Aug. 28, 2009
Staff writer

Charles County Public Schools' SAT scores have dropped below state and national averages, although data reflect that participation has increased, which generally lowers average scores.
County students scored an average of 1464 of a possible 2400 on the widely used college entrance test, according to data released from the school system this week.

Data show 39.8 percent of the county's graduating seniors took the test.

Aside from dropping below state and national averages, the county dropped 47 points below its own average last year.

Read more HERE

Monday, August 24, 2009

Schools open with new programs, safety messages

Sheriff deputies joined school officials to welcome high school students back to school this morning with reminders of teen driving laws and safety messages. Officers were passing safety flyers and checking for seat belts as student drivers arrived for the start of the 2009-2010 school year. The focus on safe driving is an effort by Charles County Public Schools and the Charles County Sheriff's Office to prevent teen driving accidents and fatalities.

Charles County Public Schools opened Monday, Aug. 24 with limited enrollment increases, the addition of several new academic programs and plans for combating a possible outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus in the fall.

More than 26,800 students were expected to start the 2009-2010 school year, an enrollment prediction that includes an 80-student increase and follows a three-year trend of limited growth. This is in contrast to the triple-digit student population increases of the preceding two decades and the smallest increases since the early 1980s.

New teacher hires

The number of teacher hires decreased this year. Most teaching positions are filled, and Keith Hettel, assistant superintendent of human resources said as of Friday, Aug. 21, the system had hired 169 teachers, including 84 middle and high school, 29 elementary and 56 special education teachers.

Instructional programs

Several new academic opportunities are available to students this year. Gateway to Technology has been expanded to all middle schools, and a new program, Magic Planet, will be piloted at four elementary schools. A program called Algebraic Thinking is being implemented at all middle schools, and three schools have been selected to participate in an in-school academic support program called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).

Gateway to Technology is a middle school pre-engineering course and part of the nationally recognized Project Lead The Way high school engineering curriculum. Gateway to Technology is activity-oriented and designed to help students in grades six through eight explore math, science and technology. Units of study include Design and Modeling, Automation and Robotics, The Magic of Electrons, The Science of Technology, and Flight and Space. The course focus is on showing, not telling, students how to use engineering skills to solve everyday problems and to help students build stronger math, science and technology inquiry skills. The Magic Planet is a digital video globe and projection device that allows students to view and explore dynamic digital media of the earth. The Magic Planet, along with teacher lessons, helps to improve the way students understand and apply concepts to global systems. Magic Planet explores climate, geologic history, the biosphere and many more earth related concepts. It is being piloted at four elementary schools this school year. They are William B. Wade, Walter J. Mitchell, Malcolm and Berry elementary schools.

Middle schools are adding Algebraic Thinking, which presents math concepts using manipulatives, pictorial representations and algorithms to help students develop a better understanding of concepts and math. Earlier this month, classroom teachers received five days of training to familiarize them with the course and teaching techniques.

Three schools, General Smallwood Middle School, and Westlake and Henry E. Lackey high schools, are adding AVID to help prepare students for college eligibility and success. AVID places academically average students in advanced classes and is part of the school system's continuing efforts to eliminate achievement gaps for minority, rural, low income and other students without a college-going tradition in their families. Team members at each school received one week of training this summer to implement the program and to incorporate AVID methods throughout the school.

School bus inspections

When Charles County's 278 bus drivers started their routes this morning, all buses had undergone annual inspections, according to Santy DiSabatino, director of transportation. Inspections include under-the-hood mechanical checks as well as examination of the exterior and interior lighting, seats, floors and safety equipment. The school system inspected all buses earlier this month as required by state law. Additionally, drivers received four hours of training. All bus drivers have been hired, and there are no new bus routes. New in transportation this year is School Locator, an automated way for parents to check their child's school bus route. School Locator can be found through a link on the school system's Web page at

Charles County's buses travel 33,996 miles daily, which adds up to 6.1 million miles per year. Most students ride a school bus at some time, and 21,000 students ride daily. In Charles County, 28 independent contractors provide the school bus services for Charles County Public Schools.

H1N1 preparations

Letters are being sent home this week with all students to update parents on preparations for the H1N1 virus, as well as announcing the availability of flu mist for seasonal flu. In October, the Charles County Department of Health will offer flu mist in all elementary schools for students with parental permission.

School-aged children are most susceptible to the H1N1 virus because they have not been exposed to seasonal flu vaccines as often as adults. Last school year, an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus caused several Maryland schools to close for a short time; however, no Charles County schools were closed. Health officials have said schools and counties should prepare for a potentially severe outbreak this school year. No plans are being made to close schools, but plans are being made to isolate sick children and to limit exposure and the spread of germs through education of proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette. The letter and other health information can be found on the school system Web site at

Mark your calendars

Parent Handbook/Calendars are being sent home with every student this week. Important dates in September are:
Sept. 7  Labor Day, schools and offices closed;
Sept. 8  First day for category 3 prekindergarten students; Board of Education meeting, 1 p.m.; Public Forum, 6 p.m.;
Sept. 16  Minority Achievement Committee meeting, 4:30 p.m., Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building; Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, 6:30 p.m., Starkey;
Sept. 18  Schools closed for students, teacher in-service day;
Sept. 23  Mid-Atlantic College Fair, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. for students; 6-8 p.m. for the public, North Point High School;
Sept. 28  Interims issued; and
Sept. 30  Two-hour early dismissal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Your answers to 10 tricky children's questions

This week the [BBC News] Magazine posed 10 awkward questions children ask their parents. Here are suggestions, from readers and experts, on how to answer these stumpers.

Where do bees go in winter? Don't know the answer? You're not the only one.

According to a new survey, four out of five UK parents have been stumped by something their children have asked. So we posed our own question - what difficult things have children asked you?

We then threw 10 of the best back to the readers, asking for kid-level answers you would offer. Here's a selection of the best - along with suggested answers from a philosopher and from experts from the Science: So what? So everything campaign.

Read those 10 awkward questions HERE! :)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

REMINDER: Board of Education Meeting, 8/11/09

The Board of Education's next monthly meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 11 at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building on Radio Station Road in La Plata. The public portion of the meeting begins at 11 a.m. The meeting is televised live on Comcast Channel 96 and rebroadcast throughout the week. All televised Board meetings are also streamed live on the school system Web site at

Executive session  10 a.m.

Call to order  11 a.m.

Pledge of Allegiance

Superintendent's update to the Board

Reports of officers/boards/committees

Correspondence/Board Member updates

  • MABE conference

Education Association of Charles County update

Flu update

Reports of officers/boards/committees

Capital Improvements Program (CIP)
State CIP 2011
Summer Success Academies
Bridge to Excellence
Staffing update
Recurring Resolutions

  • Health Careers Month
  • American Education Week
  • American Freedom Week
  • African American History Month
  • Career and Technical Education Month
  • National School Counseling Week
  • Read Across America
  • Women's History Month
  • Fine and Performing Arts Month
  • Month of the Young Child
  • National Student Leadership Week
  • Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Administrative Professionals' Week
  • Child Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week
  • National Physical Education and Sport Week

Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leader

Charles County Teacher of the Year
Employees' Retirement
Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award

Record Retention Policy #2470

Unfinished Business

New business

Future agenda items

Public Forum  3:30 p.m.

Action items

  • Minutes
  • Personnel


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

School system announces new principal, vice principals

Superintendent James E. Richmond has announced the appointment of Douglass Dolan as acting principal of Mattawoman Middle School, effective immediately. Dolan replaces William Wise, who retired last month after 44 years of service to Charles County Public Schools. Dolan's appointment must be approved by the Board of Education, which meets next on Aug. 11.

Dolan moves to Mattawoman from Theodore G. Davis Middle School where he has served as a vice principal for the past two years. Dolan began his career in education in 1995 as a social studies teacher at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Prince George's County. He transferred after one year to Friendly High School where he started as a social studies teacher and later served as an assistant principal during his 11 years at the school.

Dolan's appointment is the first of several administrative changes made this week for the upcoming school year. Richmond also appointed two acting vice principals pending Board approval next week. They are: Shannon Finnigan as acting vice principal at Berry Elementary School; and Jackie Couvillon as acting vice principal at William A. Diggs Elementary School.

Additionally, Richmond announced the following vice principal transfers:

  • Pauline Johnson from La Plata High School to Henry E. Lackey High School;
  • Veronica Crawford from Lackey to La Plata;
  • Patricia Mooring from Gale-Bailey Elementary School to Arthur Middleton Elementary School;
  • Tara Moore from Middleton to Gale-Bailey; and
  • David Hoogerheide from Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School to William A. Diggs Elementary School.

    There are still three administrative openings, which Richmond hopes to fill prior to the start of the school year. Vacancies include the principal position at the F.B. Gwynn Center, vice principal at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and vice principal at Davis.

    All new assignments begin immediately.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Schools Plan Open Houses

Charles County public schools are planning open-house events for parents in September and October. The following is a list of school open houses and back-to-school nights.

Elementary schools

C. Paul Barnhart, all students, Sept. 10, 7-8:30 p.m.;
Berry, all students, Sept. 10, 6-8 p.m.;
Dr. Gustavus Brown, all students, Sept. 3, 6:30 p.m.;
Dr. James Craik, back-to-school night, Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m.;
William A. Diggs, kindergarten  grade 2, Sept. 9, 7 p.m.; grades 3-5, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.;
Gale-Bailey, all students, Sept. 1, 6:30 p.m.;
Dr. Thomas L. Higdon, all students, Sept. 10, 6-7:30 p.m.;
Indian Head, kindergarten  grade 5, Sept. 2, 6:30-8 p.m.;
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, kindergarten  grade 2, Sept. 3, 6:30 p.m.; grades 3-5, Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m.;
Malcolm, all students, Sept. 3, 6:30 p.m.;
T.C. Martin, prekindergarten, kindergarten, grades 1 and 2, Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m.; grades 3-5, Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m.;
Mary H. Matula, back-to-school night, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.;
Arthur Middleton, AM prekindergarten, kindergarten, grades 1-2, Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m.; PM prekindergarten and grades 3-5, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.;
Walter J. Mitchell, back-to-school night, grades 3-5, Sept. 8, 7-8 p.m.; back-to-school night, prekindergarten  grade 2, Sept. 10, 7-8 p.m.;
Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy, all students, Sept. 3, 7-8:30 p.m.;
Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, all students, Oct. 6, 6:30-8 p.m.;
Mary B. Neal, all students, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.;
J.C. Parks, all students, Sept. 3, 6:30-8 p.m.;
J.P. Ryon, all students, Sept. 10, 6:30-7:45 p.m.;
Eva Turner, all students, Sept. 1, 6:30-8 p.m.; and
William B. Wade, kindergarten  grade 2, Sept. 1, 6:30 p.m.; grades 3-5, Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m.

Middle schools
Theodore G. Davis, all students, Sept. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m.;
John Hanson, all students, Sept. 17, 3:30-5:30 p.m.;
Matthew Henson, back-to-school night, Sept. 16, 7-9:00 p.m.;
Mattawoman, all students, Sept. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m.;
Piccowaxen, all students, Sept. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.;
General Smallwood, all students, Sept. 17, 6-8 p.m.;
Milton M. Somers, all students, Sept. 17, 6-8 p.m.; and
Benjamin Stoddert, all students, Sept. 16, 6-8 p.m.

High schools
Henry E. Lackey, all students, Sept. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.;
La Plata, all students, Sept. 15, 7 p.m.;
Maurice J. McDonough, back-to-school night, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.;
North Point, all students, Sept. 22, 6:30 p.m.;
Thomas Stone, all students, Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m.; and
Westlake, all students, Sept. 21, 7 p.m.

Student Orientations Planned for Schools

Charles County Public Schools has released its student orientation schedule for the 2009-10 school year. Listed below are orientation dates and times, and other activities for schools.

New student orientations

**Note: All orientations are one hour unless otherwise noted**

Elementary schools

C.Paul Barnhart, kindergarten, Aug. 20, 2:30 p.m.; meet-the-teacher, Aug. 20, 3 p.m.;
Berry, community drop in, Aug. 20, 2-4 p.m.;
Dr. Gustavus Brown, meet and greet for new and returning students, Aug. 20, 1-2:30 p.m.;
Dr. James Craik, meet the teacher, Aug. 20, 3-5 p.m.;
William A. Diggs, kindergarten, Aug. 20, 10 a.m.; prekindergarten, Aug. 20, 11:30 a.m.; meet and greet, grades 1-5, 1 p.m.;
Gale-Bailey, kindergarten orientation, Aug. 20, 1 p.m.; meet and greet, Aug. 20, 2-3:30 p.m.;
Dr. Thomas L. Higdon, meet and greet, Aug. 21, 11 a.m.  12 p.m.; new student orientation, Aug. 21, 10-11 a.m.;
Indian Head, meet and greet, Aug. 21, 11 a.m.; Terrific Three's, Aug. 28, 2 p.m.; prekindergarten, Aug. 28, 2:30 p.m.;
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, new student and kindergarten, Aug. 20, 3 p.m.;
Malcolm, kindergarten, Aug. 21, 10-10:30 a.m.; grades 1-5 meet and greet, Aug. 21, 10 a.m.;
T. C. Martin, orientation, prekindergarten-grade 5, Aug. 21, 11 a.m.;
Mary H. Matula, meet and greet, Aug. 21, 9-11 a.m.;
Arthur Middleton, new students, Aug. 20, 3 p.m.; kindergarten, Aug. 20, 3:30 p.m.; prekindergarten, Aug. 28, 2:30 p.m.;
Walter J. Mitchell, meet and greet, Aug. 21, 10 a.m.;
Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy, community drop in, Aug. 20, 1-3 p.m.; Three's program and prekindergarten orientation, Aug. 27, 5-7 p.m.;
Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, meet the teacher, Aug. 20, 6-7:30 p.m.; kindergarten, Aug. 21, 10 a.m.;
Mary B. Neal, meet and greet, Aug. 21, 10 a.m.;
J. C. Parks, community drop in, Aug. 20, 2-4 p.m.;
J. P. Ryon, students new to the school, grades 1-5, Aug. 20, 1 p.m.; prekindergarten and kindergarten, Aug. 20, 2 p.m.;
Eva Turner, meet and greet, Aug. 20, 1:30-3 p.m.; and
William B. Wade, meet the teacher, Aug. 20, 3-5 p.m.; meet and greet for grades 1-5, 1 p.m.; and kindergarten, Aug. 21, 9 a.m.

Middle schools
Theodore G. Davis, new students, Aug. 19, 2-4 p.m.;
John Hanson, meet and greet, grade 6 and new students to the school, Aug. 19, 2-4 p.m.;
Matthew Henson, new students and grade 6, Aug. 20, 3:30-6 p.m.;
Mattawoman, new students and grade 6, Aug. 19, 12-2 p.m.;
Piccowaxen, new students, Aug. 19, 2:30-5 p.m.;
General Smallwood, meet and greet, Aug. 19, 2-4 p.m.;
Milton M. Somers, new students, Aug. 20, 4-6 p.m.; and
Benjamin Stoddert, new students and grade 6, Aug. 20, 4-6 p.m.

High schools
Henry E. Lackey, new students, Aug. 18, 6:30 p.m.;
La Plata, new students and grade 9, Aug. 20, 7 p.m.;
Maurice J. McDonough, new students, Aug. 20, 6:30 p.m.;
North Point, new students, Aug. 19, 6:30 p.m.;
Thomas Stone, new students, Aug. 20, 6:30 p.m.; and
Westlake, new students, Aug. 19, 7 p.m.