Gunston Competes in Academic Team National Championships

For the first time in school history, Gunston’s Academic Team competed in the in the National Association of Quiz Tournaments national championship tournament, held in Chicago at the end of April. Drawing many of the strongest academic secondary schools from across the country, the NAQT tournament is the premier academic quiz bowl tournament in the United States. The Herons finished 20th overall in the Charter and Private division. The team initially qualified for nationals at the Johns Hopkins Winter Tournament, and were led by Seniors Abigail Miller (Easton) and Sutter Phillips (Stevensville), Sophomore Phineas Howell (Chestertown) and Freshman Andrew Amygdalos (Dover, DE).

Pictured left to right: Phineas Howell, Headmaster John Lewis, Sutter Phillips, Abigail Miller, Andrew Amygdalos.

Gunston’s academic team coach, Headmaster John Lewis, said, “The team has worked incredibly hard all year, and it was fun to match wits with some of the best students in the country. They worked well as a team, and though we will miss Sutter and Abby, we look forward to heading back to nationals next year.”

The performance of Freshman Andrew Amygdalos was especially impressive. In a field typically dominated by 11th and 12th graders, he ranked as the 35th overall individual tournament scorer, making him one of the strongest 9th grade academic team players in the country.

Schools System Proposes Report Card and Grading Changes

Talbot County Public Schools presented proposed revisions to the elementary student report cards and the grading system for grades 3 -12 at the May Board of Education meeting.

TCPS established a grading committee during the 2015-2016 school year comprised of three subcommittees, Early Childhood (PreK-2), Elementary (3-5), and Secondary (6-12). Each subcommittee included teachers, administrators, curriculum staff, and parents. All schools, along with a cross section of content areas were represented.

The impetus for establishing the grading committee was two-fold:
• Examine and reflect on current grading practices in light of College and Career Readiness
• Answer the question “Is there a better way to do this?”

The work of the committee was guided by the belief that grades must represent what students know and are able to do. “Our primary role as educators is to promote learning; and therefore, our grading practices must support student motivation to learn,” said Helga Einhorn, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

The Early Childhood subcommittee is recommending revisions to the report cards for PreK-grade 2 so that they are more aligned with the Maryland State Standards and the curriculum currently taught. Each proposed primary report card includes the same major headings for curriculum areas in addition to a personal/social development component. The key for levels of proficiency is also the same for all of the primary grades with a 1-4 level designation, as compared with the current three levels. Each grade level report card also includes a place for teachers to write comments specific to student progress.

The Elementary subcommittee is recommending three changes to the proposed report card for grades 3-5. This includes the addition of the personal/social development skills. The second change is the inclusion of a text box for teachers to include specific feedback on individual student progress. The third change is the reporting of student progress as a letter grade rather than the current percentage grade system.

The Secondary Grading subcommittee is also recommending the shift from percentage grades to letter grades on report cards. The committee concluded in their research that percentage grades, while appearing precise, are impacted by many factors, which can include the point values assigned to a specific task, the number of assignments recorded, and whether an assignment is a formative or summative.

With the proposed change to letter grades, parents and students would continue to see percentage grades in Power School, but interims, report cards, and transcript will report letter grades.
A= 90-100%
B= 80-89%
C= 70-79%
D= 60-69%
F= 59% and below

Final grade would be calculated using quality points (0-4)

The next steps in the grading committee process will be to determine how these changes would be reflected in 9.25 Student Progress Report to Parents-AR; identify additional policies and ARs that would be impacted; and continue to gather feedback from parents. Questions regarding the proposed recommendations or feedback should be directed to Dr. Einhorn at or (410)822-0330 ext. 120.

Committee Selects Architect for New Easton Elementary School

The Board of Education approved the recommendation made by TCPS Facilities Manager Kevin Shafer on behalf of the Easton Elementary School Project Steering Committee to pursue a contract for engineering and design services for the project with Noelker and Hull Associates, Inc., a firm based in Frederick, MD.

The Project Steering Committee was comprised of representatives from the Talbot County Council, the Board of Education, the NAACP, TCPS Staff, school administrators, and parents.

Noelker and Hull is one of three firms asked to participate in the Request for Proposal (RFP) Process.  Each participating firm submitted a 50-page proposal.  Each firm’s design team subsequently went through a 50-minute interview process.

Through that process committee members ranked the three firms using a matrix of criteria.  Once the ranking was complete, each firm’s fee proposal was reviewed.  Noelker and Hull was selected based on both the fee proposal and the committee’s rankings.

The two other firms that participated in the RFP Process were Becker Morgan Group, Inc. and Grimm and Parker Architects.  “All three firms were represented well in the process,” said Shafer.  “The committee’s decision was difficult because of the quality submissions by all three firms.”

TCPS Announces Last Day of School for 2016-2017

Talbot County Public Schools recently announced that the last day of school for the 2016-2017 school year will be Wednesday June 7, 2017, and this will be half day. The last day for Pre-Kindergarten will be Friday June 2. This represents a change from the original approved calendar, as the school system did not use all of the built-in inclement weather days.

White Marsh Students Raise “Pennies for Patients”

Tracey Dickerson’s 4th grade class raised the most funds and earned a Pizza Party from Olive Garden (pictured, with Guidance Counselor Anne Rosen and Principal Sherry Bowen).

White Marsh Elementary students participated in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Pennies for Patients fundraiser, program that gives students the unique experience of working together to help raise awareness and funds in honor of thousands of children and adults fighting against blood cancers! For 3 weeks, students brought in spare change and bills to donate to this worthy cause raising a total of $2,696.32. Ten classrooms raised over $100, 2 raised over $200, and Mrs. Dickerson’s Grade 4 class collected $309.45 winning the gold pennant and a pizza part from Domino’s. The students, parents, grandparents and the White Marsh community as a whole really pitched in to make this effort a success. Thanks to all involved, they exceeded their original goal of $2,000!

Other medal winning classes were:
Mrs. Gencel’s 4th Grade                 $283.51 (silver)
Dr. Davis’ 5th Grade                        $244.11 (silver)
Mrs. Tuckers’ K class                       $112.78 (bronze)
Mrs. Bryan’s 1st Grade                    $114.70 (bronze)
Ms. Ryan’s 1st Grade                       $108.02 (bronze)
Mrs. Shafer’s 1st Grade                   $191.63 (bronze)
Mrs. Weems 2nd Grade                  $160.12 (bronze)
Mr. Elliott’s 3rd Grade                    $138.32 (bronze)
Mrs. Johnson’s 3rd Grade              $172.12 (bronze)
Ms. Miller’s 3rd Grade                    $139.20 (bronze)
Mrs. Thomson’s 4th Grade            $162.05 (bronze)
Mrs. Dyott’s 5th Grade                   $105.83 (bronze)

Caleb Erskine is Easton High’s May Artist of the Month

Pictured L-R: Linda Wieder, Easton High School Assistant Principal; Caleb Erskine; Will Callahan from Ben Franklin; Jonathan Crist, EHS Fine Arts Teacher.

Senior Caleb Erskine has been selected as the “Ben Franklin Artist of the Month” at Easton High School.  This partnership has made it possible to celebrate some of the many talented art students at EHS.

Third Graders Explore the Izaak Walton League’s Bolingbroke Park in Trappe

“I found a salamander!” Over the past 25 years, third-graders from Talbot County Public Schools have been visiting the Izaak Walton League’s Bolingbroke Park in Trappe for a field experience led by Pickering Creek Audubon Center educators. The trip is an exciting change of scenery for the students who visit different parts of the Audubon sanctuary’s 400 acres in first and second grades.

During the visit to Bolingbroke Park, students rotate through three stations making observations and asking questions all along the way. While hiking through a diverse forest, students look for trees in every stage of growth – from saplings, to mature trees, to standing dead trees to fallen, decomposing logs. At another station, they spend time rolling over those logs where they find small animals like beetles, worms and red-backed salamanders. The students also spend some time holding and looking at signs of animals they might find in the forest including mammal skulls, furs, snake skins and live turtles.

Mrs. Higginbottom’s 3rd grade students cross a footbridge at the Izaak Walton League’s Bolingbroke Park.

“While on our hike, students are always so excited to show me they found a young seedling,” reflected Annie Weishaar, one of Pickering Creek’s educators after a field trip this week. “I love seeing my students so eager to learn about trees!”

Field experiences give students an opportunity to practice using scientific observation skills that deepen their understanding about wildlife. As a bonus, everyone loves the chance to gasp at a snake slithering up a tree branch!

Third grade field experiences with Talbot County Public Schools students at Bolingbroke Park led by Pickering Creek Audubon Center will be taking place through the middle of April. The programs fit into the third grade science curriculum and connect what to students learn in the classroom to the natural world outdoors. Educators of all age groups looking for student field experiences can call Pickering Creek at 410-822-4903 to begin planning for the 2017-2018 school year.

Bolingbroke Park is a 55 acre wooded tract maintained by the Mid-Shore Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA).  IWLA is a national conservation organization and is focused on conserving and protecting our natural resources.  Pickering Creek has been partnering with the Izaak Walton League to bring third grade students to their unique property for the last 25 years.

Talbot High Schools Moving PSAT to 9th Grade

Beginning in the fall of 2017, TCPS will phase out administration of the Pre-SAT (PSAT) exam to all 10th graders, and replace it with the PSAT 8/9. By shifting PSAT administration from 10th grade to 9th, the benefits of the PSAT experience will be available a year earlier in students’ high school careers.

PSAT provides students (and TCPS) with an evaluation of their preparedness for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The SAT is an internationally recognized exam that is required for admission by many college and universities. Based on their results, PSAT provides students with free Khan Academy online SAT Prep materials that are customized to enhance areas of strength and help improve on areas of weakness.

“In addition to helping students prepare for SAT, the PSAT also provides students and parents with information about college and career options, scholarship opportunities, and Advanced Placement (AP) courses that students should consider taking in high school,” said Tom Callahan, College Readiness Supervisor for TCPS.  “Having this information in 9th grade will help them make more informed and strategic decisions about their course schedules and college searches.”

This fall, TCPS will administer PSAT to both 9th and 10th graders so that all students will be able to take advantage of the benefits, but after this year only 9th graders will be taking the assessment.  As in the past, the PSAT for 9th and 10th graders will be provided at no cost to students.

Student in 11th grade who wish to take the PSAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) will still be able to do so, at nominal cost.

Students and parents with questions about the PSAT should contact their school guidance counselor.

Benedictine Elects Fletcher to its Board of Trustees

The Benedictine Foundation has appointed Thad Fletcher of Millersville, Md., its board of trustees..

“Fletcher is highly qualified professional financial manager devoted to the cause of helping people with disabilities,” said Scott Evans, executive director of Benedictine. “His experience, integrity, and commitment are essential to Benedictine’s success,” Evans added.  Fletcher most recently served as a member of the Foundation’s Investment Committee.

Fletcher is a partner at Cooke & Bieler, L.P., where he is responsible for client service and business development. He joined the firm in 2002. Prior to joining Cooke & Bieler, he was a principal with Columbia Partners in Washington, D.C., focusing on public funds marketing and client service. Mr. Fletcher was also a vice president at ASB Capital Management. He was involved in equity research and economic analysis at DRI/McGraw-Hill and Wharton Econometric Forecasting Association.

Fletcher earned an M.B.A. degree in Finance from The Wharton School of Business. He graduated from the Georgetown University with a B.S. degree in Mathematics. While a student at Georgetown, Mr. Fletcher was a member of Sports International Track Club’s indoor mile relay team.

The Benedictine Foundation board of trustees is composed of family and community members with valuable expertise in educational, political, corporate and legal arenas. The mission of the Foundation is to secure the resources needed to assure the success and future Benedictine.

About Benedictine

Providing opportunity to live meaningful, productive lives in communities of choice, Benedictine helps children and adults with developmental disabilities reach their greatest potential without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, or age.

Williamson Receives Benedictine’s 2017 Sister Jeannette Award

Debbi Williamson (center), Scott Evans (right), executive director of Benedictine, and Patrick “Ben” Denihan, president of the Benedictine board of directors.

Greensboro resident Debbi Williamson was honored with the coveted Sister Jeannette award during the Benedictine Foundation’s annual Spring Benefit weekend, April 28-30, at the Tidewater Inn, Easton.

Williamson, a special education teacher at the Benedictine School, joined the Ridgely-based organization in 1985.

“Debbi is an excellent example of the best of Sister Jeannette and exemplifies the Benedictine values. She truly cares for our students and her coworkers. It shows in every aspect of her work,” noted Scott Evans, Benedictine’s executive director, during the April 29 awards presentation.The award is named for the former director of the Benedictine School, Sister Jeannette Murray, OSB.

“Debbi’s greatest demonstration of her compassionate caring can be seen in her efforts to continue religious education for our students. She volunteers her time, unsolicited, to come in on weekends to lead prayer service for students who want to participate. She has done this for years but has taken more of a lead with it recently as the Sisters of Saint Benedict no longer have a regular priest on campus. Debbi does this quietly without any expectation of reward other than to share her beliefs and our legacy with others,” Evans added.

Williamson was also lauded for her work with campus horticulture. “She helped obtain a grant for the planting of 100 new trees on campus in October 2015 through the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, organizing volunteers, students and the Benedictine Sisters to help plant the trees throughout campus. Over the past couple of months she’s mulched and weeded the trees on her own time.”

“Debbi has touched the lives of many students over her 32 years with Benedictine. She knows many of the adult individuals in our program and their families and reaches out to students who aren’t in her class just to be an added friendly face. She truly embodies the spirit of the Sister Jeannette Award and is a shining example of the core values of Benedictine,” Evans concluded.

Providing opportunity to live meaningful, productive lives in communities of choice, Benedictine helps children and adults with developmental disabilities reach their greatest potential without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, or age.