Thad Bench of Benchworks Appointed to Washington College Board

Thad Bench, CEO of the Chestertown-based international marketing and branding firm Benchworks, will be the newest member of Washington College’s Board of Visitors and Governors. Bench was nominated in May to Governor Larry Hogan for designation to one of the 12 governor-appointed seats on the 36-member board.

Bench, whose daughter Morgan graduated Washington College in 2018 with a double major in environmental studies and art and art history, has had a long relationship with the College, with many of its students getting hands-on experience as interns at Benchworks and alums signing on as full time employees, including Melissa Johnston ’98, Benchworks’ president.

As CEO of Benchworks, Inc., a family of companies that specializes in the health care and pharmaceutical industry, Bench is a seasoned executive with extensive experience in marketing, brand positioning, and product launch management. Under his leadership, Benchworks has grown sixfold since 2014 and has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies for the last four years.

Bench was named one of the 2016 ELITE 100 in the Entrepreneur category by PM360 magazine, an honor given to the 100 most influential people in the health care industry. He has managed hundreds of large-scale marketing initiatives for Fortune 500 companies with a particular emphasis in the pharmaceutical industry, including nine product launches. He has owned and continues to own a number of closely held family businesses, including manufacturing and distribution operations and commercial real estate holdings.

Bench graduated from Elmira College in 1984 and lives with his wife Renee in Chestertown.

Talbot County Board Of Education Approves FY20 Budget

The Board of Education finalized and approved the school system’s 2019-2020 budget at a special meeting held on Thursday May 30, 2019.  During their Work Session, the Board made the necessary $1.4 million in cuts from the original budget request. “This budget reflects our commitment to the Bridge of Excellence Master Plan, to the 2020 Vision Strategic Plan, and to the children of Talbot County,” said Dr. Kelly L. Griffith, Superintendent.

The total Operating Budget for the school district for the 2019-2020 school year will be $57,182,066. This represents an overall increase in operating revenues in the general unrestricted budget of 4.8% or $2.6 million.  “This increase will help us to meet the needs of each student attending the Talbot County Public School system by providing salary increases, additional staffing support, and the ability to offset increases in fixed charges,” added Dr. Griffith.   “We are grateful to the County Council for securing additional revenue sources to provide funding above maintenance of effort in the category of non-recurring costs as well as funding for the Easton Elementary School construction project,” Dr. Griffith added.

Through the budget development process, each school principal and department supervisor justified every dollar requested.   This process enabled the Superintendent, the Board of Education, and the general public to closely examine priorities. After a thorough evaluation of state and federal mandates, including the continued implementation for the State of Maryland’s College and Career Ready Standards, the Board chose to include some additional staffing and resources in the budget request to support these mandates.   

The final FY 20 budget will maintain everything in the FY19 budget plus the following approved additional items:

  • Salary increases for all staff of one step and 1.75% Cost of Living AdjustmentAdditional Staffing Positions:

2 English Language Learner Teachers
1 Gifted and Talented Teacher
1 Special Education
2.5 Classroom Teachers4 Instructional Assistants

  • Increases in Employee Benefit costs including a 4% increase in health insurance
  • Increases in overall insurance of organization, Special Education Services, and Judy Center
  • Renewal of Software licenses, additional funding for Curriculum/Environmental field trips and Extended Day Programs
  • One additional school bus lease
  • Mowers
  • $409,170 capital requests
  • Easton Elementary School Replacement Project

The following items from the original request were not included in the final version:

  • Four Teaching positions, two IA positions, and Grant Manager
  • Summer School
  • New Technology requests
  • Additional athletic requests
  • Additional requests for office supplies
  • Additional funding for professional development and stipends
  • $389,130 deferred maintenance/capital item requests

“We appreciate the community support, the educational partnerships, and the overall commitment of staff during the budget process.  Together we will address the challenges for higher academic standards and create essential conditions for learning to ensure each child will graduate college and career ready,” said Dr. Griffith.

To review the entire budget and for other information about Talbot County Public Schools, visit

Echo Hill Outdoor School’s Summer EXPLORE Programs Turn 40

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of Echo Hill Outdoor School’s summer EXPLORE programs. Since 1979, over 34,000 children have experienced the magic of the Chester River through EHOS’ immersive on-the-water canoe, skipjack and buyboat trips, as well as land-based programming.

40 years ago, EXPLORE started as an extension of EHOS’ existing school programming—a way to continue involving children in freeform nature experiences year-round. The first summer offered participants a chance to canoe and camp on the Chester River, and by 1983, the program was successful enough to expand to on-board camping experiences with two classic Bay workboats, the Annie D and the Bernice J. By 1988, the skipjack Elsworth replaced the aging Bernice J,  and since then, the EXPLORE programs have operated with the same recipe every summer—take a group of children, add the Chester River and a fleet of workboats or canoes, mix in a healthy dose of swimming, fishing, and exploring, and you’ve got an unforgettable summer experience.

Captain Andrew McCown, Associate Director of Echo Hill Outdoor School, has been working the summer EXPLORE programs since he started the program in 1979, and is a strong believer in the power of a ‘Huck Finn’ learning experience.

“After 40 years, my takeaway is that we’re fortunate to have a river that looks the way it does, that in the middle of the week with a group of kids it can feel the way it did 100 years ago,” says McCown. “On EXPLORE programs, we learn about the stars by sleeping under them, learn about fish by catching and preparing them, eat crabs when we’re hungry and sail when the wind is right. Every EXPLORE student really gets to experience the Land of Pleasant Living.”

This summer’s 40th EXPLORE session still has availability for interested participants. Children can enjoy a three-day camping trip, four- and five-day canoe trips, or five-day skipjack and buyboat trips. Parents or guardians can find out more by visiting or by calling 410-348-5880.

Echo Hill Outdoor School was established in 1972 in Kent County, Maryland. Today, more than 6,700 students and teachers from public and private schools annually visit EHOS School in our residential outdoor education programs, adventure programs, camps and day programs from March through mid-December. For more information, go to or call 410-348-5880.


Bill Would Provide Protections To Student Loan Borrowers

Wade Davis called Navient’s customer service in March, hoping to adjust the payment plan for his student loan. Davis, 36, and a freelance musician seeking full-time employment, said he couldn’t commit to his plan.
After telling a representative from Navient — one of the major student loan servicing companies — of his current financial situation, the representative informed him he would have to sign up for a month-to-month payment plan that Davis said isn’t feasible with his current financial situation.
Reiterating his financial struggles, Davis said he was frustrated with the representative whom he described as “rude” and “snarky” and who threatened litigation.
“They know what they are doing,” Davis said of the loan servicing company. “They have a license to treat people any way.”
A bill passed in the Maryland General Assembly would provide protections for Davis and other student loan borrowers who have complained of predatory behavior from loan servicers.
The legislation comes months after a report by the Maryland Office of the Inspector General claimed servicers placed borrowers in adverse situations.
House bill 594, sponsored by the late House Speaker Michael Busch, would prohibit student loan servicers from engaging in any deceptive practice — like giving false information to students or misapplying or refusing to correct misapplication of payments. The legislation was introduced at the request of Attorney General Brian Frosh.
The legislation would also require servicers respond to a written inquiry or complaint within 30 days and allow a Student Loan Ombudsman to refer complaints to the office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, the primary regulator of financial institutions in Maryland.
In 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — a U.S. governmental agency tasked with oversight of banks, lenders and other financial companies — sued Navient for what then-bureau Director Richard Cordray called “failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of the 878 complaints related to student loan servicing from Maryland borrowers, 402 are in regard to servicing problems by Navient.
While Davis, a Baltimore resident for the last 10 years, said he understands it is the job of servicing companies to receive payments from borrowers, he said he wasn’t appreciative of  what he believes was “predatory” behavior. He did not file a complaint, and said he was eventually placed on a new plan after tweeting directly to Navient and speaking with them again.
Navient did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Davis’ claims.
The Office of the Inspector General, an independent watchdog that oversees the U.S. Department of Education, released an audit in February regarding the department’s oversight of its student loan servicers.
The audit suggests the department did not do enough to hold servicers accountable when they strayed from their contracts.
According to the audit, 61 percent of reports showed noncompliance with federal requirements, including “failure to comply with requirements relevant to forbearances, deferments, income-driven repayment repayment, interest rates, due diligence, and consumer protection.”
The Department of Education hired eight loan servicers, private sector companies including Navient, to handle student loan repayment.
“I’ve never experienced a private loan (servicing) company that is out to see that you are performing well,” Davis said.
In response to the lawsuit filed by the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau, Federal Student Aid — which works in the Department of Education — requested an internal review of Navient’s practices.
When asked for response to the claims made by the Office of the Inspector General, Navient provided Capital News Service with a 2018 statement from the Department of Education that states the Federal Student Aid review “did not identify instances of systematic non-compliance, and did not result in findings, sanctions, or the establishment of a corrective action plan.”
According to written testimony submitted by the office of the Maryland Attorney General, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received 1,768 complaints regarding student loan servicers from Maryland borrowers.
Many of these complaints include issues over lost paperwork, misapplied payments, servicers failing to correct misapplications and lack of information regarding best options for repayment, according to the testimony. 
In student loan complaint documents provided to Capital News Service by the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, borrowers brought up issues including miscalculation of public student loan forgiveness payments, servicers “harassing” them for payments they didn’t owe and illegally garnishing wages.
According to the Institute for College Access & Success, an independent, nonprofit organization, 56 percent of Maryland students graduate with an average of $29,314 in debt.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection, student loan debt in the country has increased to $1.5 trillion.
Frosh called the legislation a “Student Borrower Bill of Rights” that outlines what servicers can and cannot do. According to written testimony from his office, similar guidelines have been set or are under consideration in at least 15 states.
Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, called the legislation a “critical bill” that would benefit students who have been subjected to a “range of predatory practices.”
Frotman, who previously served as the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said he worked with students and servicers to handle repayment. He said most complaints were regarding individuals who received bad information from servicers and was systemic of a larger issue across the country.
The passage of this legislation comes in the middle of a tug-of-war between state attorneys general and the Trump administration. On April 5, Frosh joined a group of almost two dozen attorneys general requesting that Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reverse the decision to keep student loan information from state law enforcement agencies.
“There is no legitimate reason for the Department of Education to halt student loan data sharing with state officials,” Frosh said in a press release. “The private companies contracted by the Department to service student loans are subject to state consumer protection laws, and the established practice of sharing certain student loan information helps states ensure these companies are complying with the law and borrowers are being treated fairly.”
By Daniel Oyefusi

TCPS Announces 2019-2020 Teacher and Support Staff of the Year

Kevin Carroll and Sindy Reyes

Talbot County Public Schools held a “star-studded” celebration honoring teachers and support staff and announced this year’s winners of Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year at the Milestone in Easton on April 11. The Teacher and Support Staff of the Year Program provides the opportunity to recognize outstanding educators who have innovative ideas, focus positive attention on education, and demonstrate superior commitment to students.

The 2019-2020 Talbot Teacher of the Year is Mr. Kevin Carroll. Mr. Carroll teaches Special Education Self-Contained/Functional Living Skills at Easton High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Special Education K-12 from Grand Canyon University and a Master of Arts in English (TESOL) in 2018. He began his career with TCPS as an Instructional Assistant in Special Education in 2008. Mr. Carroll’s responsibilities include conducting Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings and educational testing for students as well as Maryland State Alternative Testing for Special Ed and ELL. He plans and delivers Equity/CARE Professional Development for EHS staff, is the Department Chair for Special Education and serves as a Special Education Transition Coach. In addition, he is the TCPS Night School Manager for the Drop-out Prevention and Re-engagement program.

Mr. Carroll serves in numerous leadership roles advocating for and supporting all students. He is Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid Certified and is a Mentor to new Special Education Teachers.He has led Professional Development including a Courageous Conversations Summit and a workshop entitled “Voices of LGBTQ Students…What They Wish Their Teachers Knew.” He is an Easton High ELL Student Advocate/Mentor, assisting students with classroom assignment support, after school tutoring and college and career readiness and has worked in collaboration with Chesapeake College and the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center to develop a support group for ELL students.

Carroll has been recognized by parents through the Special Education Citizen Advisory Committee multiple times throughout his years working with special education students and their families. He has also been named the Giant Teacher of the Month and received Easton High’s Staff “R” for responsible Award.He has volunteered for Talbot Mentors and Special Olympics, and has served as Lead Director for YMCA Camp Lazy Days, a free 5 week summer camp for students with special needs.

Ms. Sindy Reyes has been chosen as the 2019-2020 Support Staff of the Year. Ms. Reyes is an English as a Second Language Instructional Assistant at Easton Elementary – Dobson, where she provides English language support services for kindergarten and newcomer students. A qualified English/Spanish Interpreter, she also assists with enrollment, parent-teacher conferences, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings, and special events.

Ms. Reyes has a degree in Elementary Education from Colegio Ana Geurra de Jesus, El Salvador and a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of El Salvador. She has also earned an Associate of Arts from Chesapeake College. She has worked for Talbot County Public Schools since 2001.In addition to her work at Easton Elementary, Ms. Reyes is a tutor at the Easton High Nigh School and an Equity Team member at EES Dobson.

Reyes is also very active in the community having served on the Affordable Housing Program Board since 2001 and on the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center Board. She holds leadership roles at the Iglesia Evangelica Emanuel in Easton MD as a worship leader, Sunday School teacher and Vacation Bible School coordinator.

“The quote, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’, describes these two individuals.” said Dr. Kelly Griffith, Superintendent. “They each work at different ends of the educational spectrum, with Sindy serving our youngest and Kevin serving 14- 21 year-olds. Then at the end of the school day they work collaboratively to provide educational support for night school students.Both are so well deserving of this distinguished recognition for the commitment and passion they bring to TCPS! Congratulations to all of the nominees and finalists for making a difference in the lives of children.”

The finalists for both Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year were also recognized at the celebration.

Teacher of the Year Finalists: Lynn Aleman, fourth grade and ESOL teacher at EES – Moton; Christopher Flaherty, Instrumental Music Teacher and Band Directors at SMMHS, Caitlin McKee, Special Education Teacher, Easton Elementary – Dobson.

Support Staff of the Year Finalists: Anne McCauley, Behavior Counselor; Jennifer Miller, Senior Computer Technician; Quanesha Miller, Instructional Assistant, EES – Moton.

Kent School Kicks Off Campaign at 50th Anniversary Event

On Saturday, April 6, Kent School celebrated its 50th Anniversary with an incredible Gala at Brittland Estates in Chestertown. The event served to honor the legacy of Kent School, reflect on the present and imagine the future.

At the Gala, we announced the launch of Together We Soar: The 50th Anniversary Campaign for Kent School. This $2.3M effort will support the Endowment and a Middle School Renovation creating new spaces for Academics, Science and the Visual and Performing Arts. Kent School’s mission is to guide its students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence. The campaign will enrich the educational experience offered at Kent School by providing an even stronger foundation for all of its students.

Together We Soar will add an additional $1M to our Endowment, which will allow us to continue to be the best that we can be for generations to come. Our Endowment supports student financial assistance, employee compensation, professional development, and the Kudner Leyon Visiting Writers’ Program. Our Endowment efforts have been strengthened by a generous donor’s challenge which commits to matching funds of $200,000. The School is pleased to report that it is halfway to its Endowment goal.

In addition, Together We Soar seeks to raise $1M to fund a re-imagining of the Deborah C. Williams Middle School and existing visual and performing arts spaces. A two story addition is planned to meet our program needs. We are working with Albert Rubeling of JMT Architecture on the design. Our goal is to complete a STEAM Innovation Center with a new Middle School Academic Wing, as well as a new Performing Arts Wing on the second floor of the M.V. “Mike” Williams Gymnasium.

Nancy Mugele, Head of Kent School said, “I am so grateful for the visionary men and women on Kent School’s Founding Board, especially Founding Board President Ben P. Gale and Founding Headmistress Joan C. Merriken for their tenacity, resilience and perseverance in leading this institution. It is only fitting that the first gift to this campaign was made by the estate of Joan C. Merriken.

Joan wrote:

Perhaps the most rewarding part of my job is watching the intellectual, moral, and personal growth of every Kent School student. I am always proud of their academic success, but seeing what fine young people they become pleases me even more. Learning to define one’s standards and values is an integral part of the curriculum, and it will continue to be.

This statement greatly inspires me and I will work tirelessly to ensure its continuation well into our next 50 years. I believe in the transformative power of a Kent School education and I believe that together we can accomplish anything we set our minds to do!”

Kent School is not the same school it was 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Schools need to grow and develop just as our students must. We know more today about how students learn and think, and our knowledge in mind, brain and education science informs pedagogy and our understanding of best practices in education.

Kent School maintains deeply ingrained traditions that bridge generations, forever joining our students and alumni together, and preserving the very best parts of our extraordinary Kent School spirit. The best schools – Kent School included – balance achievements and progress in ways that fully embrace their history, while also embracing the opportunities that exist in our diverse world. The power of our spirit, our community connections, and the balance of tradition and leading edge prpg, will propel us steadfastly into our next half century.

Kent School, located on the bank of the Chester River in historic Chestertown, is an independent school serving boys and girls in Preschool through Grade Eight. Kent School is celebrating fifty years of excellence in education in an unparalleled learning environment. The School’s mission is to guide our students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence. Our School’s family-oriented, supportive, student-centered environment fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world. For more information on Kent School’s Fiftieth Anniversary Campaign, Together We Soar visit

Spy Time Machine: A Vincent Hynson Scholar in 2011 Plans for College and Career

In today’s Spy, there is a short interview with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s project manager Darius Johnson on an upcoming planning conference on traffic problems and solutions for Bay Bridge congestion. We encourage our readers to view this conversation here to learn more about this important program.

In the middle of our interesting chat about one of the Spy’s favorite subjects, there was a wave of emotion as the interviewer had a momentary flashback to one of the early stories of the Spy in the 2011. Eight years ago, we met Darius and his father, Barry, in front of Sam’s shortly after he had received news that he had been awarded Washington College’s Vincent Hynson Memorial Scholarship. Just a few weeks from graduating from Kent County High School, Darius talked about his hopes for college life and career aspirations.

Fast forward to the spring of 2019 and the Spy found a unmistakable  joy in seeing this young man well on his way in serving the Mid-Shore he loves so most. The full circle of Darius’ journey  speaks volumes about the benefits of higher education, but more so much about Kent County schools, Washington College, and most importantly, the impact of hundreds in our community who gave time and resources to make it possible for Vincent Hynson’s memory to be so brilliantly celebrated.

We have reposted our article from May 30, 2011 below.


Kent County High School Senior Darius Johnson is looking forward to attending Washington College for the 2011-2012 school year. But he won’t have to travel far for a home-cooked meal or to get some laundry done. Darius will live on campus, but his home is just a few miles away in Worton.

Darius won the 2011 Vincent Hynson scholarship, established by former Washington College President Baird Tipson. The scholarship honors the life and achievement of local pastor, teacher, and WC graduate, Vincent Hynson, whose leadership in the community made a difference in the lives of Kent County’s youth and his congregation.

Before the big graduation day, Saturday, June 4, the Spy asked Darius to answer a brief questionnaire on his recent achievements and his decision to stay home for his college years.

Darius Johnson and father Barry Johnson

Question: Besides winning the Vincent Hynson Scholarship, what are among your greatest personal and academic achievements at Kent County High School, what will you remember most about your years at KCHS?

Answer: I would have to say being inducted into the National Honor Society and being voted Most likely to Be Successful by my peers. The NHS is an achievement that basically speaks for itself, and being recognized by those my own age as Most Likely To Be Successful makes me feel like all my hard work has not gone unnoticed. I feel that when one’s peers acknowledge another’s accomplishments, it is a big deal. It is usually adults who show acknowledgment. Honestly, the connections I’ve made with so many people at KCHS will be in my mind forever – the staff, and my friends. I get along well with the majority of the people no matter the age. I’ve became more of a people person throughout my four years at KCHS and I have built some strong relationships.

Question: Most young men your age want to go away to school, why did you decide to stay home to attend college?

Answer: Originally, I did want to get away from Kent County because I felt like it was the thing to do. Everyone else I was friends with has done it or aspired to do it. Hence, why I applied to Drexel University and Mount St. Mary’s. It was not until Fall of my Senior year that I realized that moving away does not determine one’s college experience. I believe college is as enjoyable as one makes it, and I could enjoy WC as much as any other college. I ultimately chose WC because I loved the atmosphere. It fit my laid-back personality and it has a huge variety of people from all over the country. Living on campus will still provide me with the college experience I yearn for, while also staying connected with my roots. So I feel as if I am getting the best of both worlds.

Question: Explain your relationship with your parents, and how that influenced you in your success. What golden rules did they teach you as you grew to be a successful young man?

Answer: My parents are amazing people. They always encourage me to do my best, but never force me to do anything I am uncomfortable with. They are the type of people to teach by example and work hard towards the goals, which naturally was instilled in me. They set a good foundation for their lives by knowing and following their priorities, leading to us living comfortable and happy lives. I’ve learned to always stick by my friends, family and morals in life. To always keep a level head and an open mind. The examples they have provided me with have shaped me into who I am today.

What will your major be at WC, and why did you select the major?

Answer: As of now, I want to major in Criminal Justice or some form of Law. I have always been interested in law and with how the world is today, I cannot help but want to make it a better and safer place. Just looking at the news and seeing all the stories about crime really upset me. I may be only one person, but even one person can make some kind of a difference, and I hope to have a part in fighting against those with a disregard for the law. It seems to be getting worse with the murders and kidnappings of young children, gang violence, and hate crimes. I hate to see someone get hurt, especially if they have no reason for such wrath.

Question: What are your plans after college – do you plan to study abroad, go onto a Master’s degree program, or begin a career?

Answer: After college I plan to go onto a Master’s degree program. I believe I should go as far as I can take myself with my education, so I can put myself into a better position for finding a career. Eventually, I hope to end up working in the Department of Justice.



Maryland’s Congressional Delegation Voices Support for Kirwan Commission Goals

Maryland’s congressional delegation has voiced strong support for a sweeping plan to reform the state’s educational system.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has been investigating how to improve Maryland’s public schools for more than two years.

In a meeting in the House Tuesday with some of the state’s congressional delegation, commission chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan, former president of the University of Maryland, College Park and former chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said the state’s educational system is “mediocre” and more needs to be done to strengthen it.

“We are at a huge crossroads moment for our state,” Kirwan said. “One of the hurdles we have to overcome is the complacency about the quality of our education.”

One problem the commission has identified is insufficient financial support for schools located in low-income areas.

“We just aren’t investing enough money as other states and other countries do in these schools,” Kirwan said.

The commission is recommending expanding access to high-quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds and career and technical education for high schoolers.

Another top concern of the commission is the high turnover rate for teachers in the state. According to Kirwan, 47 percent of second-year teachers do not return for a third year.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said “elevating the profession of teaching as a high profession with adequate training and compensation” is imperative to improving the quality of education in the state.

The commission is currently requesting $3.8 billion for the necessary improvements. Cardin said this money would be phased in over a ten-year period in a “fiscally responsible manner.”

Kirwan said he expects the Maryland General Assembly to address several of the commission’s findings in the coming weeks. No significant legislation, though, is expected until next year’s legislative session as the commission continues to work through the fall of 2019.

Kirwan said the leaders of the Maryland General Assembly are committed to considering legislation that implements the recommendations of the commission.

The delegation members made it clear that they consider education reform one of their highest priorities at the state and federal level.

“I think implementing the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission (has) to be the top, number one priority of the state,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said “the greatest threat to our national security is our failure to properly educate every single one of our children.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a statement that “we must ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed, from early childhood education through secondary education.”

“It is critically important that we bolster school readiness and college and career readiness as well as address disparities for students of color and students in low-income communities,” Hoyer added. “The delegation is committed to supporting the implementation of Dr. Kirwan’s recommendations and working with local leaders and stakeholders to improve public education in our state.”

By Carolina Velloso


Kirwan Maryland Education Commission Chair gives Recommendations to Lawmakers

Parents can expect to see advances in pre-K, tutoring and special education first, among all of the recommendations of a statewide education reform panel, according to its namesake chairman, William “Brit” Kirwan.

“What parents will see is just a steady drumbeat of improvement in the experiences that their children are having in the schools,” Kirwan told Capital News Service.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, or Kirwan Commission, finalized in December its recommendations and costs to fix large achievement gaps, boost school funding for poorer students, and improve teacher retention for Maryland public schools from 2020 to 2030.

Determining the geographic distribution of the funds is the next step for the commission, which presented an overview of its $3.8 billion plan to a joint legislative committee on Thursday.

“We will see a school system in Maryland that will be the envy of the country and perform at the level of the best performing systems around the world,” if all the recommendations are funded, Kirwan said.

Kirwan said the commission wants $325 million to jumpstart the program this year; Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, R, has allocated $235.8 million in his fiscal year 2020 budget proposal.

Kirwan said the commission is focusing on five major policy areas to be incorporated into the Maryland school system over the next 10 years: Investing in early childhood education; elevating teaching into a high-status profession; creating college and career-ready pathways; ensuring all students have equal access to education; and implementing an oversight board for accountability.

“We have to think of this as a carefully quilted package of initiatives that fit together as a whole,” Kirwan said.

Steven Hershkowitz, policy director of the Maryland State Education Association, said under current funding formulas, free public pre-K is only available to 4-year-olds at income levels 185 percent of the poverty line or below.

Hershkowitz said with the Kirwan plan, free access for public programs would also include 3-year-olds, and expand to income levels at 300 percent of the poverty line or below.

An expanded pre-K program and revamping how college preparedness tests works by creating a 10th grade test that determines career readiness would create new pathways to success for students, Hershkowitz said.

Hershkowitz said the teachers union is more supportive than frustrated by the Kirwan recommendations, but said he is concerned about requiring National Board Certification for teachers.

He said there is no state that has come close to making all teachers reach the “gold-standard,” of certification.

“It’s not a route that every teacher wants to take,” Hershkowitz said. “We would like there to still be more options for teachers.”

Kirwan told lawmakers that Massachusetts, which launched education reform in 1993, was an example for the committee’s recommendations.

The changes increased state aid to schools, set higher goals for academic achievement, and required more accountability in the education system, three points the Maryland plan includes.

However, Sen. Arthur Ellis, D-Charles, said in Massachusetts, minority communities did not excel following the changes; a study released in September found black and Latino students trailed behind white students in reading, grade and income level.

“We have a lot of low income, minority, rural communities left out of the progress,” said Ellis.

Ellis said Kirwan’s recommendations of wrap-around services at community schools that provide mental health, nutrition and physical support in the school building would be a “tremendous solution.”

“A kid shows up and they’re hungry, they’re not going to learn,” said Ellis.

Hershkowitz said Kirwan’s planned investments into a community-school model would be prioritized for areas with high concentrations of poverty.

Sen. Jack Bailey, R-Calvert and St. Mary’s, said a 2016 study showed recommendations for St. Mary’s County would cause a 5 percent increase in funding, but still put them on the same level playing field as other counties.

“Obviously we want a world-class education, but we want a funding formula that works for us, especially in rural counties,” said Bailey. “We want equality.”

Kirwan said Massachusetts’ shortcomings among minorities made the commission “place laser-like focus on equity.”

“We’ve learned from what Massachusetts didn’t do,” said Kirwan. “We can’t leave any kid behind, this has to be for all of our children.”

He said equality was one of the most important recommendations, and told lawmakers that in the plan, more resources would be portioned to schools with high concentrations of impoverished students.

Finding a revenue stream is the third stage of the Kirwan plan, and would be up to the Legislature, Hershkowitz said.

“Education, education, education,” would be the Legislature’s top priority for the 2019 session, Senate President Mike Miller, D-Prince George, Charles and Calvert said earlier this month.

Legislators have tossed around multiple ideas on how to raise the revenue required for the commission, from legalization of marijuana to sports betting.

Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, have both entertained the idea of legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.

“I think that’s (recreational marijuana is) the future,” Busch said earlier this month. “It will be much like overturning prohibition.”

But Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said last week she is concerned about budgetary consequences with the state losing an estimated $1.3 million to $1.5 million a day due to the government shutdown.

“I think we have to be careful, and we will be,” said McIntosh.

Kirwan said he recognizes the General Assembly has to deal with the realities of spending affordability and said he hopes they will do all they can to fund the recommendations.

Kirwan said Maryland’s economic future is dependent on a well educated workforce, and that high quality education is the only path out of poverty.

“We can’t afford not to do this,” said Kirwan.

By David Jahng

Industry Need Prompts Marine Tech Training at Chesapeake College

Chesapeake College is establishing a marine technician lab on the Wye Mills Campus. Pictured here are Anthony Depasquale, Rob Marsh, Cliff Coppersmith, John McNally, and Tom Ellis.

In response to area employer demand, Chesapeake College is launching marine technician training designed to prepare students for careers in the marine service industry.

“With abundant waterways and marine industry heritage, the Eastern Shore needs technicians to support both commercial and recreational boating,” said President Cliff Coppersmith. “We’re committed to meeting the needs of area employers, and pleased that we could respond so quickly to provide marine technician training.”   

Local employers are already behind the training initiative. With a recent $10,000 donation from Rob Marsh of Wye River Marine in Chester, Chesapeake created a Marine Technician Lab and will offer a Yamaha Outboard Motor Certification class this winter.

“Wye River Marine is very excited about our new education partnership with Chesapeake College and Yamaha Outboard,” Marsh said. “The local marine industry is in desperate need of quality trained technicians. This new program will help provide a crucial first step to the area’s marine dealerships’ employment needs.”

Tom Ellis, Chesapeake’s Director of Skilled Trades, has been meeting with area employers to learn about workforce opportunities and training needs. After Marsh urged Chesapeake to develop a marine technician program, the college conducted a survey of local businesses in the marine industry.

“We had overwhelming response. Employers talked about a critical shortage of trained technicians and said they would absolutely hire students if we developed a program,” Ellis said. “The message was clear and things were lining up.  We had an industry need, a market standard curriculum from Yamaha, a generous donor willing to help us get started, and a great instructor ready to teach.”

The next step is enrolling students in the first course. The introductory class, Marine Outboard Engine Systems, begins on Feb. 19.  The two- month class provides a basic understanding of outboard motors and maintenance. No prior experience is required for the course. The course ends with a certification exam.

“The Yamaha Introduction to Outboard Service is designed for the entry-level technician. It will teach the basic skills needed to become a marine technician today. After completing this course and taking

the Yamaha ITOS certification test, students will have a Yamaha Outboard Certification to start their career,” said Anthony Depasquale, District Service Manager for Yamaha Motor Corporation.

John McNally, U.S. Coast Guard Machinery Technician 2nd Class, has 16 years of marine experience and will be the course instructor.

Offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5- 8 pm on the Wye Mills campus, the class is open to students 16 years and older.  The next section will begin on June 4. Registration is now open for both course sections.

The donation from Wye River Marine funded creation of a Marine Technician Lab in the Manufacturing Training Center. The lab, includes four workstations, each with an outboard motor and full complement of tools.

Ellis said future courses could include advanced engine mechanics, electrical systems, diesel engines, marine HVAC and plumbing, and composites for hull repair.

For more information about the marine service or other skills trades training, please contact  Learn more at





About Chesapeake College

Founded in 1965 as Maryland’s first regional community college, Chesapeake serves five Eastern Shore counties – Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot. With more than 130,000 alumnae, Chesapeake has 2,300 students and almost 10,000 people enrolled in continuing education programs.

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