WFES West Friendship Elementary School on Nov. 14, 2016.

Learning and Leading with Equity: A Bold New Strategic Call to Action

As Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) staff returns to kick off a new school year, I am excited for the journey ahead of us. Our work as educators will be driven by our mission to ensure academic success and social-emotional well-being for each student in an equitable and nurturing environment that closes opportunity gaps.

Last week, I issued a bold new Strategic Call to Action to guide our work: Learning and Leading with Equity: The Fierce Urgency of Now. This vision, built on equity, is fueled by the belief that every student possesses the skills, knowledge and confidence to lead a successful life and positively influence the larger community.

In collaboration with schools, families and community partners, together we can deliver on these four overarching commitments.

Students and staff will thrive in a safe, nurturing and inclusive culture that embraces diversity. We will support students’ social-emotional development and build healthy school relationships through restorative practices. We will also better reflect diversity and inclusion through our curriculum and staff hiring.

Every HCPSS stakeholder will feel happy and rewarded in their roles and take pride in cultivating the learning community. Equity and relationships will be at the foundation of all decisions and actions. We are establishing a school culture where every child feels heard, starting with community-building classroom activities the first week of school. We look forward to further building trust with parents, guardians and community members as our active partners in education.

Schools, families and the community will be mutually invested in student achievement and well-being. We will ensure graduation rates and college credit or industry certification opportunities are exemplary and equitable. All students entering kindergarten will be ready to learn, and special education services will be consistent across the county. As educators and community members, we will work to combat bullying and keep all children safe from such wounds.

An individualized focus will support every person in reaching milestones for success. For students, this means providing high-quality education that meets individual needs, using assessments that can direct instructional planning and graduating students prepared for meaningful employment. We will ensure staff are most effective in their roles with access to professional learning opportunities.

The connections we establish by valuing our students, families and colleagues will empower our children to achieve success. All our operations will be responsive, accountable, efficient and student-centered.

We are pushing forward with greater urgency to ensure that every student reaches their full potential in the classroom and beyond. I am honored to have a tremendous team across this great county that possesses the passion and skill to lead us in this effort. I look forward to working with you over the coming months on the specific actions and measures that will lead us toward each desired outcome for HCPSS.

Clemens Crossing Elementary School

School Safety First

As I begin my first full school year leading the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), I have made it a top priority to ensure every child receives the support they need to reach their potential. In order to thrive academically and with their social-emotional skills, every student must feel safe in their school environment. All schools use the LobbyGuard visitor management system to verify every school visitor is authorized to enter the building. I have directed staff to implement consistent and more comprehensive check-in procedures, so our community can collectively do everything in our power to protect our children.

LobbyGuard As we follow best practices to safeguard students and staff members in every building, our parents and community members might notice some changes in their school visitor experience. Visitors will need their driver’s license to sign in with the LobbyGuard self-service kiosk for accurate background checks. Without an ID, visitors must check in with front office staff, which can cause delays especially during peak times. We’re providing additional support and training for our school-based staff, so they’re equipped to address any concerns and ensure the check-in changes are seamless.

We need the support and participation of the entire community to make sure our buildings are safe. I’m truly appreciative of your patience and understanding as we ramp up safety requirements that are in place for the purpose of protecting our children, which I know is a top priority we all share. Thank you for partnering with Howard County schools to provide a safe learning environment where all our students can thrive.

An Exchange of Learning

June KauffmanJune Kauffman, an ESOL teacher at Ducketts Lane Elementary School, has taught in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) since 2011. Prior to moving to Laurel with her husband and two children in 2008, she lived in Hong Kong, China for 15 years where she taught English and fell in love with Asian food and hospitality.


Pam Freedman
Pam Freedman teaches English Learners (ELs) at Ducketts Lane Elementary School. This is her ninth year teaching in Howard County and her 12th year teaching ELs from Pre-K through 12th grade.

Here Kauffman and Freedman write about their experiences with the Korean Summer Cultural Exchange Program, where they enjoy learning from their students as much as they do teaching them.

Ten years, seven teachers, more than 200 Korean students and an abundance of learning have taken place in the Korean Summer Cultural Exchange Program hosted by the International Student Registration Center of HCPSS. Started in 2005 by HCPSS International Student and Family Services Specialist Min Kim and taught for many years by retired teacher Pat Previdi, the three-week learning excursion challenges students to learn to navigate culture and language through daily formal English classes, visits to places with historical or cultural significance, and building relationships with host families.

Middle school students from Iksan, South Korea go through a rigorous selection process to be accepted into the program. They attend classes taught in English every morning, and focus on all skills necessary for English language development: reading, writing, listening and speaking. This multi-faceted approach helps to build confidence and camaraderie among students as well as challenges them to try new things.

South Korean English language teachers accompany students on their trip and join in the learning environment. This exchange provides a prime opportunity for the teachers to participate in hands-on professional development and gain teaching skills they can use in their language classrooms. We encourage the teachers to teach a mini-lesson to the students, so we can learn from them as well.

This summer, we co-taught 20 students and hosted two teachers at Patapsco Middle School. Students loved debating, learning idioms, typing journal responses in the computer lab, and giving and receiving feedback from their peers. Throughout the three weeks, the students’ strong English language skills “knocked our socks off” and challenged us to challenge them even more.

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities involved the Korean students’ interaction with American students. Students from both countries learned about each other through various games and activities. It was gratifying for their teachers–both Korean and American–to watch them interact and witness first-hand how the students’ English skills had developed. This activity left both the students and teachers feeling accomplished.

At the end of the program, the students showcased musical performances and read essays that highlighted their talents and time spent in the United States. Host families were invited to attend the ceremony. In addition, a memo of understanding was signed by HCPSS Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano and Superintendent Jideug Yu from Iksan, South Korea, expressing an intent to continue in this amazing partnership.

To see video and photos of the closing ceremony, visit here.