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.

MPIA Press Conference BOE Board of Education Dr. Martirano July 14, 2017

Moving Forward in Ensuring Transparency

Every day I am humbled by the incredible privilege and responsibility of educating the children of Howard County. I take to heart that families must have faith in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) for us to effectively partner together in preparing the next generation for the future. Our recent launch of the online tracking system for Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests represents an important step forward in ensuring transparency and ultimately building trust with the community.

As of this month, the new MPIA tracking system is fully online at mpia.hcpss.org. Once a member of the public submits a request online, they can follow the request status in real-time as HCPSS prepares its response. Via the tracking system, requests and responsive documents for completed MPIA submissions will be available for public inspection.

We understand that the MPIA is one of the most valuable tools available to our community for obtaining public records and documents. HCPSS is committed to providing the fullest possible access allowable by law to all records, documents and information relating to school system decisions and operations through its MPIA responses.

The new online system is a win-win for our community and our system. This site gives our stakeholders much easier access to the information they seek, while adding efficiency to school system operations.

We believe HCPSS is the first school system in the region to introduce an online MPIA presence. I am confident we are setting a new standard that other school systems throughout the region and nation will seek to emulate.

We welcome members of the public to use this tool to gain a better understanding of our operations and move forward with us as a cohesive community dedicated to our children’s education.

Reblog: Two Languages, One Common Heart

The blog post below is adapted from an article that appeared in Centennial High School’s online newspaper, The Wingspan. The post was written by Centennial sophomore, Minnie Gregorini. Students Izzie Chausse, Shalini Malhotra, and Minnie Gregorini contributed pictures.

On Feb. 9, a group of Chinese students walked through the door to Centennial High School and set foot into a whole new world rich with very unique cultures.

blog3Twenty-five students from Tianjin 25th Middle School came to America with one common goal: to experience the culture of American life. Of those 25 students, 16 went to Centennial High School, while the other nine were sent to River Hill. CHS and River Hill welcomed these students as a part of a Memorandum of Understanding between HCPSS and Tianjin 25th Middle School.

The students weren’t just randomly picked. The entire student body at Tianjin 25th Middle School, whose first years are equivalent to an American sophomore, were given two tests. The 25 students who scored the highest were given the opportunity to learn in American schools. The test was administered to evaluate a broad range of subjects, so many of the 25 students excelled at math or science but were perhaps not as strong in English, for example. It was a common struggle for the 16 students at Centennial, and even harder if the CHS students they were shadowing didn’t speak fluent Chinese.

One Chinese student, Wang Xin Yu, said the hardest thing for him was “[Speaking] was hard to communicate. But, I have learned more English already.”

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Another student, Li Rui, said that it was difficult ordering lunch. “The hardest thing was telling [the lunch ladies] what I wanted to eat. I couldn’t understand them. They couldn’t understand me.”

Despite the language barriers, many of the students liked the American school system. Li Shang said she liked the dynamic between teachers and students. “The teachers and students are a lot closer in America than in China … It’s really nice.”

Most of the students had many of the same feelings toward the common cultural practices here, though each of them seemed to have his or her own favorite part of America. One student, Li Xiao Zheng, stated that his favorite thing was the American people. “They’re really nice here,” he said.

“Computer Science. I really like Computer Science,” said student Liu Ming Yang.

“I really like the cafeteria,” said Gao Jin Sheng. “The food here is good!”

The CHS students being shadowed also got to experience a lot culturally. “I was really nervous at first because I was sure I would embarrass myself with my Chinese,” said junior Tess Hawkins. “But we ended up getting along really well,” she said about her and her shadow, Li Hao.

Brian Reed said, “It was nice showing [Jun Ran] around the school. It was fun learning more Chinese from him and I realized that the things that we take for granted sometimes they don’t have. So it’s really been interesting.”

Some of the Chinese students were hosted by CHS families and their children/students, including Teresa Whittemore, Ryan Sorak, and Abby Pavuk.

blog14“I really liked sharing a house with the girls we hosted. It’s funny because I didn’t think I would spend much time with them at all, but I spent a lot more time with them than I thought I would. I really like my shadow too,” Abby said. “I’d always wanted to be a host to an exchange student so when my mom got an email and asked if we wanted to host, I immediately said yes.”

All in all, this program has turned out to be a success for both CHS and Tianjin 25th Middle School. Hopefully, in the future, Centennial will be able to participate in more programs like it.