School naming committee selects three possibilities for new elementary school
Meeting also covers antibullying policy, energy savings, bus drivers
The names of a former school board member, a former deputy superinten- dent and a former teacher are the finalists under con- sideration for the name of a new elementary school currently under construction on Billingsley Road.
The chairwoman of the 2016 Elementary School Naming Committee, Col- leen Longhi of Waldorf, presented the three names to the Charles County Board of Education during its Dec. 13 meeting.
The school board established an eight-member committee, comprised of school staff, parents and community members on Sept. 19.
The committee solicit- ed nominations from the community in person, through the school system website and through press releases, Longhi said.
The committee received a total of 26 names for con- sideration, and held a public hearing Oct. 17.
Board policy 7230 re- stricts the naming of schools and other build- ings to deceased persons or places of significance to Charles County.
The board is expected to make a final decision at its January 2017 meeting.
“Our committee also strongly felt that the new elementary school should be named after a person of significance to Charles County or an individual that a child could look up to as a role model, some- one who has made a sig- nificant contribution to education,” Longhi said.
The three names submitted for recommenda- tion are the Charles E. Carrington Elementary School, Ronald G. Cun- ningham Elementary School and Margaret Ja- mieson Thornton Elemen- tary School.
Carrington, a graduate of Henry E. Lackey High School, served on the board of education from 2006 to 2010, served as a mentor and coach of several sports, and also served as a member of several community organizations.
Ronald G. Cunningham was a Charles County Public Schools employ- ee beginning in 1994 as a regional administrator. In 2005 he was named dep- uty superintendent and oversaw school system operations under Super- intendent James E. Rich- mond. Cunningham was also a longtime member of several community orga- nizations.
Margaret Jamieson Thornton was a lifelong Charles County resident, educated in the one-room school house in Port Tobacco until sixth grade, and completed her high school studies at Bel Al- ton Junior Senior High School and Dunbar Senior High School. Thornton returned to teach at several schools in the county, and was a strong supporter of early childhood education and kindergarten. When Charles County began of- fering kindergarten, she became one of the school system’s first kindergar- ten teachers.
The new school is sched- uled to open at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
The board also received reports on elementary reading programs, health care costs and new teach- er recruitment.
Steve Vance, supervisor of maintenance, report- ed the school system re- ceived a combined credit and refund of $217,980 due to its participation in SMECO’s energy man- agement program in which it reduced electric- ity usage during times of peak energy demand in the summer.
During the public com- ment phase, seven indi- viduals, all bus drivers or bus contractors, spoke. Charles County transpor- tation services are primar- ily provided by 26 contract companies that serve the county.
Bus driver Keith McGirt said drivers are afraid to complain about their treat- ment.
“The bus drivers bring their concerns to me, and I deliver them to you,” McGirt told the board. “They have so much fear that they cannot speak for themselves, so they bring their concerns to me.”
Bus contractor Mark Koch of Koch Trucking said contractors are close to settling a 2011 lawsuit by bus drivers.
“Except for a few parties, an agreement has been reached regarding a pend- ing lawsuit,” Koch said, adding that a confidential- ity clause prevented him from going into detail. “The parties are currently working with legal coun- sel in the court system to finalize the process.”
Koch invited the school board to come to his bus lot and speak with his driv- ers themselves.
“Please come talk to our drivers,” Koch said. “We have a good relationship with our employees, and there are just a few people trying to stir up some stuff.”
Sam Graves, another bus driver, was highly critical of a bus driver “sick-out” held the afternoon of the last day of school before winter break in 2015.
“Last year, right before Christmas, my children got on the bus that morn- ing scared to death that I wasn’t going to bring them home at the end of the day. I had parents calling me, ‘Mr. Sam, are you going to bring our children home today?’” Graves said. “If drivers are professionals, like they claim to be, they wouldn’t use tactics to scare children; they wouldn’t use tactics to scare parents, especial- ly right before Christmas.”
The board also voted by a 4-3 vote to revise its draft anti-bullying policy. The policy, which board attor- ney Eric Schwartz said was based on language recom- mended by the state, had been revised to include lan- guage defining cyberbully- ing and remove references to pagers and PDAs.
Board member Mark Crawford, however, objected to the “laundry list” in the policy that lists examples of “actual or perceived” characteristics a student could be bul- lied for, “including race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orien- tation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socioeconomic status, familial status and physical or mental ability or disability.”
Crawford moved to strike the list from the policy, saying we don’t currently know the types of characteristics students could be bullied for in the future.
“If my kid is made fun of because they like ‘Star Wars’ … that’s still bullying,” Crawford said. “I think being broader and more inclusive is the way to go.”
Board chairwoman Virginia McGraw argued the policy needed a list of examples.
“I do think there needs to be some specification there,” McGraw said.
Board members Crawford, Victoria Kelly, Margaret Marshall and Jennifer Abell voted in favor of striking the list, while McGraw, vice chairman Michael Lukas and board member Barbara Palko voted in favor of keeping the language.
Schwartz informed the board that striking the list amounted to a “substantive change” and that the revised policy draft would be brought to the board as an action item at its next meeting.