Mal­colm El­e­men­tary leader named Charles County Prin­ci­pal of the Year

Hon­ored for build­ing con­nec­tions, com­mu­nity among stu­dents, staff and par­ents

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Mal­colm El­e­men­tary School Prin­ci­pal Wil­helmina Pugh is still as pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion and work­ing with young peo­ple as she was when she started in Charles County Pub­lic Schools in 1980.

“I love my job; there have been so many op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded to me in this school sys­tem,” Pugh said.

Pugh was re­cently rec­og­nized by

Charles County Pub­lic Schools as its 2017 Prin­ci­pal of the Year, and as a fi­nal­ist in the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Prin­ci­pal of the Year re­gional awards pro­gram.

Pugh will be hon­ored by the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion at its May 9 meet­ing, and by the Post at an event for fi­nal­ists in June.

Pugh said she was hon­ored and sur­prised to re­ceive the award, as the staff and par­ents who nom­i­nated her kept it a se­cret.

“Ev­ery­one else was on pins and nee­dles, and I didn’t know what was go­ing on,” Pugh said. “But once they found out that I had re­ceived it, it felt good be­cause it meant so much to them.”

Linda Hol­lomon, fifth grade teacher, is one of those who nom­i­nated Pugh.

“She demon­strates a gen­uine con­cern for the aca­demic, pro­fes­sional and per­sonal as­pect of each Mal­colm stu­dent and staff mem­ber. She em­pha­sizes high aca­demics stan­dards be achieved through ex­em­plary teach­ing,” Hol­lomon said in an email. “How­ever, the im­por­tance of achieve­ment never over­shad­ows her per­sonal in­ter­est in the lives of Mal­colm fam­i­lies, stu­dents or staff mem­bers. This per­sonal con­nec­tion en­cour­ages stu­dents and staff to strive to­ward ex­cel­lence while work­ing in a com­fort­ing and ac­cept­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

Erin Ber­field, mu­sic teacher at Mal­colm, said she has worked with Pugh for nine of her 10 years at the school.

“She’s an amaz­ing prin­ci­pal,” Ber­field said. “She is very rarely in her of­fice un­less she has im­por­tant pa­per­work to do. The kids all know her, she’s very in­ter­ac­tive in the class­room. She’s come into the mu­sic room on oc­ca­sion and sat down and sung with the kids, did some of the dances they do, she’s al­ways very in­ter­ested in what they’re do­ing and she al­ways asks them ques­tions to see if they un­der­stand what’s go­ing on in the les­son.”

Pugh said she had not ini­tially planned to go into school ad­min­is­tra­tion. A na­tive of North Carolina, she be­gan her ca­reer in Charles County as a speech and lan­guage pathol­o­gist, just af­ter re­ceiv­ing her master’s de­gree from Bowl­ing Green State Univer­sity in Ohio.

“One of my friends at Bowl­ing Green came to Charles County, and she told me they had open­ings for speech and lan­guage pathol­o­gists. It was only four hours from my home in North Carolina, and I wanted to be close enough that I could drive to my par­ents,” Pugh said. “I’ve been here ever since.”

For 18 years she worked as a speech and lan­guage pathol­o­gist in CCPS.

“I re­ally en­joyed it,” Pugh said. “You’re work­ing with small groups, and you could work with them over a pe­riod of time and see so many gains.”

Pugh served as an ad­min­is­tra­tive in­tern at C. Paul Barn­hart El­e­men­tary School in Jan­uary 1998, and was named vice prin­ci­pal at Dr. Sa­muel A. Mudd El­e­men­tary School that fall.

She served as vice prin­ci­pal at two other el­e­men­tary schools, Dr. Thomas L. Hig­don and Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, be­fore be­ing named Mal­colm’s prin­ci­pal in 2008.

Pugh said she sees her role as be­ing an or­ga­nizer and fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

“When you’re in the school, you have the abil­ity to make those con­tin­u­ing con­nec­tions with the fac­ulty and the com­mu­nity and what they feel the needs are, and when you’re the prin­ci­pal, you have the abil­ity to help make those changes,” Pugh said. “If some­body has bet­ter or birghter ideas, I em­brace that.”

One of Pugh’s initiatives has been to pair fifth graders in need of read­ing as­sis­tance with kinder­gart­ners they can read to.

“It’s twofold, be­cause we want all the chil­dren to be in­ter­ested in learn­ing, in­ter­ested in read­ing and our fifth graders are kind of the role mod­els for our school … the little ones look up to the fifth graders,” Pugh said. “But also we’re strate­gic in the fifth graders we select, be­cause we select the fifth graders who have dif­fi­culty in read­ing … it gives them that confidence when they go down to read with the pri­mary stu­dents.”

Pugh said it is im­por­tant that the school com­mu­nity view it­self as a fam­ily.

“I think that is the key to our suc­cess, that ev­ery­one takes own­er­ship of ev­ery stu­dent who walks through that door,” Pugh said.

J. Me­gan Maletto, in­struc­tional re­source teacher at Mal­colm, said in an email that Pugh leads by ex­am­ple, build­ing pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with stu­dents, staff and com­mu­nity mem­bers.

“She is of­ten heard say­ing, ‘Once a Mal­colm fam­ily mem­ber, al­ways a Mal­colm fam­ily mem­ber,’ and has truly nour­ished a school cul­ture of mu­tual car­ing and re­spect,” Maletto said. “Mrs. Pugh is known for greet­ing her stu­dents by name ev­ery morn­ing as they walk in the door and be­ing present in our class­rooms on a daily ba­sis.”

Pugh said she doesn’t see the award as be­ing hers alone, as it takes a team ef­fort to make a suc­cess­ful school.

“It’s all about ev­ery­one at the school, we’ve all made it hap­pen, the par­ents be­ing sup­port­ive, the teach­ers be­ing on-board, the stu­dents and the com­mu­nity,” Pugh said. “It takes all of us.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Mal­colm El­e­men­tary School Prin­ci­pal Wil­helmina Pugh was named the Charles County 2017 Prin­ci­pal of the Year, and is a fi­nal­ist for the Wash­ing­ton Post’s re­gional Prin­ci­pal of the Year award pro­gram.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Wil­helmina Pugh, prin­ci­pal of Mal­colm El­e­men­tary, with Mal­colm third graders from left Kes­ley Condo, Hunter Headley, Lan­don New­some and El­iz­a­beth Tober. Pugh was named the Charles County 2017 Prin­ci­pal of the Year, and is a fi­nal­ist for the Wash­ing­ton Post’s re­gional Prin­ci­pal of the Year award pro­gram.

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