Charles Co. Public Schools News Briefs

Nominate a student for 2016 Prudential Spirit Award

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students can apply for the 2016 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, which honors middle and high school student volunteers. The annual program recognizes students for exemplary acts of volunteer service in their communities. The awards are given to students for serving their communities through volunteer activities, such as helping the less fortunate, promoting health and safety or protecting the environment.

Students in grades five through 12 are eligible to apply and must have participated in a volunteer activity that occurred in the past 12 months. Students can apply online at or at Applications must be completed by Nov. 3 and submitted to the student’s principal. Two state-level honorees – one at the middle-school level and one at the high-school level – will be announced in February. Finalists at the state level receive bronze medallions and runner-ups receive Certificates of Excellence awards.

State-level honorees receive $1,000 awards and travel to Washington, D.C. in the spring for recognition events. Ten national honorees will be selected from the finalist group to receive an additional $5,000 award. Additionally, $5,000 grants will be awarded on behalf of national honorees by the Prudential Foundation to the nonprofit, charitable organization of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and Prudential Financial in 1995 to honor both middle and high school students for outstanding acts of community service. The program is the largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. Visit for additional program information.

Superintendent named honorary commander

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kimberly Hill was treated like a military commander on Sept. 18. Joint Base Andrews invited Hill in June to be a part of the 2015 Honorary Commanders program.

The Honorary Commander Program is a yearlong opportunity with the maintenance wing to create partnerships between leaders in surrounding communities and encourages an exchange of ideas and experiences. Hill is working to create a partnership with Joint Base Andrews to be able to provide experiences for Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students to bring awareness to possible career opportunities.

Hill spent the day talking with members of the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard unit, and experienced unforgettable moments while participating in flight simulations and other hands-on demonstrations. “ What a thrill to be named an honorary get to be up close and personal with an F-16 fighter was an experience I'll never forget. More importantly, the relationships we're building with the leadership of the D.C. Air National Guard will help us prepare our students for success after high school. Real world skills and sharing best practices in leadership are two immediate outcomes of this new partnership. We're looking forward to learning more about how we can bring these skills to our classrooms,” Hill said.

While on the tour, Hill was introduced to two Air National Guard members who are also CCPS alumni, Senior Airman Paul James and Senior Airman Arthur Fortineau. Board Member Barbara Palko, who joined Hill on the tour, said she was impressed with the CCPS graduates. “My favorite part of our Joint Base Andrews tour was having two CCPS graduates as our tour escorts for the day. Senior Airman James and Senior Airman Fortineau were so proud of their positions and their work with the D.C. Air National Guard. They both contributed their success to the learning experiences received while attending school in Charles County. It doesn't get any better than that,” Palko said.

James graduated from Westlake High School in 2006 and fixes electrical and environmental issues on aircrafts. He credits his success to lessons he learned from his favorite teachers. “Mr. [Homer] Hastings’ engineering class helped me get a good understanding of the engineering field and on the other side of the spectrum, choir taught me to be a leader. With choir, every person has a specific part and if one person is off, the whole choir is off. The same thing applies to my job here,” James said.

Along with Hill and Palko, Board Members Jennifer Abell and Mark Crawford attended the tour. In the upcoming months, Hill plans to invite members of the 113th Wing to CCPS to experience Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs first hand and discuss leadership and ways to motivate and move students in the right direction.

“It was great to be able to interact with the men and women who serve with the D.C. Air National Guard. They were all top-notch people who do important work that often goes unnoticed,” Hill said.

Parks named among top 10 nationwide Eco-Schools

J.C. Parks Elementary School was recently recognized by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a 2015 Eco-School, a designation only 10 schools received across the United States this year. Parks is the only Maryland school to receive the 2015 honor, which recognizes schools for their commitment to demonstrate sustainability initiatives, monitor energy efficiency practices, waste disposal and other environmental impact areas, and support a commitment to incorporating environmental education in the classroom.

Parks has two outdoor classroom locations at the school that students use during their science classes and as part of additional learning opportunities. The areas feature benches, paved walkways lined with trees, plants native to Maryland and concrete tables for student use. Lesson plans and activities focus on reducing environmental impacts, learning how to act on environmental challenges and modeling environmental practices.

The Eco-Schools program features three levels of recognition: Bronze and Silver Awards, and the Green Flag Award. The Green Flag Award is the highest honor a school can receive and all 10 schools recognized in the 2015 program, including Parks, received the Green Flag Award. Parks received a Green Flag Award last year and schools must reapply for this designation every two years. Schools are permanent Eco-School designees once they receive a fourth Green Flag.

Schools seeking the designation must register with the NWF and implement the following seven steps before applying to become an Eco-School: establish an Eco-Action team; perform an environmental review/audit, develop an Eco-Action plan; monitor and evaluate progress; link activities to environmental education curriculum; involve the school community; and create an Eco-Code, or mission statement.

Parks’ science teacher, Deanna Wheeler, coordinates program activities for the school. Additional accomplishments in the area of environmental education for Parks include their status as a U.S. Department of Education 2015 Green Ribbon Schools (GRS) Award recipient, and their status as a Maryland Green School, which was awarded to the school in 2010 by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE). Both of the Green Schools programs recognize schools for their environmental education efforts, for building and maintaining partnerships with their local community to enhance environmental learning and for designing programs to result in a healthier environment.

Several other Charles County public schools have registered with the NWF to take part in the Eco-Schools program, including Berry, Dr. James Craik, Gale-Bailey, Indian Head and Mary B. Neal elementary schools, and John Hanson and General Smallwood middle schools.

The NWF Eco-Schools program was launched in 1994 to help incorporate environmental awareness and action into school communities, support student academic achievement and financial savings resulting from lower electricity and water usage, conservation of resources and increased environmental awareness and stewardship. For more information on the Eco-Schools program, visit the NWF website at

CCPS Cougars volunteer for annual service day

Rain doesn’t slow Thomas Stone High School students down when it comes to volunteering and community service. Stone held their third annual service day on Sept. 30 where students, community members and staff were asked to volunteer and help clean up the outside of their school building.

Student volunteers split up between two teams to tackle the cleanup. Five students worked on picking up debris and trash from a forest trail located behind the school softball field. While a second team of five students worked on weeding the perimeter of their orchard fence and the flowerbed surrounding Stone’s entrance sign off of Route 5. After completing their jobs, students discussed their accomplishments and how to stay involved with more community service events.

Stone science teacher Christopher Rooney has organized the annual Service Day since it started three years ago and thinks it was a success. “The Service Day went very well. All tasks we set out to do were accomplished. Our Service Day is an opportunity for Thomas Stone students to engage in meaningful community service aimed at improving the school's grounds and gardens,” Rooney said.

School organizations, such as the National Honors Society, Key Club, Young Researcher’s Community Project and Future Educators of America often require student members to complete community service. The Maryland State Department of Education requires Student Service Learning as a graduation requirement for students in middle and high school.

CCPS students, community get a lesson on cyber security

“Use privacy settings… Share photos judiciously... and Prevent victimization of others” are key messages shared this week by Richard Guerry, founder of the non-profit organization the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (IROC2), to more than 1,900 Charles County Public Schools seventh-grade students and community members. As part of National Bullying and Prevention Month activities, North Point and St. Charles high schools hosted Guerry Oct. 7-8, who presented his program to seventh graders who attended during the school day on field trips. Students learned about negative and malicious digital behavior and how they can help themselves and others prevent becoming victims.

Guerry stated that an identity is stolen every two seconds. He urged students and parents to ensure that devices have intact security features to help prevent identity theft. Guerry also spoke to students about the dangers of posting to social media and the misunderstanding that content can be deleted forever. “Everything you do or say in the digital world is public and permanent. Fully read privacy policies so that you can understand that anonymous posts and accounts are not really anonymous,” Guerry said.

There are positive and negative ways to use technology and social media. During his presentation, Guerry shared a story of an individual who used Twitter to tweet reasons why his first-choice college should accept him. The college saw his tweets and he later received his accepted letter. Guerry also highlighted a professional college football player who lost a college scholarship because he posted inappropriate messages on Twitter. Guerry stated, “Before posting a status update, ask yourself, ‘Do I want this published on the front page of the local newspaper?’ Status updates are public and permanent. Do you really want everyone to know that you will be on vacation away from home for the next week?”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kimberly Hill attended Guerry’s presentation and hopes that the presentation encourages everyone to think before posting anything online. “Our hope is that the information provided in this program will empower parents and students to safely and appropriately utilize the tools in a positive way. We all need to remember to think before we post and that everything we post becomes public and permanent,” Hill said.

The Oct. 7-8 program was sponsored by the Governor’s Office for Children, the Charles County Children’s Aid Society and the Charles County Advocacy Council for Children, Youth, and Families. “ Our community should be proud of the fact that Richard Guerry’s Internet Safety program for students and community members was a collaborative effort of many county agencies,” Hill said.

CCPS features several bullying prevention and Internet safety resources on the school system website, under the counseling section. Visit,

Students may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) serves a variety of breakfast and lunch menu items for students at low costs for parents. For the 2015-16 school year, prices for elementary school students are $1.25 for breakfast and $2.55 for lunch. Middle and high school students can purchase breakfast for $1.40 and lunch for $2.80. Some students may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals and CCPS determines eligibility through income eligibility guidelines established by the federal government.

The reduced price for breakfast is $0.30 and $0.40 for lunch. All CCPS students receive an application for free or reduced-price meals either at school or through the mail. Copies, including a Spanish version, are available at each school and completing the application is optional. Families with more than one child attending CCPS only need to complete one application per household. Parents can also visit the CCPS website and select the Free Meals Application link posted under the Quick Links section of the home page to complete the application electronically.

Paper applications should be sent directly to Charles County Public Schools, Department of Food Services, 5980 Radio Station Road, La Plata, Md., 20646. There is a 10 business day turn-around time for paper applications once they are received by Food Services. School system staff review applications for eligibility and incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Additionally, all provided information may be checked for eligibility verification.

Approved applications are only valid for one school year and need to be resubmitted at the start of each new school year. Benefits for the 2014-15 school year end on Oct. 12 or when notification that benefits for the 2015-16 school year have been approved. Parents can also apply at any time during the school year.

Questions about the application process and free or reduced-price meal benefits should be directed to the Department of Food Services at 301-392-5575.

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