Introducing Chesapeake College’s Sixth President Cliff Coppersmith


While Cliff Coppersmith has yet to move into his office in Wye Mills to begin his tenure as the sixth president of Chesapeake College, that didn’t stop the Spy from finding time with him for a quick chat on campus yesterday.

Dr. Coppersmith, who will officially assume his role in May, was in town briefly to meet with his future colleagues and pin down the logistics of moving from Montana, where he is currently serving as the dean and CEO of City College, the community college branch of Montana State University.

Coppersmith comes from a particularly unique background in community college teaching and administration, starting when he, himself, graduated as a young man from a community college in upper-state New York. Over the course of his career, he has spent nineteen years with the Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University; and Utah State University – Eastern, formerly the College of Eastern Utah.

The Spy caught up with Dr. Coppersmith at Chesapeake College’s new Health Professions and Athletics Center to talk about his experiences in higher education, some of his priorities for Chesapeake College, and his excitement in returning to the East Coast to take on the vital task leading the Mid-Shore’s community college into a new decade of service.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake College, please go here

Annapolis Plan to Fix Historically Black Colleges in Maryland


Historically black colleges and universities in Maryland would receive up to $56.9 million annually under legislation, sponsors say, that would restore years of underfunding and program duplication by the state but is unlikely to pass.

Proponents of the measure have rejected, as too little, a Feb. 7 offer from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of a total of $100 million over the next 10 years to a coalition of historically black colleges and universities.

A group of alumni in 2006 sued the state for creating programs at other public institutions that copied and drew students away from similar programs at Maryland’s historically black schools, such as an accelerated MBA program at Morgan State University and a master’s in computer science at Bowie State University.

Efforts to mediate have failed.

In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake ruled that Maryland violated the constitutional rights of students at the state’s four black institutions by duplicating their programs at traditionally white schools.

In 2015, Blake proposed that the state establish high-demand programs at the four historically black institutions to attract more diverse students and help with desegregation.

In 2016, mediation between the state and the coalition failed. In 2017, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, and Hogan appealed the 2013 decision.

Delegate Nick Mosby, D-Baltimore, said this amount is nowhere near enough for the amount of funding needed for these schools.

The state’s $100 million offer “basically equates to about $2.5 million per institution for the next 10 years and unfortunately that is throwing peanuts at a very gigantic problem,” said Mosby, who is sponsoring the House legislation.

Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore, told Capital News Service this would not be acceptable, because the state owes historically black institutions around $2.5 billion to $3 billion.

Conway also said if the amount had been offered as a lump sum of $100 million, then that could change the situation, but spread over time, the amount seems unjust.

A pair of matched bills was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 30 and in the House on Feb. 8 but no progress has been made since then. Conway is sponsoring Senate bill 252 and Mosby is sponsoring House bill 450.

Similar legislation has been introduced in years past, but was not approved.

Conway also introduced Senate bill 827, paired with a bill from Delegate Charles Sydnor III D- Baltimore County, House bill 1062 — emergency legislation to appoint a special adviser who would develop a remedial plan based on the lawsuit against the state.

Delegate Michael Jackson, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, with House bill 1819 and Sen. Barbara Robinson, D-Baltimore, with Senate bill 615, also introduced paired legislation to establish a cybersecurity program at Coppin State and Morgan State that could not be duplicated by other institutions in the state.

Both bills continue to work their way through the legislative session.

Altogether, these bills would require the state to ensure funding and equity so that the four historically black institutions — Bowie State University, Morgan State University, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore — are “comparable and competitive” to what are known as the state’s public “traditionally white institutions.”

The Rev. Kobi Little, chairman of the Political Action Committee for the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, who spoke at the Feb. 8 hearing, said progress in education equity is needed.

“We see this as an education issue but also as an economic justice issue,” Little told lawmakers. “This, my friends, is one of your Martin Luther King moments. It is an opportunity for you to do the right thing.

Conway said she doubted the bills would make progress in the General Assembly.

“This legislature has never been one to do the correct thing for these schools,” Conway told Capital News Service.

Morgan State President David Wilson, who testified at the Senate bill hearing on Jan. 30, said students’ ability to pay is a big issue at his school.

“Lack of financial aid is the greatest barrier to getting students across the finish line in record time,” said Wilson. “Financial aid would alleviate the barrier of students who simply don’t have the money to keep going in college.”

Wilson told Capital News Service that at Morgan State, 90 percent of students receive financial aid and 56 percent qualify for the Pell Grant, a government subsidy that helps students pay for college.

He also said that 36 percent receive the maximum amount from the Pell Grant, which means that families can’t contribute anything to their child’s education.

Wilson also said many students maintain a recurring cycle of dropping out of school to work a semester and then coming back to continue their degree.

Students like Ryan Washington, a senior at Bowie State, told Capital News Service that more money donated to historically black colleges and universities would help students to pursue careers — especially ones that don’t have the same resources as traditionally white institutions.

“More programs, more development on campus and more buildings offering more experience to students,” Washington said.

If the funding legislation passes, schools’ payments would start at $4.9 million for the 2019 fiscal year and increase annually. By the 2022 fiscal year, the four historically black institutions would receive a total of $56.9 million each year. This bill would also establish certain student and faculty ratios.

Former NAACP Political Action Chair Marvin Cheatham Sr. said he is doing everything he can to help pass the bill.

“This has to do with what is in the best interest for students,” he told Capital News Service.

Cheatham also said in his testimony on Feb. 8 that “$100 million doesn’t come close to what’s needed for HBIs.”

“I’ll never, ever stop filing it until it’s rectified,” said Conway, who named the legislation The Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI Comparability Program Bill in honor of its original creators, former lawmakers Sen. Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore, Delegate Pete Rawlings, D-Baltimore, and Sen. Gwendolyn Britt, D-Prince George’s, who are all deceased.

“I intend to file it every year (until) we fix it.”

Hogan’s office declined to comment outside of his Feb. 7 letter, citing the pending legal matter, a representative told Capital News Service on Friday.

By Layne Litsinger


Hogan’s Nonpublic schools funding gets ‘BOOST’ from Students


Hundreds of private school students, faculty, parents and supporters piled onto Lawyers Mall in Annapolis on Tuesday for a rally to support Gov. Larry Hogan’s funding for nonpublic schools.

Hogan, legislators and education administrators spoke at the event, put together by the Maryland Council for American Private Education to support the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today program, known by its acronym, “BOOST.”

Cheered on by the many speakers, including Hogan, the crowd chanted “give a boost to BOOST” and “support all kids” throughout the rally.

The BOOST program “provides scholarships for some students who are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program to attend eligible nonpublic schools.”

Hogan told the crowd he himself attended private Catholic schools.

“It’s really important that you’re here,” Hogan, a Republican, told the crowd. “We’ve got some legislators across the street in the State House that need to hear from you and I want to make sure you guys are ready to make some noise.”

Among the schools with students and faculty present was St. Francis International School of Silver Spring and Hyattsville, Maryland.

The school’s principal, Tobias Harkleroad, told Capital News Service his fifth graders came to Annapolis to make sure government officials knew they were thankful for support.

They also went to the rally to learn about the political process and make their voices heard.

“We want to make sure that kids like them in nonpublic schools across the state are just as important to our elected officials as the wonderful children in our public schools,” Harkleroad said.

Marianne Schwenz is the mother of an eighth grader at St. Joseph’s Regional Catholic School in Beltsville, Maryland.

Schwenz said the potential funding provided by BOOST would particularly help grow special needs programs, especially in Catholic schools, where she feels there isn’t enough staffing to address the needs of some students.

However, she’s happy with how legislators have responded to the nonpublic school needs over time.

Hogan’s budget, approved by state lawmakers, has increased in each of the past three years funds directed toward the BOOST program. An appropriation of $5 million in fiscal year 2017 was followed by a $5.5 appropriation the following year. Hogan’s proposal for fiscal year 2019 climbs up to $8.85 million. That budget remains under review by the legislature.

“I think (the funding) does definitely need to continue to grow, although I do think our voice is being heard a little more each year,” Schwenz said.

Other supporters included Delegates Shelly Hettleman, D-Baltimore County, and Dana Stein, D-Baltimore County. Representatives from the Archdiocese of Washington and Baltimore Catholic schools also spoke, along with Maryland State Board of Education member, pastor Michael Phillips.

“Today, this is where all of you who attend wonderful nonpublic schools are going to go make sure that we protect our funding and our scholarships,” Hogan said.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy conducted a survey of 625 Maryland voters between Feb. 20 and Feb. 22 that found nearly two-thirds supported an increase in funding for the BOOST program. The poll also concluded 58 percent of voters surveyed would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increasing the BOOST program.

“The facts are that since taking office, Governor Hogan has committed record K-12 education funding in his four budgets, totaling $25 billion,” Eric Shirk, spokesman for the state’s Department of Budget & Management wrote in an email. This includes $6.5 billion in the proposed 2019 fiscal year budget.

But Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller disagreed with Hogan’s use of funds in a Jan. 17 statement.

“Another year, another Gov. Hogan budget that follows the policy priorities of Betsy DeVos rather than Marylanders,” Weller said, citing the U.S. education secretary, an advocate of charter schools and private school vouchers.

Weller said Hogan should not be funding a voucher program that “overwhelmingly benefits” students in private schools.

By Sean Whooley

Clifford Coppersmith to Become 6th President of Chesapeake College


The Chesapeake College Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith to be the school’s sixth president. Dr. Coppersmith was chosen by a unanimous vote of the Trustees from a pool of 72 applicants in a nationwide search that was narrowed down to four finalists who visited the campus in late February.

Coppersmith, 55, is currently Dean of City College, an embedded community college within Montana State University Billings with 1,400 full and part-time students. He’s been the school’s chief executive officer in charge of academics, student affairs, finance and facilities since July 2015.

Dr. Clifford P. Coppersmith

Prior to City College, Coppersmith held several administrative and academic positions including over 19 years at two institutions: Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University; and Utah State University – Eastern, formerly the College of Eastern Utah.

“Dr. Coppersmith’s background and experience were a great match for the qualifications and expectations established at the outset of our national search for a new president,” Chesapeake College Board of Trustees Chair Blenda Armistead said. “We were looking for someone with a proven track record in developing programs to address workforce needs in the community, and he brings that experience to the Mid-Shore. Dr. Coppersmith also understands and has extensive experience with the transfer mission of community colleges. As an individual who began his higher education in a community college in upstate New York, he is committed to ensuring that Chesapeake College will serve as a gateway to further education for all of our residents.”

Armistead noted Coppersmith’s ability to collaborate with public school leaders, local government, and business and industry partners to develop both credit and non-credit programs focused specifically on workforce needs. These have included programs in emergency management, nursing and allied health, computer science, metal and construction trades, diesel technology and automotive repair.

“Cliff has worked effectively with state and local government, and this was one of our priorities in our search for a new president,” she said.

“He understands the economic and social challenges in rural areas similar to the Shore. Moreover, the trustees are confident in his ability to strengthen the sense of community among all constituencies within the College, which was another expectation established for our new president.”

Community engagement will be among Coppersmith’s first priorities.

“Right off the bat, I want to establish those relationships and connections that are so critical to the success of the College,” he said. “I anticipate working closely with the members of the Board of Trustees, civic and public education leaders and the local business network to strengthen Chesapeake and its vital role in serving the five-county region as a center for higher education, cultural activities and economic development.”

Coppersmith met with the Board and participated in on-campus forums with students, faculty, staff and Mid-Shore community leaders last month.

“I had a great exchange with all those groups when I interviewed,” he said. “I was extremely impressed with the quality of the campus and its facilities and the engagement of the faculty and staff, and I considered my meeting with the students the highlight of the visit.”
Coppersmith and his wife Kathleen have strong personal connections to the region.

“Kathy and I are excited to return to a part of the world we love in which we’ve had many great experiences,” he said. “We were married in Kensington outside D.C.; spent the first night of our honeymoon in Chestertown; and for 11 years, the Chincoteague and Assateague Island seashores were our family’s favorite vacation spot. The Eastern Shore has been a special place for us for that reason and others.”

Born in the West Indies, Coppersmith said saltwater is in his blood. He looks forward to sailing, kayaking and canoeing on local waters and visiting the beach.

The Coppersmiths have three adult children – including two living in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – three grandchildren and close family members in Frederick and Northern Virginia.

A former commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard and an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, Coppersmith believes strongly in executing the mission of the College which is critical to his vision for Chesapeake.

“It comes from my military background,” he explained. “Almost everything I do on a daily basis is premised on serving the mission of the school and its students. I’ve been successful in figuring out what the strengths of an institution are, what its mission is, and then connecting that to the community I serve.”

His service background also includes 45 years in scouting with the Boy Scouts of America.

Coppersmith holds four academic degrees: A doctorate in history and anthropology from Oklahoma State University; a master’s in history from St. Bonaventure University in New York State; a bachelor’s in political science and Latin American studies from Brigham Young University in Utah; and an associate in social science from Jamestown Community College in New York State.

21st Century Learning: The Future of Education in Kent County, Part II by Al Hammond


“Myki Ruby Bernard, a middle school student, is soldering her Code Club project—part of the hands-on approach to digital technology used in Kent County public schools”. Photo credit Laura Jacob.

21st Century Learning: The Future of Education in Kent County, Part II

Talk to parents of students enrolled in Kent County public schools, and a common question is: What does my child do all day? In fact, students don’t spend the whole day looking at screens—a frequently expressed concern. But they do have chromebooks (simplified laptops), tablets, or laptops accessible to them throughout the school day, and can take them home from 6th grade on. The schools’ digital platform is accessible wherever there is an internet connection, and high school teachers frequently assign course segments or practice sessions for students to do at home or over weekends.

Beyond the Discovery Education content, the Google education apps, and a set of administrative and teacher support tools (see Part I), Kent County schools don’t mandate specific digital tools or lesson plans. Teachers choose those they want to use and what they think works best with their students. Moreover, the innovation ferment in the Ed Tech sectors and in schools with digital platforms across the country means that there are new tools and creative new lesson plans that use those tools introduced every year. The result is continual experimentation, with teachers in Kent County sharing ideas and discoveries with each other. (See Box at end of article, A Short Guide to Digital Learning Tools)

Beyond specific tools, what counts is how a teacher uses them to enhance student involvement and learning. Here is what this reporter observed in three specific 50-minute classes last week.

3rd Grade math, Kelley Melvin. The focus in 3rd grade, Kelley tells me, is really mastering multiplication, both memorizing the multiplication tables and being able to apply them in many different contexts. Today’s class will use three different digital tools—a whole class exercise at their desks; then one where students are on their feet and moving around the room, working in teams; then individual exercises at their desks again.

“Gallery Walk” tool helps teams of students learn basic math. Photo credit Kelley Melvin

The class starts with a Kahoot session reviewing the concept of area. Every child enters their secret game pin on their tablet, which keeps their answers private from other students. The video screen shows a rectangle, with the area and the length given, and asks, what is the missing width. Kelley reminds the class of the formula for area, length times width, and says “think before you click”. Then she starts the clock, giving students 30 seconds to select the right answer on their tablet, which shows four color-coded choices. Music plays while students ponder. And the video screen tabulates responses (while keeping individual answers anonymous). Everyone gets this one right. Cheers break out.

Then a new exercise, with more complicated geometry. Then another. Kelley reviews the formula for area again. Then more exercises, nearly a dozen over a span of about 15 minutes. The Kahoot software keeps track of each student’s answer to each exercise, so that Kelley can see where any individual student is having trouble. To see Kahoot in action, watch this short video.

The class then switches to an activity called Gallery Walk, where pre-assigned teams of 3 students gather at stations around the room to complete exercises that are posted under a plastic sheet. One child has a marker and writes out the answers on the plastic sheet. A second child then uses his or her tablet to take a photo of the answer and submits it digitally. The third then erases the answer, clearing the slate for the next team. (See photos) The teams are working under a time limit, and when the bell rings, they move onto the next station and a new exercise. The teams also rotate roles, so everyone gets chances to take and submit the photo of the result—which they think is cool, and makes the whole exercise fun. Meanwhile, the tool has stored each team’s work, so that Kelley can review it later (often at home), make comments on it, and send it back to students—all digitally.

“Gallery Walk” Students work as team on a question and write their answer on the erasable plastic sheet Photo credit Kelley Melvin

Finally, students use a tool called Splash Math—one of their favorites—to do individual arithmetic exercises by hand at their desks, before entering their answer on the tablet. Each student’s exercises are skill-adjusted to that student, and the tool both tracks each student’s answers (so Kelley or teaching aids that circulate can see where a student is having problems and help) and won’t let the student move on until they have mastered that skill. The tool also awards digital “coins” for each right answer, which the kids can use to “buy” digital fish for their private aquarium—an incentive system that keeps kids motivated.

6th grade science, Amelia Markosian. Amelia is teaching a segment on rocks—rock types, their distinctive properties, how they are formed, where they are found. As the students come into the room, a tool called Science Sizzler is on the video screen with questions on a previously assigned article about igneous rocks. Students sit at their desk, turn on their tablets, and start work on answering the questions, submitting their answers on Google Classroom. When the class formally starts, Amelia asks if they have any questions about igneous rocks, and they do; a short discussion ensues. Science Sizzler is in effect a daily warm-up exercise with new questions every day to get the students engaged in the subject matter and prompt an opening discussion, where the teacher can answer questions and show pictures or hold up examples (in this case of rocks).

Then Amelia introduces a Radical Rocky Recognition Mission—her name for a Google Classroom interactive lab on rock types, introduced with a music video featuring a song about the rock cycle. The lab is designed both to impart information, but also to teach critical thinking skills, and it gives feedback, so that students end up with a score for the lab. The students get involved in the lab, on their tablets—they’re doing the work, leaving Amelia free to circulate and help individually with students. Every student works at their own speed—some complete the lab early and share their scores with the teacher, then go on to other things.

When everyone has finished the lab, Amelia opens another group discussion by asking each student to name their favorite type of rock, and say why they chose it. Some of the answers are amusing, provoking laughter. Others prompt students to make follow-on comments. Amelia uses the discussion to reinforce some of the lessons from the lab. The discussion is still going strong—and no one seems bored—when the bell rings.

12th grade Advanced Placement Psychology, Caron Saunders. Today’s class is small because a number of students are out with the flu. The students carry laptops and are very savvy about digital tools. The class is preparing for the Advanced Placement exam toward the end of school that will give those who pass it credits that enable them to skip introductory college classes. Today’s class is mostly review of psychology concepts and the specialized vocabulary used to name and describe them. Caron tells them to start a tool called, a kind of digital flashcards. It gives the students, working in teams, a definition and asks them to select the matching vocabulary term. The team approach forces collaboration. If the team picks the wrong answer, the tool gives them immediate feedback. Meanwhile, Caron can circulate and observe or reinforce understanding.

The class then moves on to individualized flashcards, and the tool adjusts the definitions for each student to focus on areas where he or she is weak (based on their prior use of the tool). It starts with multiple choice, but then moves to asking students to write out definitions from scratch. Caron can circulate, or prepare another lesson on her tablet, or set up a homework assignment.

Caron says that she also often uses Ed Puzzle, a video that stops and asks the students to answer a question before it continues, and which can be used by a group or by individual students or even when the student is at home (for weekend review or for students that are out ill). She also uses a tool called Noodle to give multiple choice tests, both because it gives student instant feedback (right or wrong)—promoting learning—and also, for wrong answers, gives the student a second chance at the question (for which Caron awards a correct answer half credit).

As the bell rings, Caron assigns homework for which the students will use a tool called Amanda that provides on-line lectures by leading high school psychology teachers.

What’s common to all of these classes is that none of the teachers are lecturing. The digital tools provide content (sometimes organized by the teacher in advance and often automatically customized to the student’s attainment level), and the students are actively involved in learning—absorbing or researching content, practicing skills, collaborating with other students. Meanwhile the digital platform remembers and stores everything—no paper shuffling here. Teachers, freed from both lecturing and many administrative tasks, focus on helping individual students, re-inforcing key learning, guiding classroom discussions—as well as on creating or finding lesson plans that will engage their students.


A Short Guide to Digital Learning Tools

Some tools are widely used in Kent County public schools, because teachers find that they work. They are a far cry from textbooks, homework sheets, calculators, and flashcards (although there are digital flashcards) The short descriptions below—hardly a complete list—give some sense of what life in school is like these days:

  • Clever. Home base for all the tools that students use. It works like a tablet on the web—a student logs on and clicks on the app or tool, including Google apps such as email and Microsoft apps such as Office 365 for writing documents or creating presentations.
  • Boards. These are similar to a website, can display text, photos, videos, and are easy for even elementary school students to create. Teachers use them to send assignments to students, and students use them to prepare their work and send it back to the teacher. For example, if a teacher assigned a lesson about the different categories of living things, each student would pick an example that interests them and research the topic further. A student intrigued by crocodiles might investigate them as an example of reptiles, for example, and build their own board with facts, pictures, and other things he or she has learned about where crocodiles live, what they eat, etc. The students then share the board with other students in their study group, who comment and help the student improve it. When it’s ready, the student uploads it to the teacher, who can share it the whole class for discussion.
  • Kahoot. An informal assessment tool that gauges class learning and also helps to review lessons, but which feels like a game show, with competition, lively music, and rewards. It’s very interactive and engaging, but gives the class as a whole (and each student privately) a clear sense of whether they are mastering the content. Some teachers let students create their own review questions and manage a Kahoot for the class.
  • Virtual Field Trips. Let’s a teacher take the class on a multi-media “trip” to anywhere in the world to see and learn about local conditions or unique artwork.
  • Gizmo. An interactive tool used in grades 3-9 to simulate mathematics concepts or run virtual science experiments. It allows students to vary the numbers or the conditions to see how things change and to make graphs.
  • Frontrow. A tool that gives a student feedback on areas where they are weak in mathematics or English and then provides practice exercises targeted to overcome those weaknesses.
  • Mondo guided reading. This tools helps early grade students to learn new words, to speak them correctly, and to master spoken and written language.


WC Admissions Won’t Penalize High School Students Who Protest Gun Violence


Washington College today joined dozens of colleges and universities around the country to ensure high school students who protest peacefully against gun violence that their admissions status won’t be affected if they are suspended or otherwise disciplined for their actions.

After the tragic killings of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, high school students around the country have rallied behind the #NeverAgain movement in an effort to force state and federal lawmakers to pass safer gun laws. Some high schools have suspended or otherwise disciplined students for walking out of class as part of their protest—all at the moment when many high school seniors are seeking admission to college or have already been admitted.

Typically, college admissions officers would look at a disciplinary action like suspension as a mark against a student, but dozens of higher-education institutions, from MIT to Yale and now Washington College, have stated that they will not rescind admissions decisions for these students.

“Washington College was founded on the principles of moral courage, civic engagement, and commitment to action. I applaud these students’ willingness to put their futures in jeopardy in order to stand up for what they believe in,” says Lorna Hunter, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “These are the students who will build upon our strong foundation and carry on the Washington College name for generations to come. We will not penalize them or rescind their admissions status due to any disciplinary action they incur for seizing this moment to peacefully effect change in their world.”

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at

An Evening with the Arts


Director of Kent County Arts Council, John Schratwieser, with student artist at the Saturday evening gala.

The Kent County Arts community turned out in force for a gala auction to support the installation of a mural at Kent County High School. Held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Sultana Center in Chestertown, the affair raised $7500 for the project – as well as giving attendees a good look at the amazing width and depth of artistic talent on tap in Kent County schools.

Sponsored by the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, Arts in Motion, the Kent County Arts Council, and the Carla Massoni Gallery, the affair drew roughly 100 attendees. Art by students and community members – including Tom McHugh, coordinator of Arts in Motion – was available for bidders in the silent auction. Another half-dozen items were reserved for a live auction later in the evening. In addition to the visual arts, live music was provided by Kent County Middle School and Kent County High School students, by Karen and Leon Frison, and by Sombarkin. And for the taste buds, a sumptuous buffet including fresh oysters, a variety of veggies and sweets was available, along with an open bar.

Model of the ship Sultana surrounded by delicious nibbles

John Schratwieser, director of the Kent County Arts Council, acted as master of ceremonies. He thanked the sponsors, and recognized Tom McHugh, who took on the role of Arts Coordinator for Kent County in 2016. “Every county in Maryland has one, but ours is the best,” Schratwieser said. The position includes fundraising for supplies, student trips, and supporting the arts faculty of the public school system.

Stephanie Spencer of the Kent County High School arts faculty described the community mosaic mural the gala was raising funds for. The school has received some funding from the state of Maryland, And mural artist Sue Stockman of St. Michaels has signed on to help design the mural, which will include images created by students to reflect “the beauty of the community.” Spencer also recognized Noele Morris, a visual arts teacher at KCHS who is a candidate for Kent County Teacher of the Year.

Chester River Collaborative Map Print by Kent County High School students brought the highest bid in the live auction.

The gala also recognized several Kent County Arts “Graduates of Distinction.” Honorees were Anne Massoni, currently professor of photography at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia; Robbi Behr, who with her husband Matthew Swanson is the creative force behind a series of illustrated books; Kyle Hackett, an award-winning painter who lectures on art at American University in Washington; and the members of the a capella trio barkin: Karen Somerville, Lester Barrett Jr, and Jerome McKinney, who performed two numbers for the audience.

Art works by elementary school students were also on display.  One especially clever work of “recycled art” was Trash Guy: A Coastal Cleanup Sculpture created by Henry Martinez, Teo O’Brien, Aryan Sharma, and Tayvion Wilson.  The accomanying sign for Trash Guy read “Our sculpture was made from material we found at the Coastal Cleanup. We came up with an idea and glued it together. It’s a man on a skateboard.  We painted the wood to look like a skateboard with a lightning strike and used cans as the wheels.”

“Over and Under” the Chesapeake Bay  

Trash Guy 











Following a duet, “Through the Storm,” with Leon Frison on flugelhorn and his wife Karen on vocal, Chris Cerino took over for the live auction, giving a lively performance that brought smiles – and enthusiastic bids – from the attendees.

Six items were auctioned off, five of them by student artists representing each of the schools in the county. A large collage by four Kent County High School students drawing on images inspired by a visit to the Sultana Center was the top draw, selling to school board president Trish McGee. The artists were all present, walking the piece around for the audience to admire and to give prospective bidders a close up look. The next highest bid, at $650, was for a fishing charter for a party of 10 on the Chesapeake Bay with captain Greg Jetton on his beautiful boat Blind Faith.

Art Graduate of Distinction, Karen Somverville, with Tom McHugh, director of Arts in Motion

Art Graduate of Distinction Kyle Hackett (center) KCHS class of 2007 with his  former KCHS art teacher, Stephanie Spencer (left) and his mother, Diana Hackett (right)


All told, the live auction garnered $2,390 for the cause. That along with ticket sales, donations, and the silent auction brought the total to around $7,500 for the schools arts program.  A program–that as this evening proved–is inspiring wonderful young artists in Kent County.

We let the art speak for itself in the photo gallery below.  The mural project will be completed this spring.  Look for pictures of it in the Spy soon!

Photo Gallery:  Art work and music by students in Kent County Public Schools. Photography by Jane Jewell and Peter Heck. 

“Over and Under” – a collaborative work by 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students, depicts various life-forms that live both above and below the water in and around the Chesapeake Bay.









“Weaving Wonder” by 5th grade students at HH Garnet Elementary School using eight different watercolor techniques on individual strips which were then woven together.

Kent County Music teachers Keith Wharton and Charles Thai. Their students performed at the Saturday evening gala.

KCHS Concert Band members




Honoring Frederick Douglass at Washington College


Author and historian David Blight; President Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and 3X Great Grandson of Frederick Douglass; Kenneth Morris with two Douglass cousins, Dale Green and Tarence Bailey and his wife Michelle Bailey

Washington College celebrated the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth on a Talbot County plantation by awarding the famous abolitionist an honorary Doctor of Laws degree Friday, Feb. 23. The ceremonies were held in in the college’s Decker Theater.

Frederick Douglass at about age 70

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), was born into slavery in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.   While still a young child, Douglass taught himself to read and write. He escaped at age 20 and went on to become one of the most eloquent and effective opponents of slavery. He became a licensed preacher in 1839 at age 21, traveled the world, telling his story and speaking about the evils of slavery. After a group of supporters raised money and paid Douglass’s old master for his freedom in 1847, it was safe for Douglass to return to the United States as a legal freedman.  He founded and was publisher/writer for the North Star and several other abolitionist publications.  During the Civil War, he was one of Lincoln’s advisors.  He was an early advocate of full citizenship for women. Throughout his life, Douglass remained a strong voice for the rights of African Americans and human rights in general. Douglass’s autobiography, first published in 1845 and twice revised and expanded in later years – is considered one of the monuments of anti-slavery literature.  It was a best-seller when first published and is widely-read today.

Speakers at the convocation included Yale professor of American History David Blight and Kenneth Morris, a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass. Blight is a well-known historian with over ten published books on American history. He is also director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. He has just completed a full-scale biography of Douglass, which is scheduled for publication by Simon and Schuster this fall in October.

Blight, who was granted the Washington College Award for Excellence, was the first speaker. He noted that Donald Trump, in comments a few weeks ago, seemed to believe that Douglass was still alive. Blight then held up a t-shirt reading “Vote Douglass 2020,” suggesting to great laughter and applause from the audience that Douglass might run 2020 as a member of the Radical Abolition Party.

David Blight, professor of American history at Yale University, director of Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale

Blight gave an overview of Douglass’s career, noting that Douglass was one of the most acute critics of the cruelties and contradictions of slavery and racism. His writings and speeches were full of allusions to Shakespeare and the Bible, “a lyrical prophet.” He gave thousands of speeches, traveling to all corners of the world. Blight concluded by urging the Washington College students in the audience, in Douglass’s words, to “go and act in the world,” and use their “voice, pen and vote” to bring about the goals that Douglass fought for and that still remain to be achieved.

Kenneth Morris, 3x great-grandson of Frederick Douglass, receives Washington College Award for Excellence from college president Kurt Landgraf.

Morris, who is both the great-great-great grandson of Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington, also received the Washington College Award for Excellence.  He is descended from Douglas on his father’s side and from Washington on his mother’s side. Morris’ s  grandmother was the granddaughter of Booker T. Washington. His grandparents met on the campus of Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington.   Morris is  continuing his ancestor’s legacy of anti-slavery activity in the modern world. He is co-founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, which works to educate people about all forms of slavery in the modern world and inspire them to action. Morris said that slavery and the selling of human beings into bondage–nowadays called human trafficking, the buying and selling of human beings– is widespread throughout our modern global economy, including within the United States.  Morris has spent the last ten years building the organization, pushing for legislation, bringing speakers, curriculum, and workshops to many schools and other organizations.  You can visit their website at

College President Kurt Landgraf, introducing Morris, noted that Morris spent part of the day with local middle school students, distributing a new edition of Douglass’s autobiography.  The organization hopes to distribute a million free copies to students, libraries, and other groups by the end of 2018. Landgraf then presented the posthumous degree to Douglass, which Morris accepted on behalf of the family to a thunderous response from the large audience.

Morris, in remarks accepting the award, recognized two other family members in the audience, Dale Green and Tarence Bailey, both descendants of Frederick Douglass’s brother. Morris said that his great grandmother, who lived to age 103, had met Douglass, so he had touched hands that had touched the great abolitionist! He told of Douglass’s early days on the Eastern Shore, where he lived till age 7. Douglass saw his mother, a slave on another plantation, only four times because of the stringent conditions of slavery; she had to walk 12 miles after her day’s labor was done if she wanted to visit him. Sent to Baltimore to be a house servant, he came to the attention of his master’s wife, who began to show him the alphabet, only to be reprimanded by her husband, who told her it was illegal to educate a slave. That inspired Douglass to seek out an education on his own, learning to read by trading bread for lessons – “He’d rather feed his mind than his stomach,” Morris said. At the same time, Douglass learned to recognize hypocrisy and to think critically. Bringing Douglass’s writings into classrooms everywhere, Morris said, will help young students arrive at the same recognitions — to “get woke,” in the current vernacular. “The spirit of Frederick Douglass lives with us,” he said, adding Douglass’s own words, “Without struggle, there is no progress.”

Sombarkin trio sang two traditional spirituals from the slavery era, including the Underground Railroad “guide” song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd” – Lester Barrett, Jr., Karen Somerville, Jerome McKinney

In addition to the honors to Douglass, the ceremonies were enlivened by performances by WACapella, the student acapella group, and by the trio Sombarkin (Lester Barrett Jr., Jerome McKinney and Karen Somerville), who performed the two spirituals, “Trimmed and Burning” and “Follow the Drinking Gourd,”

Also at the convocation, Washington College awarded the President’s Medal to Emmanuel Episcopal Church and Sabine Harvey for their contributions to community life and to the college. Staff members Judie Berry Barroll, Harriet Pritchard Olsen and Ashley R. Turlington received the Joseph L. Hold Distinguished Service Award for their outstanding contributions to the mission of the college. Ed Norberg was granted the Alumni Service Award. Faculty and staff members were recognized for reaching milestones of service with the college. And 34 students were invited to join the college’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. A fuller report of these honors will appear in an upcoming Chestertown Spy article.








Chesapeake College Announces Four Finalists for President


The Chesapeake College Board of Trustees announced the selection of four finalists in its search for the school’s sixth president. Each candidate will be on campus to meet with faculty, staff, students and Mid-Shore community leaders in a series of forums over the next two weeks.

Following a four-month process that included public input on the qualifications, characteristics and values sought for the school’s new leader, the 14-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee chaired by the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, Nash McMahan, submitted four finalists to the Board of Trustees:

Clifford Coppersmith

Dr. Clifford Coppersmith, Dean at City College, an embedded community college within Montana State

Keith Cotroneo

University, Billings Montana. He held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University, Williamsport, PA; and College of Eastern Utah, Price, Utah.

Dr. Keith Cotroneo, President at Mountwest Community and Technical College, Huntington, West Virginia. He held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Quincy College, Quincy, Massachusetts; Broome Community College, Binghamton, New York; Treasure Valley Community College, Ontario, Oregon; and Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Maryland.


Dr. Ted Lewis, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer at Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville, Tennessee. He held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Lone Star College-CyFair, Cypress, Texas; and Collin County Community College, McKinney, Texas.

Dr. Lisa Rhine, Provost and Chief Operating Officer at Tidewater Community College Chesapeake

Lisa Rhine

Campus, Chesapeake, Virginia. She held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky; Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio; University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio; and Sinclair Community College, also in Dayton.

“Under Nash McMahan’s leadership, the Search Committee evaluated 72 candidates and delivered its final choices a month ahead of schedule in response to the community’s desire for an expedited process,” said Blenda Armistead, Board of Trustees Chair. “From our faculty, staff and student representatives to volunteers from business and academia, it was a dedicated team that committed countless hours studying the community focus group and online survey results and reviewing applications from across the country.”

Armistead said the Search Committee interviewed seven candidates last week before making its final selections.
“It’s an exceptional group of finalists with considerable experience serving in administrative and academic affairs leadership positions at community colleges, technical schools and four-year institutions,” Armistead said.

The Board expects to make its final choice by mid-March and hopes to have a new president on campus by July 1.