WC’s Dam the Debt Project Provides $325K to Students to Reduce Education Loans

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Washington College President Sheila Bair today announced that the Dam the Debt program will provide $325,581 to reduce the federal subsidized loan debt of 122 seniors who are graduating this May. The grants amount to a back-end scholarship that will award the seniors an average of $2,640, lowering their average federal student loan debt by nearly 10.3 percent.

“When we launched this program last year, it was something of an upstart in higher education, as no college had done this before,” President Bair says. “Now, thanks to our corporate and individual donors who understand the consequences of high student debt, we can continue sending our students into their careers and lives with one less loan to worry about. Hopefully this will enable them to save more, invest sooner, and have more freedom of choice as they move forward into the world.”

Washington College President Sheila Bair

he seniors who qualify for the program have taken out federally subsidized loans for the spring 2017 semester. Through Dam the Debt, those students will receive a grant from the College toward their financial aid package intended to replace the amount of those loans. As a result, the students will see, on average, a 10.27 percent reduction in their total federal loan burden before they even leave campus on graduation day. 

Since its inception in May 2016, the program to date has awarded a total of $659,000 to 252 eligible graduating seniors, with an average grant amount of $2,615.

Dam the Debt is one of several initiatives that President Bair has implemented since her inauguration in September 2015 to make college more affordable and accessible, and to tackle the problem of student loan debt. Funded entirely by donations, the program so far has raised $1.2 million. Among those who have donated to the program are BB&T, bloooom, inc., TD Bank, Santander Bank, Avant, John and Peggy Bacon, and Philip and Joan Riggin.

“We know that when students are burdened by debt, they delay buying homes, cars, and investing for their futures. This becomes a drag not only on them as individuals but on the economy as a whole,” President Bair says. “Anything we can do as an institution to break that cycle, we are working to do.”

In addition to Dam the Debt, the College has launched FixedFor4, which will fix tuition for four years for incoming freshmen, beginning with this fall’s incoming Class of 2021. Last year, the College also announced the Saver’s Scholarship, which will match the amount that families contribute from a 529 college savings plan or an Educational Savings Account, up to $2,500 per year, to pay for their student’s tuition. And through George’s Brigade, another donor-funded program, high-need, high-potential students can receive a full tuition scholarship, in addition to having all of their room and board covered, for four years.

In addition to these new programs, Washington College annually provides more than $23 million in grants and scholarships, with 90 percent of students receiving merit-based scholarships or need-based financial aid.

Learn more at http://www.washcoll.edu/value/ .

 

 

Chestertown Spy Forum on Town-Gown Future

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Last Tuesday, the Chestertown Spy sponsored a public forum with Washington College President Sheila Bair and Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino. The purpose of the event was to have a meaningful conversation with the community about the future of both the town and the school as they adjust to the rather complicated and challenging times of the 21st century.

With the help of the Washington College digital media services, we are able to present the whole meeting in its entirety for our readers benefit.

This video is approximately one hour in length. Please rewind to the beginning to see the entire program. 

Local Horizons Teacher Randy Decker Wins National Teaching Award

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Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s—a summer academic and enrichment program for underprivileged students—has announced that Middle School Head Teacher, Randy Decker, received the esteemed Lyn McNaught Teaching Award at this week’s Horizons National Conference in Greenwich, CT. The award honors educators who serve as role models for students and colleagues; provide a nurturing classroom environment that recognizes different learning styles; and create curriculum that is creative, challenging, and exciting to the students. At the conference, Mr. Decker was given the opportunity to address the attendees, who come from Horizons locations across the country.

“Randy Decker is an amazing dynamo of teaching excellence,” says Bob Parks, Executive Director of Horizons of Kent & Queen Anne’s. “He uses every available resource to enrich his students’ learning experiences–from field trips to visits from authors of books the students are reading. Not only has he created an exciting learning environment that keeps students engaged, he has inspired the staff with his commitment to Horizons goals. Randy epitomizes the kind of teacher who makes Horizons successful for students.”

A member of the Horizons family for four summers, Decker started as a fourth grade teacher and soon began sharing his passion for sailing with his students through sailing lessons. In his second summer, Randy designed and implemented a cutting-edge middle school program at Washington College using STEM, LEGO robotics, code.org, and literacy initiatives—enabling students to grow academically and engage in the learning process.

About Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s
Since 1995, Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s has served hundreds of underprivileged children on the campuses of The Gunston School, Radcliffe Creek School, and Washington College. The six-week summer program serves over 150 local children from pre-K through eighth grade, and focuses on reading, writing, and math. Students improve academically, learn to swim, and participate in activities that foster creativity, confidence, citizenship, and good health. Learn more at: http://horizonskentqueenannes.org/

About Horizons National
Horizons National is an award-winning, tuition-free, academic and enrichment program serving low-income, public school students from Pre-K through high school on the campuses of independent schools, colleges, and universities across the country. Started in 1964, and expanding nationally since 1995, Horizons programs now serve thousands of students in 51 sites across 17 states. Learn more at: https://www.horizonsnational.org

Job Shadowing Shows Pathways for Kent County STEM Students

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Kent County sophomores recently got a taste of real world occupations when they visited a variety of local businesses that employ professionals in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each year, eight leading Kent County businesses open their doors and share their expertise with local STEM students as they begin to make plans for the future.

Chesapeake Architects President, Peter Newlin, explains the importance of discussing personal preferences, lifestyle considerations and functional priorities with each client before beginning the design process.

In order to chart realistic and rewarding career paths, students need a clear understanding of the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of the professions they are considering. That’s where the annual job showing program comes in, by introducing students to a variety of experienced professionals who each describe the daily demands and routines of his or her particular occupation. They also discuss the educational requirements needed, specialty areas within each field, and long-term trends that might affect future job opportunities. The program is a timely resource for students as they begin considering secondary education and the courses they will need.

Students witness an amazing display of power and poise exhibited by a massive robot that was recently purchased by Dixon Valve & Coupling to handle inventory demands.

Kent County STEM students, their parents and teachers are thankful for the businesses and professionals who share their time and resources to make the program a success. Participating businesses included Benchworks, Chesapeake Architects, Chesapeake CNC, Dixon Valve & Coupling, DMS & Associates, Eastman Specialty Corp., University of Maryland Extension and University of Maryland Shore Medical Center.


Civil engineer and partner in DMS and Associates, Kevin Shearon, points out the logistical considerations that had to be addressed prior to the construction of Washington College’s new academic building.

KCMS STEM Science Olympiad Team Earns a Fourth Place Finish

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Photo: 1st row L-R: Molly Grafton, Madilyn Conner, Andrew Smith, Christopher Hinton, Sella Conner; 2nd row L-R: Logan Carroll, Brandon Myers, Thomas Martinez, Emma Walters, Jamera Christy; 3rd row L-R: Matthew Rickloff, Kate Ervin, Marlee Berghaus, Katie Stecklair, Ashlyn Orr, Christine Clark; 4th row L-R: Zane Carter, Melissa MacLeod, KT Pagano, Leah Maier, Olivia Jones, Ian Walters, Jay Reid; Back row L-R: Robert Bourne, Jack Cullum, Ronald Parker, Karen Carty.

Kent County Middle School teachers, Christine Clark, Melissa MacLeod, Katie Hughes, and Karen Carty, along with volunteer Zane Carter, led the KCMS STEM Science Olympiad team to a fourth place win at the state tournament on Saturday, April 9th.

The team had earned a place in the state tournament by earning 5th place in the regional tournament on Saturday, February 10, 2017.

According to the national Science Olympiad Organization, “The Science Olympiad Tournament is the pinnacle of achievement for the state’s best Science Olympiad teams. Each year a portion of the events are rotated to reflect the ever-changing nature of genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering and technology.” Source: https://www.soinc.org/

This year KCMS students participated in a wide range of events, from designing their own experiments to creating a working hovercraft. These events required students to work cooperatively on rigorous hands-on learning challenges. Countless hours went into preparing students for their events. Each day they worked during their Extended Learning Time at KCMS, in addition to expanding their knowledge and refining their project-based building creations at home.

State Results:
4th Place in the State
Experimental Design- 2nd Place: Ashlyn Orr, Katie Stecklair, and Logan Hall
Crime Busters- 5th Place: Madilyn Conner and Thomas Martinez
Dynamic Planet- 1st Place: Molly Grafton and Marlee Berghaus
Invasive Species- 3rd Place: Brandon Myers And Leah Maier
Road Scholar- 2nd Place: Thomas Martinez and Robert Bourne
Food Science- 5th Place: Ashlyn Orr and Katie Stecklair
Rocks and Minerals- 6th Place: Jamera Christy and Leah Maier
Wind Power- 6th Place: Andrew Smith and Robert Bourne
Fast Facts- 5th Place: Andrew Smith and Thomas Martinez
Meteorology- 3rd Place: Madilyn Conner and Marlee Berghaus
Optics- 4th Place: Robert Bourne and Logan Hall
Towers- 5th Place: Robert Bourne and Logan Hall
Hovercraft- 3rd Place: Jamera Christy and Leah Maier
Mission Possible- 2nd Place: Brandon Myers and Thomas Martinez
Bottle Rocket- 1st Place: Andrew Smith and Matthew Rickloff

Regional Results:

5th Place in the Region
Bottle Rocket- 1st place- Andrew Smith and Ian Walters
Mission Possible- 2nd place- Thomas Martinez and Brandon Myers
Experimental Design- 3rd place- Katie Stecklair and Ashlyn Orr
Towers- 3rd place- Ian Walters and Robert Bourne
Food Science-3rd place- Katie Stecklair and Ashlyn Orr
Crime Busters- 3rd place- Thomas Martinez and Nathan Walls
Write-it, Do-it- 3rd place- Matt Rickloff and Brandon Bowman
Wind Power- 4th place- Robert Bourne and Andrew Smith
Scrambler- 4th place- Sella Conner and Emma Walters
Crime Busters- 4th place- Lydia Davis and Madilyn Conner
Anatomy and Physiology- 5th place- Robert Bourne and Andrew Smith
Towers- 5th place- Logan Carrol and Tennant Allen
Fast Facts-6th place- Andrew Smith and Thomas Martinez
Dynamic Planet- 6th place- Molly Grafton and Marlee Berghaus
Hovercraft- 6th place- Jamera Christy, Leah Maier, Kate Ervin, and KT Pagano

Lawmakers Override Hogan’s Protect Our Schools Act Veto

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Maryland lawmakers voted Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that would specify which measures could be considered when determining a school’s quality, prohibiting student testing from being one of them.

The bill restricts the state’s ability to intervene in failing schools, which opponents worry is intended to limit the creation of charter schools and voucher systems.

The House of Delegates passed the override of the governor’s veto 90-50, and the Senate passed it the same day, 32-15.

Hogan, a Republican, vetoed House Bill 978, known as the Protect Our Schools Act of 2017, Wednesday, saying the bill weakens school accountability, according to a release from the governor’s office. In the press release, Hogan urged legislators to put aside politics and sustain the veto.

The Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education have sided with the governor in opposition to this bill, according to the release.

Thursday morning, advocates for the bill gathered at a rally to call for an override. Those present included representative from the Maryland State Education Association, the Maryland Parent Teacher Association and some lawmakers.

The bill would help accommodate the needs of the students and allow parents to be involved in the process, Delegate Mary Washington, D-Baltimore, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “We need to do more to end disparities (in education) … we cannot do that giving control to the state,” Washington said.

Bill Sponsor Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, acknowledged the common goal that both sides of the argument shared. “I’m glad we can agree every kid deserves a good education,” Luedtke said on the floor.

Although the State Board of Education opposes the bill, people who are involved in the everyday lives of children, like teachers and parents, support the bill, according to Luedtke.

Multiple delegates opposed to the bill referred to it as a “status quo” initiative on the floor, saying the bill will not bring any noticeable change that would benefit students.

Delegate Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, the House minority leader, said on the floor that this bill is not complicated.

“It traps students in failing schools and lessens accountability in the bureaucracy in education,” he said. Kipke made a point to say the legislation is regressive and takes tools away from the state.

Since both chambers voted to override the governor’s veto, the bill will become law July 1.

By Cara Newcomer

Mid-Shore Education: Chesapeake College’s Clay Railey

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Given Clay Railey’s resume, including a doctorate in English from Vanderbilt, a long teaching career at Chesapeake College, and more recently, being provost of Bucks County Community College, it was not a total surprise that he was appointed vice president of academic affairs of the Wye Mills community college in 2016.

But perhaps missing in that background was another experience that could be seen as a real asset for the job of stewarding the college’s educational goals. And that was the not too trivial fact that Dr. Railey had been a Jesuit priest for twenty years before his move into public education. And while the order’s renowned reputation for scholarship and intellectualism may have little day to day impact on Chesapeake College, there can be very little doubt the Railey remains true to the Jesuit mission of “cura personalis,” which is Latin for “care for the whole person.”

From students moving forward with workforce career training to those on a traditional liberal arts academic track, Clay Railey is redesigning Chesapeake College’s approach with that “whole person” in mind.

In our first Spy interview with Clay, he talks about some of those redesign plans and programs that significantly expand Chesapeake College’s special mission of training the Mid-Shore adults for 21st Century jobs and opportunities.

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

 

Mid-Shore Education: The Homeschooling Option with Denise Chapman-Toth

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With serious debates going on about the quality of public education and expensive private education, it is easy sometimes to overlook the third option for parents and their children when it comes to elementary and secondary education. And that is the possibility of homeschooling.

At present, close to 700 families have selected this option rather than sending their children to various public and private schools on the Mid-Shore. That sparked our curiosity about what it takes to have a successful homeschool program and the kind of commitment it requires from one or both parents during the year, and that is why we were able to track down Denise Chapman-Toth, president of the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore, to talk about this rarely used but relatively successful alternative to mainstream education programs.

In our Spy interview, Denise talks about her own experience over the last sixteen years in homeschooling her children, as well as the satisfaction of having two of them move on to higher education and be on the honor roll. She also talks about the mechanics of starting a homeschool program for your children and the kind of typical day required for parent teachers.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore please go here.

Lawmakers, Educators Push for Less Classroom-testing Time

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Maryland is ranked as the second-worst state in the nation for teacher classroom autonomy, according to the Learning Policy Institute, and testing mandates are a major contributor to this ranking, according to the Maryland State Education Association.

Lawmakers and educators testified Wednesday before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee in favor of the Less Testing, More Learning Act — legislation sponsored by Sen. Roger Manno, D-Montgomery, that would limit standardized testing to 2 percent of class time, or about 21.6 hours for elementary and middle schools and 23.4 hours for high school each school year.

In 2015, The U.S. Department of Education recommended that a student spend no more than 2 percent of their time in class taking required statewide standardized assessments.

“About 21 hours testing or 2 percent of instructional time annually is more than enough time to make sure students are on track to be successful throughout the year,” Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association and a middle school teacher for Kent County Public Schools said during the hearing.

The bill also repeals statewide social studies assessments both on the middle school and high school levels.

As an alternative, starting during the 2017-2018 school year, each local board of education should design and administer their own social studies assessment as part of the local curriculum, according to the bill.

Manno testified during the hearing that the legislation will allow local committees to be able to determine their own social studies curricula.

About two-thirds of the state Senate — 31 members — are co-sponsors of the bill. The House of Delegates unanimously passed similar legislation last year, according to a Maryland State Education Association press release.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the average student took 249 total hours of standardized tests from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, according to a Maryland State Education Association analysis based on date from the Maryland State Department of Education.

Those hours do not include preparation, in-class tests, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams and, in a majority of cases, exams such as the ACT and the SAT are not included, according to the Maryland State Education Association.

Celia Burton, testing coordinator for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said at the hearing that since this past September students have had 71 different types of mandated tests.

In her school district, Burton said, some students are not allowed or able to attend Black History Month programs because of testing for student learning objectives that are used for teacher evaluations. They are being assessed for courses such as math, reading, science, physical education, health, foreign language and band.

“They are required to take one assessment per content area and the questions are more than 30 questions on each of the assessments,” Burton said.

Maryland Parent and Teacher Association President Elizabeth Ysla-Leight also supports the act and said she believes there are many benefits to cutting back on testing and spending more time on learning.

“As a stakeholder … for the Every Student Succeeds Act, we believe that the more active time students spend in the classroom — actually learning — benefits their achievement and … meeting their potential in schools,” Ysla-Leight said. “We believe the benefits is that they’re actually going to be learning as opposed to being assessed on what they already learned.”

Manno also said students being exposed to the arts and physical education in school helps them become well-balanced, and well-rounded to prepare for the future.

“The onerous non-stop grind towards these benchmarks — towards these federal, state benchmarks to prepare them for these tests and for them to perform on a dime during these tests are really getting to inhibit their ability to…be productive, wonderful, flourishing young people who I know we all want to continue to grow and to nurture,” Manno said during the hearing.

Manno emphasized that although the bill will limit testing time, he does support standardized testing.

“There’s a great need for benchmarks and preparation for critical subjects but we’ve, I think, begun to pile up in terms of these tests and as a result kids, who we all know need a rich, diverse, instructional experience and environment, have essentially become slaves to the test,” Manno said.

By Brianna Rhodes