Major Kerr Fund Grant Supports WRUS MakerSpace

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WRUS students collaborated with local artist Sue Stockman to create a permanent mosaic.

An innovative MakerSpace project at Centreville’s Wye River Upper School (WRUS), has been greatly strengthened by a $120,000 grant from the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Inc. of Easton, Maryland. This new grant to the independent school for bright students who learn differently will augment a recent $100,000 grant for the capital portion of the MakerSpace project from Baltimore’s Middendorf Foundation by helping to support faculty who will lead the project over the next three years.

The WRUS Board of Trustees is pleased to announce this grant to the student-centered “design and build” educational experience set to launch in the 2018-19 school year.

The Grayce B Kerr Fund’s president, John Valliant said, “The Trustees of the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Inc. are pleased to assist Wye River Upper School in this exciting addition to their dynamic curriculum. Innovative programs like this are what keeps WRUS as a leader in providing a quality education experience to those with learning differences.”

WRUS Board Chair Alexa Seip commented, “The Grayce B. Kerr Fund is a remarkable asset for the Mid-Shore community and beyond. At WRUS, the Kerr Fund has enabled many deserving students to experience transforming opportunities as they prepare to take their place as contributing citizens in the future.  We at WRUS are most grateful for this generous support from the Kerr Fund.”

The WRUS MakerSpace at 318 S. Commerce Street in Centreville, MD will be located adjacent to the school’s main structure, a historically renovated former Maryland National Guard Armory. With funding from the Middendorf Foundation, work is underway to prepare the structure to accommodate the equipment and tools needed for a MakerSpace.

WRUS Executive Director Chrissy Aull explains, “A MakerSpace is similar to what we used to call  ‘shop’, with some big differences. It is a gender-neutral space equipped with low tech and high tech “design and build” equipment and tools where students, instead of being told what to build, are encouraged to collaborate in identifying issues or needs, creating possible designs to address the need, and then fabricating the object. We will have 3D printers and laser cutters as well as more low-tech hand and power tools, and will weave design opportunities throughout the entire curriculum. We see this MakerSpace as an engaging way to prepare our students for the demands of college and careers.”

WRUS students, staff and visiting artist Sue Stockman designed and constructed a mosaic mural.

Art and Technology Instructor James Martinez, a WRUS teacher since the school’s founding, will lead the design and use of the Space.  Martinez brings broad experience to the project while helping WRUS students create a 3D Printer for the new space.  A graduate of Texas Tech University with an MFA in printmaking from the University of Delaware, he has taught at the Delaware College of Art & Design and Washington College and is a frequent participant in MakerFaires in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Projects can be simple or much more complex; the focus is on encouraging students to identify, design and build,” advises Martinez.

Wye River Upper School was founded in 2002 and leased space on the campus of Chesapeake College until 2014 when it relocated to its permanent campus in the repurposed Centreville Armory.  An independent high school educating bright high school students with learning differences including dyslexia, ADHD, autism and anxiety, WRUS is accredited by the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) and certified by the Maryland State Department of Education.

For more information about the School contact Katie Theeke at 410-758-2922 or katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.org

The Public Schools Funding Challenge: What did Talbot County Do?

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As many of our readers know, the Spy goes out of its way to cover public affairs through the lens of a hyperlocal perspective. While our articles of the arts and regional culture frequently are shared in both the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, when it comes to local government coverage, we have kept Kent County and Talbot County issues separated in our online publications to best serve the needs of these uniquely different communities.

But periodically, both counties must face the same challenges in how they collect revenue and support local priorities. And this is undoubtedly the case when it comes to not only covering the annual budget expense of their respective public schools through Maryland’s “maintenance of effort”(MOE) requirement, the bare minimum a county must provide for their school districts, but more frequently these days, must find funding well beyond that number to keep their schools competitive.

Last week, the Kent County Commissioners and residents found themselves in a heated discussion as Kent County faces this kind of challenge in the next fiscal year budget. And this conversation comes at a time when the Talbot County Council has had to face a similar issue and recently approved a substantial increase over the required MOE, despite the fact that all five members were fiscally conservative Republicans.

Without commentary, the Spy shares below an outtake of a recent GOP forum where four out of the five council members discuss their decision to raise taxes to fund the Talbot County Public Schools in the new budget year. Starting with Jennifer Williams, president of the Talbot County Council, and following by Council members Cory Pack, Chuck Callahan and Laura Price, discuss their rationale in voting for the substantial increase.

This video is approximately ten minutes in length.

Chesapeake College: Dual Enrollment Now at Caroline Career and Tech Center

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Chesapeake College has taken its popular Dual Enrollment program to the Caroline Career and Tech Center this year to expand the partnership and offer college courses to CTE students in Caroline County.

When CCTC counselor Brad Plutschak asked for a way to give CTE students an early college experience, Chesapeake offered up an IT class aimed at providing high school students college credits and industry knowledge.

Professor Lanka Elson, through her Computer Ethics class, teaches these aspiring IT professionals the technology and theories they need for their next steps.

Learn from administrators, the Chesapeake instructor and her students talk about how Dual Enrollment is career preparation and college experience.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Dual Enrollment program at Chesapeake College please go here. 

English Major Caroline Harvey Wins Washington College 2018 Sophie Kerr Prize

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Caroline Harvey, an English major and creative writing minor from Arlington, Virginia, whose writing frequently examines otherness through the perspective of the insect world, has won the 2018 Sophie Kerr Prize. National Public Radio book critic and author Maureen Corrigan announced the winner of the nation’s largest undergraduate prize, this year valued at $63,711, at Washington College this evening.

Harvey, who served as editor-in-chief of The Collegian and managing editor of the Washington College Review, submitted a portfolio that included poetry, nonfiction, and academic scholarship from her thesis, entitled “Poetics of Otherness: The Marginalized Experience Through the Insect Lens.” She attributes her fascination with the insect world to her early reading of Jurassic Park, which propelled her interest in connecting science and writing.

“Caroline’s work is gorgeously detailed and specific. As a poet and academic writer, she takes as her subject matter things that others may find distasteful and difficult and finds the beauty in them. As an editor, she has worked to facilitate of the writing of others and to build a dynamic and supportive literary community on campus,” says Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.

“I had the distinct pleasure of directing Caroline’s thesis, which incorporated complex literary and identity theory with contemporary poetry in order to posit that Otherness can be owned and deployed in subversive and empowering ways,” says James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House. “Her own poems find new metaphors to think in striking ways about gender, faith, and representation. Caroline uses traditional forms like sonnets and villanelles to subvert patriarchal assumptions about who has the right to speak. Reading Caroline Harvey’s work, I’m reminded of what Wallace Stevens said about how every poet has to reinvent the language for herself.”

At the announcement, Harvey thanked her family, friends, staff of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, and her professors, especially James Allen Hall, from whom she took her first undergraduate class and who advised her senior thesis. She also thanked her former professor, Jeanne Dubrow.

“She was the first person to sit me down and call me ‘poet,’ and that was so important,” Harvey said. “And finally, I have to thank my cohort. Everyone I grew up with in this community, everyone who wrote with me, who read with me, and especially Rhea, and Brooke, and Mallory, and Casey [fellow Sophie Kerr Prize finalists], all of whom came together in this moment. There’s so much about this place that I love, and so much I would like to change. But the one thing that I hold on to at all times is the people—the wonderful people who helped me get where I am.”

A member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honor society, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, Harvey plans to take a gap year before pursuing an MFA in poetry and a PhD in English.

Harvey was among five finalists chosen from a number of student portfolios, encompassing essay, poetry, non-fiction, journalism, academic scholarship, and print projects. Although the Sophie Kerr Prize is not limited to English majors, this year’s finalists were all majors in English with one who double majored in political science. Several were creative writing minors, and all represented multiple honors societies and campus leadership activities. Several have worked on College publications including the student newspaper, The Elm, the student review, The Collegian, and Cherry Tree, the College’s national literary journal.

“It is always a privilege to read these portfolios. They illuminate the best of the literary culture and the commitment to writing that is the heart and soul of this College,” Moncrief says. “These students and their outstanding work highlight their diverse interests and approaches, their promise in the field of literary endeavor, their dedication to craft, and their shared passion for the written word.”

Top Grad is Pursuing American Dream through Education

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Sofiah Ali’s immigrant journey began in the Philippines and is the reason behind her success.

Ms. Ali, a Stevensville resident, is a biology major and aspiring medical researcher. Tonight, she will be honored with the John T. Harrison Award, the highest student honor at Chesapeake College.

A first-generation college student, Ms. Ali will receive her associate’s degree along with 300 other graduates and will deliver her acceptance speech to them. President and CEO of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health Ken Kozel will deliver the commencement address.

A 2016 graduate of Kent Island High School, Ms. Ali has a cumulative 4.0 Grade Point Average. Since enrolling at Chesapeake, she has been on the Dean’s List every semester.  As an Honors Program student, Ms. Ali completed four Honors Contract projects during her time at Chesapeake.

Ms. Ali, 20, was a semi-finalist for the prestigious national Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship this year and was a 2017 nominee for the NCHC Portz Award. She is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and participated in recruitment drive that significantly boosted membership.

This record of success if part of a long journey that began more than 15 years ago.

Parents Farzand and Aileen Ali, brought Ms. Ali and her sister Shavanah to Maryland as very young children. This is the only home that Ms. Ali has ever known.

“I don’t remember living in the Philippines, so the United States is what I know. I’ve always had a great sense of pride in my background and where I came from. But when I was younger, because of the influences of my peers, I felt the need to quickly assimilate with those around me,” Ms. Ali said. “I tried to hide something that was an integral part of my identity, I was embarrassed of who I was and the differences I had compared to everyone else. As a result, I began to feel detached from my parents and my culture because of who I was trying to be. Now that I’m older, I realize how silly that was. My differences are what sets me apart from those around me.”

Faculty and staff at Chesapeake say that Ms. Ali’s dedication and drive set her apart.

Ms. Ali works a full schedule at Ledo Pizza on Kent Island while she maintains her perfect GPA at Chesapeake. This semester, she is taking 21 credits. She also volunteers her time with Youthline Eastern Shore Crisis Center.

She was the first-place winner in the Spring 2017 Honors Poster Exhibition and earned a trip to the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Atlanta last fall.

On the honors trip, Ms. Ali had the opportunity to visit the Centers for Disease Control. Ms. Ali said she was inspired by both the history and mission of CDC. She hopes to conduct medical research in the future that can be used to improve lives around the globe.

Chesapeake faculty cited, among many attributes, Ms. Ali’s extraordinary work ethic when recommending her for the Harrison Award.

“My mother and father always wanted me to achieve the American Dream. Like millions of other immigrant parents, they left their home country to establish a new life—a better life—for my sister and me. They had sacrificed everything they’d ever known—their language, family, friends, and jobs—in hopes that the new life they sought out for us would open doors to opportunities they never had. From the moment I entered Pre-K until now, I made sure I worked hard in all of my endeavors so that everything they had to give up on would one day be worth it,” Ms. Ali said. “I felt the need to prove myself and work twice as hard. I was not going to hold myself back from living a life without purpose. The tears I once shed out of hopelessness have been replaced with hope and motivation for my life-long ambitions.”

In nominating his student for the Harrison Award, Phi Theta Kappa faculty advisor Jeremy Crowe described Ms. Ali as one of Chesapeake’s great assets.

“Sofiah is an excellent student, an excellent human being and she will bring prestige to this college as an alumna. She is the daughter of immigrants who instilled in Sofiah the importance of hard work, perseverance and kindness. Her Pakistani and Filipino heritage brings diversity to our campus, and you won’t meet a friendlier student Skipjack,” said Associate Professor Jeremy Crowe.

Ms. Ali said that she hopes her Commencement will be as rewarding for her parents as it is for her.

 “I’m eternally grateful for their decision and everything that they had to sacrifice. Although at times, the obstacles we would be presented with are enough to lose hope, I will never forget the things they had to give up on just for the sake of my sister and me. All of their blood, sweat, and tears will one day be exchanged for a better life when my sister and I will be able to one day take care of them the way they did for us,” she said.

Ms. Ali will pursue a bachelor’s degree this fall at either the University of Maryland or Tufts University. She plans to major in molecular biology with the goal of earning a doctorate and becoming a medical researcher.

Just In: Kent County High Listed as One of Maryland’s Best Schools

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Kent County High has just being recognized as one of the best high schools in Maryland. The 2018 National Rankings earned Kent County High School a bronze medal.

Schools are ranked based on their performance on state-required tests and how well they prepare students for college. Read more about how the Best High Schools are ranked here.

Ranked as the 49th Best High School in Maryland and Recognized in National Rankings, higher than all Eastern Shore school’s other than North Caroline High, Snow Hill High and Stephen Decataur High.

Amelia Markosian: The Fun Teacher Becomes Teacher of the Year

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Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, with pictures of planets behind her.   Photo by Jane Jewell

Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, has been teaching science at Kent County Middle School for six years. But her connection to Kent County goes back well before that.

Her parents used to summer in Gregg Neck on the Sassafras River when she was in grade school. She remembers making friends in the neighborhood, visiting the Tea Party Festival, even working on schooner Sultana before its launch. But she returned for good seven years ago, with her teaching certificate in hand, and she soon found work as a long-term substitute at Galena Elementary School. A year later, a job at KCMS opened up – and the rest is history.

Amelia Markosian, on left, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, with her 6th-grade science class.       Photo by Jane Jewell

The Chestertown Spy visited Markosian for one of her classes Thursday, April 26 – a sixth-grade class with a focus on astronomy. The students were learning about the Moon – its phases, its distance from the Earth, and other basic facts about our closest celestial neighbor.

Markosian grew up in Willow Grove, a Philadelphia suburb, graduating from Upper Moreland High School and continuing her education at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. At the time, McDaniel didn’t offer an education major, so she majored in art with a minor in education – and enough extra credits to qualify for her teaching certificate. After teaching six months at a private school in Pennsylvania, she decided to try her luck in Maryland. She and her husband, Igor Markosian, were high school sweethearts. They now live in Chestertown and Igor commutes to his job in Middletown, Delaware.

You don’t have to watch Markosian at work for long to see why she was chosen Teacher of the Year. She is full of energy, easily engaging her students in discussion, and it’s obvious that she enjoys science. Speaking to the class about the space program and plans for a manned journey to Mars, she radiated enthusiasm. “It’ll be a really big thing,” she said, comparing it to the first manned lunar expedition. “I can’t wait to see the pictures!” She emphasized that the Mars visit would take place in the students’ lifetimes.

The students asked what the next step after Mars would be. “The moons of Jupiter,” she said, but cautioned that it was well in the future.

The students watched a video – “Earth’s Orbit Song” – that presented a wealth of facts about the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, with a catchy rhythm and bright illustrations. Markosian drew attention to two facts from the video – the fact that the orbits of the celestial bodies are elliptical, and the distance from the Earth to the Moon is large enough for all the other planets in the Solar System to fit between the Earth and the Moon–that’s a long distance!

While much of the class involved the students working with iPads and other high-tech educational tools, Markosian was quick to use lower-tech instructional methods. At one point, she held her hand near her face to illustrate the relative positions of the Earth and Moon. At another point, she sat with several students at a table with bright lights to simulate the Sun, and small rubber balls representing the Earth and Moon. By changing the positions of the rubber balls, the students could see not only the phases of the Moon but the geometry of eclipses. “This is so cool!” said one student.

Kent County Middle School – Mrs. Markosian’s 6th-grade science class Photo by Jane Jewell

That sentiment is one Markosian shares. Asked why she chose science teaching as a career, she said she had taught every subject while substituting at Galena and realized “science was the most fun. I want to be one of the fun teachers,” the ones the students talk about when they get home.

She spoke enthusiastically about her own scientific interests – notably a teachers’ workshop  with NASA at Wallops Island, where she rubbed elbows with space scientists and got to see a launch from “about 300 feet away.” Kent County’s school system, she said, has been wonderful about providing educational opportunities for their teachers. She also told of visiting an active volcano – a cultural tour of Hawaii’s Kilauea, with a Hawaiian tribal chief as her guide. The volcano is a sacred spot in the Hawaiian religion, and visits are strictly regulated, she said.

In addition to her science classes, Markosian also coaches cheerleading and takes part in the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program, in which students are rewarded for good behavior. She also works with the Lamont Company to give the students experience in testing water. In another class, she taught the basics of forensics – showing the students the elements of fingerprints and toothprints to identify “suspects.” The toothprint specimens are collected using candy – which adds to the students’ interest, not surprisingly.

Markosian is taking courses toward her Master’s degree at Wilmington University in Delaware, with an eventual aim of getting certified as a school administrator. That’s a ways in the future, though – for now, she’s thoroughly enjoying her role as “the fun teacher” at Kent County Middle School.

Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, with pictures of planets behind her.   Photo by Jane Jewell

Introducing Chesapeake College’s Sixth President Cliff Coppersmith

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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

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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