Sunday, December 28, 2008

Delete Cyber Bullying 2!

Delete Cyber Bullying!

Cyber-Safety – Do You Know What Your Teens Are Doing Online?

Over the past several years, like most middle schools in the U.S., ELMS has seen a rise in the number of incidents where students have “abused” the power of the internet. Some of the incidents we have investigated involving students include: engaging in inappropriate online chats at home and then printing-out the dialogue and bringing it to school to embarrass one or more students; using cell phones to take inappropriate pictures at school and then sending them to other students via the internet; texting during school hours; videotaping inappropriate behavior at home and bringing it to school for others to see; and creating websites for the purpose of ridiculing other students. While these incidents were isolated, the use of computers, cell phones and other digital-aged tools by teens, while incredibly useful, can be abused.

In response to these troublesome incidents and other potential cyber safety issues, our staff has seen this as a wonderful opportunity to teach our students about the many benefits and dangers that exist in the digital age in which we live. Our Student Services Team, has taken an active role in creating and teaching lessons for all of our students on “NETetiquette”. These lessons include cyber safety, cyber bullying and a safety pledge for both parents and students to sign where students agree to follow the guidelines established by

Here are some recent CYBER facts that may be of interest...

Did You Know?

• 94% of American teens ages 12-17 use the internet
• 87% of all parents are online

• 73% of all families have broadband @ home

• 68% of online Americans have broadband @ home

• 6% of teens do not use the internet

Did You Know?
• 33% of all online teens have sent an inappropriate text message, instant message or image over the internet using a computer and/or cell phone
• 59% of online teens report having images of themselves on the internet

Did You Know?
• 58% of online teens have a profile online
• 70% of teen girls, particularly older teen girls, more likely to belong to a social networking site compared to 57% of teen boys
• 32% of teens report being contacted online by a stranger
• 23% of teens contacted by strangers, report to feeling scared or uncomfortable by the stranger’s comments
• Overall, 7% of online teens have experienced disturbing stranger contact

Did You Know?
• Only 58% of teens report that their parents have rules regarding internet use at home
• Only 55% of teens report that their parents place limits on the amount of time on they can use the internet at home

Research conducted by PEW/Internet: Teens & Online Safety. This study was presented by: Amanda Lenhart in October, 2008.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

For Those Who Believe...NORAD Tracks Santa!

Every Christmas Eve for the past several years, NORAD has provided radar support for Santa and his reindeer as they travel through North American air space on their very important mission. Below is the link to view Santa's progress tonight. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas to you and all of your loved ones!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ELMS Badminton Tournament Is A Big Success!

An excerpt from a recent article in The Howard County Times written by Susan Lavin :

During physical education classes, many students competed in the ELMS badminton tournament. Skills had improved a lot this year and the competition was tough! Grade level winners for the singles games were:

Sixth grade: Austin Bennett, Gerardo Portillo

Seventh grade: Max Balter, Marcus Fedarko.

Eighth grade: Agil Jose, Jazlyn Nketia

"Despite the talents of many of our students, (ELMS principal) Mr. (Thomas) Saunders still remains the undefeated singles badminton champ at ELMS," Carol Jones said.

The winning doubles badminton teams from the sixth grade were Austin Bennett and Zach Ciepiela, Gerardo Portillo and Michael Xega.

The seventh-grade winners were Max Balter and Joey Grabowski, Andrew Accardi and Matt Marcin.

The doubles teams from eighth grade included Jazlyn Nketia and Michael Bullock and Blackburn and Michelle Amaya.

Principal Saunders selected student players as his doubles partner to challenge many of our doubles teams.

The double teams of Max Balter and Joey Grabowski and Tyler Lewis and Clay Bartnik defeated Saunders' doubles team in the competition. These seventh-grade boys earned "bragging rights" in badminton for their win! Way to go guys!

For the complete article, here is the link:

Click Here To Read The Whole Story!

Thanks to Carol Jones, Physical Education Teacher extraordinaire, for setting up this annual event for our students!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Data Tools 101 - Treasure Hunting!

This week, I had the opportunity to conduct a workshop, entitled Data Tools 101 - Treasure Hunting for HCPSS middle school administrators and other school system leaders. The workshop, held here at ELMS, focused on how to use both the state and local online data tools to inform data-driven decision making by school staff.

Joining me in conducting the workshop, were members of the ELMS Intervention Team. who helped to highlight how our staff uses these tools on a regular basis to inform our school improvement process and accelerate the academic achievement of all of our students. I want to thank Gina Stokes, Stephanie Harden, Holly Cheung, Geordie Paulus and Tina Eder for doing such a great job sharing their knowledge and expertise with our colleagues. I also want to thank all of the HCPSS leaders who attended our workshop!

Below are links to the Maryland State Department of Education sites that we discussed and are provided for all educational stakeholders in our state:

Here is a link to the slides we used during our presentation.

Here are some questions I would really like to get your thoughts about...

What strategies help to facilitate data-driven decision making
in your school?

What tools do teachers use when conducting data conversations?

What books or websites do you find helpful in understanding
data-driven decision-making?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Loss, Another Uncomfortable Jersey!

Once again, "my" Washington Redskins lost an important game to our geographic rival - the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 24-10. And once again, I had to wear an opponents jersey due to the loss.

In addition to having to wear "purple and black" on Friday, I had to withstand comments from both students and staff about how poorly the Redskins played. Since ELMS is located in a suburb of Baltimore, this loss was especially painful for me due to the large number of Raven fans here at the school.

Oh well, after a great start to the year, the Redskins have fizzled out. The good news for me is that I have no more "jersey" bets planned this year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

PBIS Continues to Pay-Off!

A dance? Basketball? Computer games? Movie watching? What is going on here? A few weeks ago, we held our first quarter social where 99% of our student body was eligible to participate in a assortment of activities based on their consistent demonstration of positive behavior and exhibiting the ELMS Expectations of being safe, respectful, responsible and prepared during the first quarter of this year.

For the 3rd year in a row, ELMS has been using Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to create a school climate that provides clear behavioral expectations and consequences for students, which are enforced consistently by all staff. When students meet the expectations established, our staff reinforces their positive behavior by providing a variety of rewards and incentives to celebrate their success.

In addition to earning the “right” to attend quarterly socials, students have the opportunity to receive STAR cards for demonstrating the ELMS Expectations in class, in the hallways and even on the bus. STAR cards can be redeemed for all types of “cool” middle school prizes including food during each social.
For those students who fail to meet our behavioral expectations on a consistent basis and receive office referrals, they have time taken away from quarterly socials. For each office referral a student receives during the quarter, there is a half-hour taken away from their participation in the two-hour social. At ELMS, this is a huge consequence. Students who receive office referrals are encouraged to earn back their lost time by doing “community service” for the school.

Our data tells us our approach is working! This past quarter, we had a 10% reduction in office referrals when compared to the same time period last year. And since we began the use of PBIS, ELMS has realized a 60% reduction in office referrals. In addition, our suspensions have been reduced by nearly 85%

Our positive, yet firm approach with students has proven to be very successful. In fact, our school was recognized as a Maryland State PBIS Exemplar School in 2008.

What types of rewards and incentives does your school use to reinforce positive behaviors?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

During these tumultuous times, it is easy to forget our many blessings. It is easy to count our deficits and not appreciate our many gifts. Over this long weekend, I hope you take time to tell a loved one how much you appreciate them and you take stock in all that is right with our world.

My Thanksgiving Challenge to You:
I challenge each of you to remember a teacher/mentor who has meant a lot to you and reconnect with them to say "thanks!" You could call, visit, email or send a card. Believe me, this would really mean a lot to the person you select.

When I sit down this afternoon to eat dinner, I will be thankful for the following: my wonderful family, my two healthy kids, a great place to work and my friends who make me laugh.

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pay-Back Is Rough: Redskins' Loss Causes Another Fashion Disaster!

If you have been reading my blog regularly (thanks very much!), you might recall when the Redskins beat the Cowboys earlier this year, Fire Marshall Shilling (a lifelong Cowboys fan) came to ELMS and wore a Redskins’ jersey and sang the Redskin Fight Song during our 7th Grade lunch period. He did this to pay-off the friendly wager he had made with me during Back to School Night in September. Unfortunately for me, we made the same friendly wager again for the most recent Cowboys/Redskins game played last weekend. As you probably know, the Cowboys barely beat the Redskins, however, they did win the game. Consequently, I had to wear a Cowboys’ jersey during school on Friday, November 21st. Thank goodness the Cowboys don't have a fight song. So, I didn't have to sing. Pay-backs are rough.

Mix it Up Day Is A Big Success At ELMS

We understand hanging out with people we think are most like us can be comfortable. But we also understand it can be uncomfortable when you want to hang out with someone new and other people think you should "stick with your own kind.”Nowhere in school are the boundaries of group membership more clearly drawn than in and around the cafeteria.
Teaching Tolerance National Website

This past week, we held our 4th annual Mix it Up Day here at ELMS. Led by our Student Services Team, all students participated in specially designed lessons to discuss the importance of getting to know everyone here at our school. At the end of the lesson, students were provided “special” seating assignments in the cafeteria for the day. Each student was assigned to sit with students they would not necessarily sit with during a regular lunch shift. As they entered the cafeteria, music was playing, balloons were placed on each table and various staff members were there to greet them. It was time to Mix it Up!

During the Mix it Up lunch period, students and teachers participated in “get to know” activities and worked as a team to try and earn prizes. During the follow-up advisory time provided, students were given the opportunity to process what they had learned about the new people they met and what were some of the benefits for reaching out to other students who they did not know.

Students I talked to during the lunch periods that day said it was a lot of fun! One student told me that she met her best friend last year as they got to know each other during this same activity. Another student told me that he really liked the music and balloons!

I believe we have a responsibility to help students understand the power of building positive relationships and the importance of reaching out to others. Mix it Up is just one way to provide ideas and tools to help our students break the walls of division and build a stronger community within our school.

The truth is, things don't have to be how they've always been - Mix It Up.

Friday, November 21, 2008

ELMS Student Has Front Row Ticket to the Inauguration

ELMS Pride!

On Wednesday, WJZ-TV (Channel 13) visited ELMS to interview one of our 8th graders. Melvin, an 8th grader and student leader here at ELMS, has received a front-row ticket to President-Elect Obama’s Inauguration. He received this honor by being selected to attend a national youth leadership conference this past summer. In addition, Melvin and his family were featured on WBAL TV on Tuesday evening. If you missed seeing either of these news stories and would like to view them, here are the links:

Congratulations Melvin!

Local Chef Shares Secrets of Making Great Crepes

On Tuesday, November 18th, the Chef and owner of the Elkridge Furnace Inn came to ELMS and shared his cooking secrets with some of our 8th graders during their Family and Consumer Science class. His demonstration of how to make crepes was really informative and enjoyed by Ms. Sanna and her class. She told me that Chef Wecker did a great job engaging her students with his practical cooking techniques and recipe, while sharing his passion for the culinary arts with her students. At the end of the demonstration, students were treated to a feast of various flavored crepes prepared by this acclaimed local chef! Not too shabby! I also had the pleasure of enjoying a wonderful tasting berry jam filled crepe made by Chef Wecker! What a treat! Yummy!

Here’s a link to Chef Wecker’s Elkridge Furnace Inn:

Thanks Chef Wecker for sharing your time, talent and passion for
making great food!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Y.E.S. It Was Quite A Day!

Youth Empowerment Summit Helps Middle School Students Make a Difference!

On Thursday, November 13, over 250 student leaders from 13 Howard County Middle Schools came together to learn leadership skills, discuss common concerns and develop plans to make a difference in their home schools. This is the 3rd annual conference dedicated to empowering middle school students with the skills necessary to lead, learn and ultimately transform their vision into action. The theme of this year’s summit was to Make a Difference!

The summit was kicked-off by Howard County Board of Education Member Mr. Larry Cohen. Mr. Cohen and I were asked to get the students hyped for the day. The keynote speaker was Ms. Marcy Leonard, Principal of Atholton High School. Her energetic and inspiring presentation helped all of the student leaders focus on the importance of personal values, positive decision-making and the need to learn conflict resolution strategies in order to make a difference! Later in the day, the participants attended break-out sessions on various leadership topics including: Conflict Resolution, Leadership Through History, Throwing Off Labels, Communication and Leadership Games.

The 13 middle schools represented were: Bonnie Branch, Clarksville, Cradlerock, Dunloggin, Elkridge Landing, Folly Quarter, Glenwood, Hammond, Harper’s Choice, Lime Kiln, Mount View Oakland Mills, and Wilde Lake.

Some of the quotes I heard from my students who attend were: “Wow, it was great to meet other students from other schools.” It was so much fun, I learned a lot!” “I wish school was more like Y.E.S.!”

I want to thank Julie Prince, the coordinator of this year’s Y.E.S, and the other middle school counselors from around our county for making this program so powerful and exciting for all of the students who attended. I also want to thank Lisa Boarman for helping to pay for this important conference.

For me, the development of leadership skills is critical to our future as a nation. In fact, the reason I work as an educational leader is due to my experiences as a student leader many years ago. A program called Maryland Leadership Workshops, which is still serving the students of Maryland today, provided me with a framework to develop my own leadership talents.

Much of my philosophical beliefs about education are based on my early leadership experiences. To me, everyone has the ability to become a leader, either up front in the spotlight, on the team as a role model, or behind the scenes helping give voice to the concerns of others. It is there in all of us waiting to find a chance to come out, perhaps waiting for someone else to find it first. One of the current shortcomings of education is that we do not take time to actively and intentionally develop the leadership skills of all students.
So, it was a pleasure for me to lend my support to this important program. Visit the following link to see pictures from the day.

A link to a Howard County Times article about the summit:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Redskin Loss Hurts & Omen Holds True Again!

This past Monday night, "my" Washington Redskins were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 23-6 on national TV. The Steelers stopped running back Clinton Portis and sacked quarterback Jason Campbell seven times. Due to this painful loss, my day-off on Tuesday was dreary and unproductive. Making the loss even worse, I had to wear a Steeler's jersey yesterday in order to pay-off my friendly wager with both Ms. Cheung and Mr. Spicher.

In the picture below, I am surrounded by the ELMS 6th graders who happen to be Steeler fans, too. Needless to say, they were very pleased with their team's victory this past week and enjoyed my discomfort wearing the black and gold.

Interesting Redskin Omen

For all but one of the last 17 presidential ballots, since 1937, a Redskins victory has signaled a win for the party currently in power and a loss has meant a change in the party occupying the White House.

As we now know, Senator Obama won the Presidential Election over rival Senator John McCain keeping this interesting omen alive.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Report Card Time – An Anxious Time For Both Students and Parents

Yes, it’s that time of year again when parents are about to receive report cards from teachers to help them gauge the progress of their children. As you probably know, this can be a very anxious time for both students and parents.

“Report cards are a big part of a student's academic career. They're the yardstick by which students measure their successes and failures, and because you're dealing with children, many of them measure their self worth by their own report cards. So, it's clear that having open and free communications with your child about their report cards is essential to their continued success and scholastic happiness.”
(The Learning Hub Website)

Parents often ask me how they should use the information provided on report cards to help their child improve their performance in school. What are some strategies to use to connect with their children in a meaningful way? Here is some of the information I have gathered:

The day the report card comes home:

STOP whatever you are doing. Your child deserves your time, respect, trust, and love. They need frequent, meaningful, undivided attention from you. Your child should be aware of your love and they should not fear sharing their report card with you.

LOOK at your child's report card. Help your child to: find something to be proud of; accept and identify strengths and weaknesses; develop personal goals; internalize an "I can do it!" attitude; and to identify new skills to learn.

LISTEN to what your child has to say. Asking open-ended questions will help start a conversation with your child. Here are some examples: What part of this report card are you most proud of? Why? What part of this report card surprised you most? Why? What do you plan to do differently during the next marking period? How can I help you as a parent? (adapted from an HCPSS Publication)

One way you can ease the pressure on your child is by letting them know what you expect. All A's on a report card is not a practical or reasonable goal in most cases, so be kind to your child and set realistic targets that they can meet and maybe even exceed. A student's report card is only one way to gauge their progress, meeting and exceeding goals is another way that can lessen any feelings of failure and can reinforce feelings of success.

After the report card has been fully reviewed:

Setting goals for your child's academic success works hand in hand with setting expectations, but it takes it one step further. When you establish what you expect your child to do, you are laying out your part of the bargain. When you and your child decide together what they will aim to accomplish by the next report card, you are setting goals. Having clear goals lets your child be involved in the process, increasing their interest level and maximizing their outlook for success.

Rewards are essential to your child's continued top-notch performance. But rewards do not need to be monetary, or even tangible. Heap praise on a child who has raised their grade point average, cook them their favorite dinner, or ease up on chores for the week.

There are a lot of ways to reinforce your child's success including but not limited to money or presents. But all positive achievements by your child should be reinforced in some way. A sincere "Great Job!" can mean a lot to a child.

If your child doesn't perform as well as you'd like on their report cards, it's up to you, as the parent, to discover why. Your child may be facing a different grading scale than they had in the past and this may affect their overall results. They may be going through some personal issues and as a result not completing work and/or not handing it into the teacher for a grade. Or the subject could have gotten more difficult to comprehend. Whatever the reason, I encourage parents to contact their child’s teacher(s) and the school counselor to find out why your child is not performing as well as you had hoped. In addition, I would review your child’s homework routine to ensure that the following are in place:
  • A comfortable place to work free from distractions
  • School supplies are plentiful and available
  • An established time for homework is agreed upon and enforced
  • An adult is available to help when needed…preferably a parent
  • Encouragement and support are provided consistently
(Adapted from The Learning Hub Website &

What other advice do you have for parents
with regards to report cards?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

ELMS Jr. Environthon Wins County Competition!

ELMS Pride!

Our Junior Environthon team, consisting of ten 8th graders, competed against 17 teams from other Howard County middle schools and performed brilliantly. In fact, they won first place in the Aquatics and Wildlife divisions and won the overall First Place Prize for the entire county competition!

I want to commend all of these talented students and Ms. Bauer and Ms. Scrivener for providing support and training as their coaches. Great job!

ELMS Rookie Mathletes Perform Well at Competition

ELMS Pride!

I am happy to announce that our first mathalon experience was a great success....students, parents, and teachers all had a great time this past Saturday at Fort Meade Middle School. Although we did not have students medal or ribbon in the individual or team math tests, Bob Gladding was thrilled to announce that five of our students placed in the Inventions event in the following categories:

Straw Bridges - 1st place, 2nd place and 5th place.
Swing Time 2nd Place
Strong Arm (lever task) 1st place

Congratulations to Mr. Gladding, Ms. Cheung, Ms. Scrivener and all of the other staff and parents who made this event possible!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Obama Wins!

This past week, our students participated in a National Mock Election in order to learn more about the election process and the policy making decisions made by the Federal Government. According to our student voting results, Senator Obama won the Presidential race, along with Frank Kratovil, Dutch Ruppersberger and Paul Sarbanes in each of their respective Congressional races here in Maryland. In addition, our students identified the economy as the issue that is most important to them.

If you haven’t done so already, I hope all parents will talk to their children about this year’s election and share their values and beliefs concerning the very important national issues facing our country. Our students here at ELMS are very engaged and interested in what their parents think! Don't lose this great chance to talk to your middle schooler about something that is of mutual interest.

Also, I hope each of you will vote on November 4th. In addition to the Presidential race that will be decided here in Maryland, there are local school board seats up for election and the choice to legalize slots or not.

Don't forget...Your vote matters and your children are watching
whether you participate or not!