Sunday, October 26, 2008

It Is Just Alcohol!

Over the past several years in my role as a school administrator, I have had to deal with a few situations involving students and their use of alcohol. While handling one of these incidents, I was surprised by the response I got from the parents when I talked to them about their child’s possession and use of alcohol. They stated to me…"Thank God! It is just alcohol!"

Today, as I was reading
Myths About Alcohol on the Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base Website, I thought the information provided was quite compelling and a message all middle school parents should hear.

Some parents breathe a sigh of relief when they find their child is "just" drinking alcohol and not using drugs, but it is a myth that alcohol is a "better" drug. Alcohol abuse, drunk driving, and alcohol-related diseases take a major toll on our society, and children who begin drinking at a young age are at much higher risk of developing problems.

Alcohol is by far the drug of choice among adolescents. It is the most used and abused mood-altering substance among pre-teens and teenaged children. Although some teens report it is easier to get illegal drugs than buy alcohol, the overall social acceptability of alcohol and the pervasive advertising that suggests alcohol creates a positive and rewarding experience often leads both teens and their parents to think drinking is simply a rite of passage with little danger over the long run. Some studies suggest that there could be as many as four million alcoholics under the age of 18, three years younger than the legal drinking age. The age when children begin drinking alcohol has decreased over the last few decades. Many children are already experimenting with alcohol in the fifth grade, many more than were just 10 years ago when teens were more likely to start drinking in eighth or ninth grade. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of ninth-graders report that they tried alcohol before the age of 13 and had used alcohol within the past month.

One of the more dire consequences of this increase in drinking among children still in elementary school is that it has a greater effect on cognitive development at this young age. Students who use alcohol remember much less of their academic work than those who do not use alcohol. Also, statistics clearly show that the younger a child is when he or she begins drinking, the more likely they are to develop problems with alcohol as adults. According to a report in the Journal of Substance Abuse, more than 40% of individuals who start drinking before the age of 13 will develop alcohol abuse problems later in life (Grant, BF, & Dawson, DA. 9:103-110, 1997).

Here is the link to the web article:
Myths About Alcohol

What advice do you have for parents and school personnel
as they work to prevent under-age drinking?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Flynn Named Maryland Counselor of the Year!

This past week, I was notified by the Maryland School Counselors Association that Tina Flynn was named 2008 Maryland Middle School Counselor of the Year. This follows her being selected as the 2008 Howard County Counselor of the Year this past spring. Tina is a very talented counselor and most deserving of this recognition and honor!

Congratulations Tina!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Recommended Books from Principals to Principals

This year, I have the honor of serving on the Advisory Board of The Vincent E. Reed Principals Leadership Institute sponsored by the Washington Post’s Educational Foundation. As an Advisory Board Member, I help to select principals from around the Washington, D.C. metro region to participate in the annual institute, serve as a mentor and help to facilitate various activities during this program.

The Washington Post established the Principals Leadership Institute in 1997 to offer a broader perspective on effective leadership within schools with specific emphasis on self-motivation. Named in honor of Dr. Vincent Reed, a longtime educator and retired Post executive, each session provides a forum for discussion about the challenges of leadership and opportunities for principals to network and share effective transformational strategies. [Washington Post]

The Institute also provides formal and informal discussion settings to share problems and concerns, and offers opportunities for participants to hear from nationally known leaders. Following the initial two-day summer Institute, there are three additional full-day sessions held throughout the year. The Institute is provided free of charge for all selected principals.
[Washington Post]

During the first session this year, Advisory Board Members were asked to share a book that has helped them lead. Here is a list of the books that were presented:

The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teachers Life
Palmer, Parker

Good to Great
Collins, Jim

The Six Secrets of Change
Fullan, Michael

Leadership for Learning: How to Help Teachers Succeed
Gleekman, Carl D.

The Moral Imperative of School Leadership
Fullan, Michael

It’s Being Done
Chenoweth, Karin

The Pillars of the Earth
Follet, Ken

Lincoln on Leadership
Phillips, Donald T.

The Right to Learn
Darling-Hammond, Linda

Encouraging the Heart
Kouzes, James and Barry Posner

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way
Ramsey, Robert

What Matter Most for School Leaders
Ramsey, Robert

Life’s a Campaign
Matthews, Chris

Dream Manager
Kelly, Matthew

We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools
Howard, Gary

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow The People and They Will Follow You
Maxwell, John

Change or Die
Deutschman, Alan

Gardening the Minefield: A Survival Guide for School Administrators
Schmidt, Laurel

Lessons Learned: Shaping Relationships and the Culture of the Workplace
Barth, Roland

Balanced Leadership: How Effective Principals Balance Their Work
Boris-Schacter, Sheryl and Sondra Langer

Talking to Tweens
Hartley-Brewer, Elizabeth

Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader
Harvard Business School Press

Useful Websites

For more information about the Principal’s Leadership Institute, visit this website:

What other books do you recommend that school leaders read?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

6th Graders Enjoy Outdoor Education Experience!

Last week, 170 sixth graders traveled to Darlington, Maryland to take part in our annual Outdoor Education Program. Along with our enthusiastic students, 15 talented staff members and 44 dedicated parents helped to make this year's trip one of the best ever! During the three day adventure, students were given the opportunity to participate in a variety of classes (confidence course, nature walk, fishing, aquatics, art, creative writing, canoeing, tennis, volleyball and a few others) and experience various team building activities including: a dance, a talent show, a campfire and storytelling.

I want to commend Ms. Chiarella, Ms. Cheung, Ms. Fantz and Ms. Merson for doing such a great job organizing this trip. In addition, I want to thank all of the ELMS staff who taught the various classes and ran all of the activities. Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank all of the parents who volunteered to come with us. Without your support, we could not provide this special program for our students.

I am proud to report that the director of the camp told us that the staff, parents and students from ELMS are among the best groups they host each year.

"The students are well-behaved, appreciative and a pleasure to serve!"

Sunday, October 5, 2008

ELMS Flies High at BWI Airport Walk/Run, Again!!!

For the 13th year in a row, Elkridge Landing Middle School won the BWI Airport Walk/Run Joe Ryan School Challenge Award for registering the most participants. This annual event raises money to support the Down Syndrome Clinic at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and local Down Syndrome parent support groups here in the Greater Baltimore area.

Thanks to Carol Jones, our incredible PE teacher and Related Arts Team Leader, we registered over 350 people to participate in this most worthwhile event. Participants from ELMS included: students, parents, staff and other friends of the school.

It's always so much fun to see all of the families who participate and our former students who continue to walk/run with us each year. Thanks to everyone who helped to keep our winning streak alive; and more importantly, helping those who have Down Syndrome in our community.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hail to the Redskins Sung by a Cowboy Fan?

Yes, it is true! Jeff Shilling, a self-described Cowboy Fan and proud father of an ELMS student, came to Elkridge Landing and sang Hail to the Redskins in front of the entire 7th grade lunch shift today. He shared his singing talents with us in order to pay-off his part of our friendly, football rivalry challenge.

Last week, Fire Marshall Shilling approached me at Back to School Night and offered a friendly challenge based on the outcome of the game between "my" powerful and always exciting Washington Redskins and "his" struggling Dallas Cowboys. The challenge to me consisted of having to wear a Cowboy's jersey if his team won; and if they lost, he would sing the Redskin fight song here at the school
. Naturally, I accepted his challenge!

As the world now knows, the talented, strong and always exhilarating Redskins beat the Cowboys this past Sunday. Consequently, Mr. Shilling, who is a gentleman and a man of his word, delivered on his promise. Today, he came into the 7th grade lunch shift, with his son sitting in the audience, and belted out Hail to the Redskins for all to hear! His moving rendition of the fight song nearly choked me up and brought tears to my eyes.

As he was leaving, I asked him to reconsider his loyalty to the Cowboys and join the ranks of the growing Redskin Nation. He just laughed...but he did not say "no"! Who knows, the Redskins may have another convert soon.

I want to thank Mr. Shilling for making today's lunch shift so much fun! Without a doubt, we have some of the best parents in the world here in Elkridge! Go skins!