Charles Co. Public Schools News Briefs

Superintendent names Burns as Gwynn Center principal

Daphne Burns, vice principal at Mary B. Neal Elementary School, has been named as principal of the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center.

The Board of Education on Tuesday approved the appointment of Burns who has served as vice principal at Neal since 2010. Burns started her education career in 1998 as a general and special education teacher with Prince George’s County and moved to Charles County Public Schools in 2008 as an IEP facilitator. Prior to teaching, Burns served 13 years on active duty with the United States Air Force and eight years in the National Guard.

“I am honored to be appointed principal of the Gwynn Center. I am looking forward to getting to know and work with the staff and students,” Burns said.

The F. B. Gwynn Educational Center is the location for several special education programs that provide services for students with disabilities. Additionally, program information for parents of students with disabilities is available through the Parent Center, which is also located at the Gwynn Center. There are a number of other special programs at the center including the STAY program, which offers positive behavioral and academic support; the Autism program, which assists students in developing the skills needed to transition into the general education setting; and the Infants and Toddlers program, which serves children from birth to three years.

“I look forward to building a strong collaborative team that works in the best interest of all children. Together, we will create a warm and caring environment where parents, students, and staff feel welcomed when they enter the building,” Burns said.

Burns has a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Trinity University, Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood/Special Education from Bowie State University. Her appointment takes effect July 1.

Martin parent named Parent Involvement Award semifinalist

Virginia Brown, parent sponsor of the T.C. Martin Elementary School Lego Robotics league and parent of two students at the school, was recently selected as Charles County’s 2014 semifinalist in the Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award program. As the county winner, she is now in the running to be selected as a finalist for the state award.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) created the awards program to recognize Maryland parents who have made contributions to public education and to h ighlight the positive impact parents have on public schools. The a ward recognizes parents from local school systems across Maryland who are nominated in five areas of parental involvement: c ommunication, v olunteering, learning, decision making and community c ollaboration.

Brown, who goes by “Ginger,” said she is honored by her nomination. “It is an honor to be nominated, and to possibly represent Charles County as the state winner,” she added. She was nominated by Martin administrators and staff for her support of and work with the Lego Robotics program. At the start of the school year, students in the Martin Lego Robotics club were invited to participate in the First Lego League (FLL) competition called Nature’s Fury as the only competing Charles County team. The team was asked to construct and program several robots for use in a regional qualifying challenge, but only had about three months to prepare for the competition.

According to Michelle Reeves, science teacher at Martin and lead teacher sponsor for the robotics club, the process of preparing for a robotics event usually takes about 6 months to prepare for and her students were asked to complete all requirements for the Nature’s Fury competition in 10 weeks. Fifth graders with the most robotics experience were selected to compete on the Nature’s Fury team, while Reeves also helped prepare other club members for a Senior Solutions challenge as part of an annual spring competition. Martin fifth grader Ryann Brown was chosen for the Nature’s Fury team, and Reeves said when she began to have trouble in preparing all students for their events, Ryann’s mom, Ginger, stepped up to help.

“The before and after school hours that Mrs. Brown volunteered during those two months, and still to this day, gave our Nature’s Fury team the momentum they needed to meet their goals, compete and win the regional qualifier. In my 20 years as a teacher I have never met a parent so selflessly driven to enhance the lives of children as if they were her own,” Reeves wrote in a nomination letter.

While serving as a coach for the Nature’s Fury team, Brown handled several tasks such as scheduling practice sessions and team meetings, rallying other parents and community members for volunteer help, recruiting parents with technical experience in software programming and engineering, and supporting all team members throughout the challenge preparation process.

As part of the challenge, the Nature’s Fury team had several tasks to complete in order to compete. They had to learn about natural disasters including tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes, speak with professionals who work with natural disasters, build their robot and obstacles for use in the competition, develop a skit to present to a panel of judges and create a presentable solution in how to inform the community about the possibility of natural disasters. Brown volunteered her time during before- and after-school hours to meet with the team twice a week, and daily during the week leading up to the competition. The team competed at the regional level in December of last year against 19 other teams and was one of three selected to compete at the state event held in March.

Martin Principal Greg Miller said Brown’s support of the robotics students was essential to their success. “I was so proud of the students when they were selected as only one of three teams to advance to the state level. I am so very proud of all of the work that Ginger Brown has put into this year’s program, under difficult circumstances, and I know her presence as a parent at our school truly matters to the school and community at large,” Miller wrote in a nomination letter.

The Nature’s Fury team competed as one of more than 70 teams at the state level, and competed among teams mostly comprised of middle- and high-school students. While the team did not place at the state level, Brown said the students learned important lessons. “The children on the team benefited greatly because they put in a lot of hours in a short period of time to achieve a great accomplishment. It encouraged them to work together as a team. It also showed them that hard work pays off and that nothing is impossible with the will to achieve,” she said.

In addition to her support of the robotics club at Martin, Brown is an active Girl Scout leader and coordinates learning exercises that tie in with school events. She volunteers to assist with the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) and student council programs and plans to help launch a third-grade Lego Robotics program this school year. Brown will be recognized at a special ceremony on May 16, where the five finalists and the state award winner will be announced. The statewide winner and five finalists will be awarded a cash prize to further their efforts to improve the public schools they represent.

The PIMA program is supported by the Maryland Parent-Teacher Association, Cullins Trucking, Inc., Harvest Enterprises, Inc., The Mid Atlantic Equity Consortium, Inc., and Lifetouch Prestige Portraits. For more information on the awards program, visit the MSDE website at

School system staff receive awards, recognition from SECAC

The Charles County Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC) honored more than 100 Charles County Public Schools staff and community members at its ninth annual Teacher and Staff Appreciation Awards ceremony held Tuesday, April 29, at the Greater Waldorf Jaycees Community Center.

Honorees are nominated for recognition by students, parents and community members. Recognized were teachers, instructional assistants, school bus drivers, school counselors, psychologists, administrators, occupational, physical and speech therapists, and others who make a difference in the lives of special needs children.

Award winners are nominated and selected in six categories: individual elementary; individual secondary; elementary group; secondary group; related services and support staff/administration.

Two winners were selected in the individual elementary category. They are Erica Burroughs, a special education teacher at Berry Elementary School, and Jo Handley, a special teacher at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School.

The elementary winners in the group nomination category are from the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center. They are Kristin Cotner, occupational therapist; Susan Jennings, special education instructional assistant; Jo Anne Roberts, physical therapist; Krista Spalding, special education teacher; Linda Steffens, speech therapist; Anne-Marie Storm, instructional assistant; and Melissa Wagner, instructional assistant.

Two winners were also selected for the secondary individual category. They are Kathleen Burke, a special education teacher at Milton M. Somers Middle School, and Margaret McCormac, an instructional assistant at Piccowaxen Middle School.

The secondary group award winners are from Thomas Stone High School. They are Cory Chapman, special education teacher; Susan Fine, special education instructional assistant, Emotionally Adjusted (EA) program; Maria Hidalgo, special education instructional assistant, EA program; Scott Paterson, school psychologist; and Matthew Werner, special education teacher.

In the related services category, Kristin Cotner, an occupational therapist based at Gwynn, was selected as the winner. In the support staff/administration category, Todd Wonderling, the acting coordinator for special program at Gwynn, was selected as the winner.

Additionally, honorees recognized for nominations include:

-- Linda Baker, special education instructional assistant, Life Skills program, John Hanson Middle School;

-- Nicole Baker, special education preschool instructional assistant, Berry;

-- Angela Bates, special education instructional assistant, EA program, Mary H. Matula Elementary School;

-- Sheri Belisle, prekindergarten teacher, Mary B. Neal Elementary School;

-- Brenda Bell, school bus driver;

-- Stacy Bennett, special education teacher, Hanson;

-- Nidia Black, special education teacher/IEP facilitator, North Point High School;

-- Cairna Bode, speech therapist, Gwynn;

-- Tammy Bowling, special education instructional assistant, Infants and Toddlers program, Gwynn;

-- Fallon Boyce, instructional assistant, Gwynn;

-- Roberta Bragunier, special education teacher, Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School;

-- Scott Brain, school psychologist, Gwynn;

-- Timothy Brown, school psychologist, Dr. James Craik Elementary School and Mattawoman Middle School;

-- Jennifer Buckley, special education teacher, Mattawoman;

-- Stacy Burkheiser, fifth-grade teacher, Malcolm Elementary School;

-- Laura Canetti, speech language pathologist, Neal;

-- Lachelle Carroll, special education preschool instructional assistant, Neal;

-- Janie Chang, special education teacher, T.C. Martin Elementary School;

-- Alison Cheney, physical education teacher, North Point;

-- Karen Chisley, special education teacher, Piccowaxen;

-- Kristin Churchill, special education teacher, Stone;

-- Anne Corbelli, special education teacher, North Point;

-- Samantha Clark, special education teacher, Matula;

-- Samantha DeNardo, English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher, William A. Diggs Elementary School, Theodore G. Davis Middle School and North Point;

-- Christine DePriest, instructional assistant, Matula;

-- Jennifer Diaz, instructional assistant, William B. Wade Elementary School;

-- Inmaculada Dove, special education instructional assistant, Infants and Toddlers program, Gwynn;

-- Kimberly Dutko, special education teacher, Matula;

-- Sue Ebbitt, special education teacher, North Point;

-- Nancy Ewing, special education teacher, North Point;

-- Nicole Finamore, instructional assistant, Martin;

-- Cathy Fleming, special education instructional assistant, Life Skills program, North Point;

-- Danielle Foss, special education teacher, Maurice J. McDonough High School;

-- Jo Ann Garner, second-grade teacher, Martin;

-- Karen Gross, special education instructional assistant, Wade;

-- Katie Guesto, special education teacher, Martin;

-- Brooke Gunter, speech language pathologist, Diggs;

-- Margaret Haines, special education teacher, Malcolm;

-- Sheila Heatley, school counselor, Davis;

-- Kimberly Holmes, vice principal, Davis;

-- Meghan Hunter, special education teacher, Mattawoman;

-- Angelica Jenkins, instructional assistant, Hanson;

-- Sara Kanas, special education teacher, Gwynn;

-- Richard Kelly, special education teacher, Mattawoman;

-- Andre Kenan, social studies teacher, Stone;

-- Aimee Knotts, instructional assistant, Matula;

-- Rebecca Bursheim-LaFontant, special education instructional assistant, Diggs;

-- Lauren Lavoie, special education teacher, Piccowaxen;

-- Nathan Lebedeker, physical therapist, Gwynn;

-- Racheal Lindauer, autism resource teacher, Gwynn;

-- Stephanie Lloyd, instructional assistant, Wade;

-- Darleane Lowe, kindergarten teacher, Eva Turner Elementary School;

-- Gwen McCarter, Title I program tutor, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School;

-- Denise McCloskey, special education teacher, Martin;

-- Jean McGuire, instructional assistant, Gwynn;

-- Pamela Mengel, third-grade teacher, Mitchell;

-- Linda Metheny, vice principal, Davis;

-- Sarah Dasher-Millman, kindergarten teacher, Diggs;

-- Marta Starkey-Mister, speech therapist, Gwynn;

-- Jenna Monroe, special education teacher, Wade;

-- Margaret Monroe, kindergarten instructional assistant, Turner;

-- Joan Newberg, preschool instructional assistant, Neal;

-- Chelsea Pogar, special education teacher, Gwynn;

-- Ginna Ponton, special education teacher, Arthur Middleton Elementary School;

-- Cornelia Poudrier, special education teacher, J.P. Ryon Elementary School;

-- Kim Powell, kindergarten instructional assistant, Diggs;

-- Angie Prado, school counselor, Stone;

-- Janae Randall, special education instructional assistant, Martin;

-- Emily Roenigk, special education teacher, Neal;

-- Julianne Rotondi, school counselor, Martin;

-- Melissa Ryan, special education teacher, Neal;

-- Sarah Scherhaufer, special education teacher, Gwynn;

-- Paula Schiller, special education teacher, Gwynn;

-- Andrea Smoot, special education instructional assistant, Infants and Toddlers program, Gwynn;

-- Amy Snyder, special education teacher, Gale-Bailey Elementary School;

-- Nicole Spalding, second-grade teacher, Matula;

-- Amy Striker, instructional resource teacher, Martin;

-- Kimberly Tabourne, special education teacher, Mattawoman;

-- Jennifer Toone, mathematics teacher, Mattawoman;

-- Brenda Wagner, special education teacher, Gwynn;

-- Karen Wagner, Reading Recovery teacher, Martin;

-- Matthew Walker, instructional assistant, Martin;

-- Nancy Watts, special teacher, North Point;

-- Teresa Whigham, occupational therapist;

-- Genevieve White, school psychologist, Davis and Mitchell;

-- Charmaine Whitley, school bus driver;

-- Brittany Williams, instructional assistant, Hanson;

-- Patricia Williams, special education teacher, Diggs;

-- Corrie Wutka, third-grade teacher, Diggs;

-- Joyce Yates, Multiple Intensity Teaching (MIT) program instructional assistant, Gwynn;

-- Erin Yim, special education teacher, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School.

The SECAC is organized to provide a forum for issues pertaining to children with special education needs. Members advocate for recommendations and advise the school system about the education budget, inclusion assessments, support services and other issues concerning children and special education, and related services. For more information on the SECAC, visit the Parent Center website at or call 301-934-7456.

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