A cake, an announcement, and national recognition for Milbrook Elementary School

Joe Hairston and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick celebrate Milbrook Elementary School’s being named a National Title I Distinguished School

Waiting in the Milbrook Elementary School library at the end of the day, the cake was a good sign. But none of the school’s faculty and staff filing into the room knew why Principal Christina Byers had called them together.

Whatever this was, they figured, it must be something big.

Once the staff was assembled, Byers could contain herself no longer. She told them that earlier that day, she and Assistant Principal Kimberly O’Connor had gone to the Maryland State Department of Education. There, she said, the two administrators and the school had been honored by State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Baltimore County Superintendent Dr. Joe A. Hairston.

Thanks to their hard work, she told her staff, Milbrook had been named a National Title I Distinguished School, one of only two schools in Maryland given the honor this year. 

Milbrook Principal Christina Byers tells her staff the good news about the school’s national honor

The award, which was announced on December 14 before the Maryland State Board of Education, recognized the school's progress in closing the academic achievement gap among students. Byers attributed the school's success to support and additional resources provided by the school system, the commitment of the school's faculty and staff, and to the leadership of Dr. Hairston.

"Ten years ago, Dr. Hairston shared his vision of achievement for ‘all meaning all' through establishment of the Blueprint for Progress," she said, referring to the school system's guiding plan for universal student academic success. "This visionary document charted a course for closing the achievement gap through high expectations and rigor for all students provided by highly qualified teachers through the effective use of resources in a safe and orderly environment."

Assistant Principal Kimberly O’Connor and Principal Christina Byers display the banner proclaiming Milbrook’s national recognition

Title I is a federally-funded education program that provides additional funding for schools and school systems with high populations of economically disadvantaged students. The funding allows Title I schools and their school districts to obtain additional resources to enhance reading, mathematics, and science programs; schools that are named Distinguished Schools are those that go well beyond what is required in the federal statute.

Based on Maryland School Assessment data from 2009-2010 and 2008-2009, Milbrook scored highest in the category of closing the achievement gap among student groups among the 400 Maryland Title I schools considered for the annual national recognition.

Assistant Principal Kimberly O’Connor cuts the cake celebrating Milbrook's achievement

In addition to Byers, O’Connor, and Dr. Hairston, receiving congratulations from the State Board on December 14 were Assistant Superintendent Patricia Lawton, Executive Director of Special Programs Sonja Karwacki, Office of Title I Coordinator Kendra Johnson, and Supervisors Mary Dagan and Angela Leigh-Euculano.

The BCPS Office of Title I will send four members of Milbrook's staff to the National Title I conference in Tampa, Fla., next month, where they will be honored for the school's achievement. Byers said those attending would be chosen by a lottery; before staff left for home on December 14, teachers were eagerly lining up to put in their names.

Milbrook’s recognition also was the second time in two years that a Baltimore County public school won the national honor. Last year, Chadwick Elementary School in Woodlawn was recognized by the National Association of State Title I Directors with a National Title I Distinguished School designation. In addition to Milbrook this year, Grasonville Elementary School in Queen Anne's County also was recognized.

Photos courtesy of the Maryland State Department of Education and the BCPS Office of Communications.
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