Thursday, January 31, 2013

Collington's Students of Success Academy

By Nicole Humphreys, Test Coordinator, Collington Square School of the Arts

Students of Success Academy (Collington Square’s Saturday School Program) which started on January 12, 2013 was a huge success this past Saturday.  Students were greeted with French toast,  sausage and a smile.

Eager students were then whisked away by knowledgeable teachers to beef up their math and reading  skills. After a fun filled day of learning, students were rewarded for their great effort with treats. One lucky student even won five dollars!

Students of Success Academy – Where success is required, not just expected. 

The Beat Goes On at Collington

By Josh Soto, Music Teacher, Collington Square School of the Arts

If you are reading this, that’s great!  I want to take a minute to brag about the amazing musicians in the Collington Square School of the Arts Middle School Band. By now, you might have already heard about the drum line performing for over 200 teachers on January 22nd, or maybe you haven’t.

Ok, maybe I should calm down a bit.  Actually, maybe I should not because good work should be highlighted.  Since September, the drum line and the entire middle school band have been performing.

The drum line performed at the Baltimore Book Festival on the Main Stage and rocked!  They were absolutely, positively, amazing.  They played with confidence, poise, and professionalism.

Next, they  performed for our 1st quarter assembly.  In the second quarter, the complete middle grade band along with my drum line performed our annual holiday concert at “The Shops at Kenilworth Mall” in Towson.  It was a wonderful experience where we had the privilege of performing for our Principal, Melvin Holmes and BCP Academic Director, John McGill as they were in attendance.

We then went on to perform the same holiday concert for our school during our 2nd quarter assembly.  I would  like to highlight Taren St. Clair, Toni Brown, and Denashya Watts for performing solos and duets during these same holiday concerts. 

In conclusion, music is alive and well at Collington Square. Like I said earlier, the children should be highlighted and made to shine.  In paraphrasing the words of Katy Perry, the musicians and all of us at Collington should consider ourselves ‘fireworks, showing the world what we are worth, making them say oh, oh, oh, as we shoot across the sky.”  Thank you.

The Truancy Court Program at Collington Square

By Samantha Haas, Guidance Counselor, Collington Square School of the Arts

Collington Square School of the Arts is very lucky to have the Truancy Court Program (TCP) at our school for the second year in a row! TCP is a program implemented by the Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) at the University of Baltimore School of Law. The program helps improve student attendance.

Each semester, approximately 20 students with chronic absenteeism and/or tardiness have weekly meetings to identify and overcome barriers to attendance. A TCP Judge and Coordinator are present at each meeting along with Collington staff, the student, and parent.

Classroom teachers complete “teacher reports” for review at each meeting so the team can address academic issues in addition to attendance. Each student works towards goals and earn incentives along the way.  

If students improve their attendance by 80%, they graduate from the program. A graduation ceremony is held and students receive a prize of their choosing. In the past, individuals have earned CD’s, basketballs, make-up kits and many other awesome items.

In the spring, all the graduates are invited to a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Annapolis!

For more information about the Truancy Court Program visit:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Venable Sponsors BCP Fundraising Gala

Venable LLP Foundation has signed on as the Lead/5th Grade Sponsor for the 2013 Are You Smarter than a BCP 5th Grader? fundraising gala with a gift of $5,000. Venable has been a faithful supporter of BCP for many years, sponsoring the annual Leading Minds forum and last year's fundraising gala.

Established in 1983, The Venable Foundation works to promote the health and well-being of the communities where Venable's clients and attorneys work and live.

In 2012, the Foundation gave more than $2 million in contributions to a wide variety of organizations, continuing a long tradition of unparalleled giving which complements the pro bono legal work and community service of Venable attorneys and staff.

We would like to thank Venable for their ongoing commitment to expanding opportunities for our students.

Baltimore Curriculum Project Winter 2013 PD Conference

On January 22, 2013, the Baltimore Curriculum Project provided over 200 teachers from four BCP schools with a full day of customized training. Workshops were created in response to training needs identified by principals, teachers and Baltimore Curriculum Project staff.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ravens Terrence Cody Provides Food for Wolfe Street Students

Wolfe Street Academy Principal Mark Gaither
and Ravens NT Terrence Cody

Thanks to Terrence Cody's Sacks 4 Kids Program and the Dreambuilders Foundation, today Wolfe Street Academy received its first delivery of 100 bags of food for students to take home for the weekend.

Terrence Cody's Hope for the Holidays Party at The Greene Turtle in Owings Mills, MD on December 10th raised $8,000 to support the food backpack program at Wolfe Street Academy.

These funds will provide 100 bags of food a week for 13 weeks. The Maryland Food Bank, which delivers the food, has offered to provide an additional 6 weeks of food in order to continue the program to the end of the school year.

Terrence Cody’s Sacks 4 Kids program provides sacks full of healthy food and snacks for kids in inner city Baltimore schools to take home on the weekends.

We would like to thank Mr. Cody for ensuring that our students and their families have healthy food to eat during the weekends.

Good luck in the Superbowl!

City Springs Students at Walters Museum

Kindergarten students from City Springs Elementary/Middle School visited the Walters Art Museum on January 18, 2013. This is the tour "Animals in Art." The docent is reading a story about an elephant that cannot dance, which is related to the sculpture of Ganesha (half man, half elephant) who dances with his mouse friend.

Kiwanis Club Celebrates Terrific Kids at Hampstead Hill Academy

Hampstead Hill Academy students were honored for their outstanding achievements at the Kiwanis Terrific Kids celebration on January 25th. Terrific Kids is a student-recognition program that promotes character development, self-esteem and perseverance.

“Terrific” is an acronym for Thoughtful, Enthusiastic, Respectful, Responsible, Inclusive, Friendly, Inquisitive and Capable.

Students work with their classroom teacher to establish goals to improve behavior, peer relationships, attendance or school work. All students who achieve their goals after a specified time are recognized as Terrific Kids. Recognition includes being pinned as a Terrific Kid; a pizza, ice cream or other food-themed party; and presentation of certificates and other giveaways.
The Terrific Kids Program at Hampstead Hill Academy is sponsored by The Kiwanis Club of East Baltimore, which has served the Southeast Baltimore community for almost 60 years.

Congratulations to our terrific kids and thank you to the Kiwanis Club for making this possible.

First Ever City Springs/BCP Elementary Basketball Team

The City Springs Elementary Travel Basketball Team will be competing against Five-Star Basketball this evening at 7pm at The Salvation Army Boy's & Girl's Club in Middle River (1400 Fuselage Ave, Middle River, MD 21220).

This winter City Springs will be participating in the 10u Division of Baltimore's Best Basketball League against AAU and travel team programs from Baltimore and surrounding counties.

The City Springs team represents not only City Springs School's first ever elementary basketball team but also The Baltimore Curriculum Project's first ever elementary basketball team.

Come out and support our team tonight and at upcoming Friday and Saturday games.
For more information about the league and a game schedule visit:

"Great things are happening at City Springs!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Does Character Count?

By Jon McGill, Director of Academic Affairs
Baltimore Curriculum Project

In his recent book “How Children Succeed”, journalist Paul Tough challenges what he call the “cognitive hypothesis”, the theory that what enhances the chances of lifetime success for our children is the development of the realm of cognitive skills, those related to traditional notions of intelligence and education.  More likely, argues Tough, is that we develop character traits such as “grit”, determination and optimism, abilities that help us overcome the challenges of life and what our status is socially and economically.

It’s a persuasive thesis. It helps do several things for us all at once: it can persuade us that we have the individual tools to overcome poverty and deprivation; it can help us formulate arguments against the frenzy of high stakes testing; it can promote useful ways to enhance the school curriculum. It can certainly increase our optimism about education being the key component to combat social and economic ills. It also conveniently fits into our national propensity to think in black and white dichotomies!

Paul Tough is not arguing in either/or ways but those who are interpreting his arguments tend now to pose “character education” against “academic” skill building, as if these two were mutually exclusive.  It’s tempting to see things this way: it is much less complicated, and pushing the character agenda helps to solidify the thesis that if we fail, it’s our own fault! In reality, success in our society, whether social or economic, is most often a combination of factors.

Tough argues that “parenting matters” regardless of income levels, and that’s clearly true. Our society is full of examples of the children of wealthy parents being feckless, weak, arrogant and failures. We can also provide the exemplars of success that came from the most distressing backgrounds, full of poverty and deprivation.  Indeed, we love to raise those examples high, since it helps us cement the grip that “American dreaming” has on our collective consciousness and the stories we tell ourselves about our country.

Tough’s theory about character traits being significant is not all that new.  Private schools around the country have been selling the “character counts” model for decades, especially for those students who have trouble raising their grades to Ivy League standards. The importance of “grit”, (which is rather ill-defined by Paul Tough, but really means stamina and determination) and other elements of character are hard to challenge.

However, the most convincing combination would be the confluence of character and intellect.  Tough agrees.  The danger, however, in the “character counts” perspective is that it helps us avoid the need to look for collective solutions to the nation’s ills. It also, according to Mike Rose in a persuasive essay he wrote for Education Week (January 16, 2013), renders the cognitive realm simplistically represented by scores on tests.

“We have a powerful tendency to binary, either –or policies” says Rose, and he thinks the recent “swing” toward character education is likely to fail.  “But over the past 50 years, attempts at character education as a distinct pursuit have not been particularly successful.”

Instead, argues Rose, “let us take a hard look at our national obsession with tests and scores and grades and let us think more generously about what kinds of people we want our schools to develop.  Part of such reconsideration would include a reclaiming of the full meaning of cognition-one that is robust and intellectual, intimately connected to character and social development and directed toward the creation of a better world.”

The argument, if there is one, between “cognitive” and “character” is just one more in a set of educational false dichotomies.  A genuine education would embrace both aspects, what we have traditionally called the “hearts and minds” of our children. If we could see the issues in this frame, perhaps we would expand out curriculum, revive the fading disciplines of science, art, history, philosophy and geography, and, at the same time, encourage our children to understand that the content of their character is a determining factor in how they experience and shape the world.

Collington Theater Arts Class Produces Play About Bullying

Mr. Koli Tengella and his Sixth Grade Boys Theater Arts Class
Shout outs, applause and congratulations go out to The Collington Square School of the Arts Sixth Grade Boys Theater Arts Class and their instructor Mr. Koli Tengella for their second production in just six weeks. “It’s not nice 2 B a Bully!: A Hip Hop Learning Tale” is an original production that deals with bullying and what to do when you are   confronted with it.

The play was written by Mr. Tengella and The Sixth Grade Boys designed it for elementary students. Based on the fantastic reaction of Collington’s Pre-K through 2nd Graders in the audience of the January 17th performance the show was designed very well.

Kudos go out to 6th grade students Darius Williams and Donald Wright, Jr for writing two incredible anti-bullying rap songs for the show. The use of writing skills in resource classes is a part of Collington’s new arts integration focus.

A big thank to Officer Williams for speaking to the audience before the show about the consequences of bullying from the point of view of the school police and our wonderful Vice-Principal Ms. Kwaw for giving the Middle school students the opportunity to perform for their younger classmates.

Due to the overwhelming positive response to the show Mr. Tengella is planning on touring the show at other schools throughout the city.          

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BVU/M&T PENCIL Partnership Supports Hampstead Hill Academy

Over the past several years, the Wallace Foundation has published groundbreaking research establishing the critical importance of school leadership – contributing to the growing consensus that a principal is second only to classroom teaching in the success of a school.

Thanks largely to their important work, more and more focus is being given to how to effectively train principals to become strategic and effective leaders and managers.

But as important as school leadership is in driving student achievement, our educators are also beginning to realize that a principal’s job is more complicated than ever.

Hampstead Hill Academy “Banks” on their Business Partner
In Baltimore, MD, where Business Volunteers Unlimited Maryland (BVU) manages a PENCIL Affiliate Program, BVU grasped this situation when they partnered Matthew Hornbeck, Principal of Hampstead Hill Academy, with Mohannad “Mo” Jishi, Commercial Banking Manager for Greater Baltimore at M&T Bank.

Read the full article at:

Monday, January 14, 2013

ALA tutors start work at Wolfe Street Academy

Member of ALA Celebrate Dia de los Muertos at Wolfe Street Academy

December 14, 2012
By Hannah Block
The Park School Class of 2015
Reprinted from Postcript

There are new tutors in town, and they’re not from KIPP or Homework He1pers. The Alianza Latina en Acci6n (ALA), or Latino Alliance in Action, works with students at the Wolfe Street Academy in an effort to help and promote awareness of the Latino community.

ALA stemmed from the recently disbanded Esperanza club, a language immersion community service initiative that, last year, limited their volunteers to only adults. In light of this new change, Lorenza Ramirez ‘14 and Spanish teacher Ileana Imhoff started looking for other ways for Spanish-speaking students to reach out. Two things motivated them: the lack of a Latino outreach program now that Esperanza was gone, and the need for a discussion about immigration.

"We were particularly fueled by the tone of the immigration debate during the political campaign and wanted to learn more about these issues, and also to involve more students in the conversation,” Imhoff said.

At Park, the club invited guest speakers and works with Lower School Spanish teacher Silvia Patterson’s 4th grade class on the last Thursday of every month. “It is important for our younger students to see other young people engaged in issues of equity and diversity in our community,” Patterson said. “They are also very excited about how well the Upper School students speak Spanish and the possibility of speaking that well themselves in the coming years.”

The club’s main focus, however, is the Wolfe Street Academy. The school was a natural choice to partner with because 73% of the students are Hispanic and speak English as a second language. Moreover, there are two people involved at the school who have Park connections: the principal, Mark Gaither, is married to Alumni Coordinator Pailin Gaither, and Connie Phelps, the Wolfe Street Community School Coordinator, graduated from Park in 1989.

Every Thursday from 3:30 to 6:00, the tutors help students with homework, usually working with the first and third graders. After homework is done, the kids can play if there is time before dinner, which the school provides in the cafeteria. The tutors then help serve the meal and keep the kids company while they eat.

ALA’s impact is already beginning to show. “The students ask at snack time if the ‘kids’ are coming,” said Stephanie Given, third grade teacher. “I have seen first-hand how the children are eager to interact with [the tutors]. Honestly, sometimes they even pretend to need help just to spend one-on-one time with an ALA member.”

“Because each classroom consists of one teacher, it is difficult for each child to receive the attention they need,” explains Michael Brice-Brooks ’14. “For many students, these homework problems are difficult, especially since they have to practice these concepts in a language they may not speak at home.”

ALA also gets to celebrate events with the Wolfe Street students. On November 1, the club members celebrated El Dia de los Muertos at Wolfe Street, and plans are underway for the club to attend future events, as well.

In fact there are many exciting things on the horizon for ALA. Other plans include a panel of speakers on immigration, a clothing drive, and having Wolfe Street students visit Park eventually.

Fundraising is also in the works; Wolfe Street needs funds for transportation and art supplies. Members agree that the purpose of ALA meets the goals that Ramirez and Imhoff had in mind: expanding Park’s boundaries and supporting the Latino community.

“Students at Park oftentimes speak of ‘The Park Bubble’ but [ALA] has created a bridge between the Park School’s culture and a culture that is entirely different,” said Brice-Brooks. “As our faces have become more and more familiar, the students have shown a certain fondness that is difficult to explain. (…) It has become apparent through these relationships that, as a volunteer, I mean more than just a homework helper.”

“I can’t even tell you how happy it made me just to see some of my teachers and peers walking through the hallways in the ALA T-shirt,” said Ramirez. “To me and to all the other members of the club, the shirt was much more than just a piece of clothing: it was a symbol of the progress for the club as we make an impact on both the Park and Wolfe Street Academy communities and increase awareness in the process.”