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June 3, 2011
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

A few words from State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

First Lady Katie O’Malley and I spent last week putting a focus on bullying. “Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week” was designed to raise awareness about this important issue, with events held in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, and Montgomery Counties, and Baltimore City. Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown also were involved in the week’s activities.

First Lady at Lakeland Elementary in Baltimore City.

First Lady at Lakeland Elementary in Baltimore City.

The effects of bullying last a lifetime. Maryland became one of the first States in the nation to collect data on bullying, and we know it is pervasive. It comes in many forms, but perhaps most frightening is its newest incarnation: cyberbullying over the Internet and through cell phones. It is difficult for schools to control, because much of it takes place off school grounds.

We appreciate the First Lady’s interest in this topic, and enjoyed working with her for the second year in a row for this special week. The only way to successfully end bullying behavior is through a school-wide and community wide approach. With everyone on board, our schools and our communities will be safer places to work and live.

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We know the importance of strong early childhood development programs, and last week we helped honor one of the best. The Y of Central Maryland’s Baltimore County Head Start Program at the Highland Village Head Start Center became one of 10 centers nationwide to receive a Center of Excellence Award.

Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, national director of Head Start, said the competition for the award is fierce, making the Highland Village Head Start Center’s accomplishment even more impressive.

Just one part of the programs and services overseen by the Y of Central Maryland, the Baltimore County Head Start benefits from the collaboration with their partners. One of the partners, the Baltimore County Public Library, regularly delivers books to the Head Start Center and provides regular story times.

Libraries support education by helping young children gain school readiness skills. A great start like the one provided by outstanding Head Start Centers will last a lifetime.

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I am always amazed and gratified by the generosity of Maryland’s public school students. A total of 263 schools raised more than $170,000 through the Maryland Kids Care Campaign: Operation Japan. Students spent the past few months collecting funds for the victims of Japan’s earthquake, hurricane, and tsunami.

Students from throughout the State organized a variety of fundraising efforts. Some of the results were breathtaking: Boonsboro High in Washington County raised $6,233.68; Ashburton Elementary in Montgomery County raised $5,735.90; and Glenwood Middle in Howard County brought in $5,010.90.

The funds have been given to the Red Cross Central Maryland Chapter, and designated for disaster relief in Japan. Thanks to every school and student that participated!

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Don’t forget to connect with MSDE on Facebook. Our department’s Facebook page provides regular updates on state initiatives, MSDE videos, and links to education news throughout the State.


June 9 – Northrop Grumman Engineering Scholarship Awards, Baltimore Museum of Industry

June 21-22 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

June 27-29 – Educator Effectiveness Academies Begin, Baltimore

News From The Board
May 24, 2011
News from the Board in May features an update on Race to the Top, The Comcast 'Parent Involvement Matters' statewide winner, Maryland's National Teacher of the Year Michelle Shearer at the White House, and more.

Bullying Awareness Week
May 23, 2011
Find out the meaning of Rochambeau as First Lady Katie O'Malley joins Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School for the 2nd Annual Bullying Awareness Week.!

2011 Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards
May 20, 2011
The 2011 Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards celebrates parents from across the state who give their time and effort to better schools. See the winners from each district across Maryland at the gala in Anne Arundel County, and celebrate the statewide honoree, Shawna Capotosto from Frederick County!

Japan Appeal
April 11, 2011
State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick talks about the Maryland Kids Care Campaign: Operation Japan, Pennies and More. Actual footage of the monstrous tsunami rolling ashore underscores the disaster, and the effort to help by Maryland schoolchildren.

In the News

Katie O’Malley: Standing Up Against Bullying in Maryland
Baltimore Sun

First Lady Kicks Off Anti-Bullying Week
ABC-2 News

Special Needs Advocate Receives State Award for Parent Involvement
Frederick News Post

Grasmick Makes Stop in Bel Air at Blue Ribbon School
Cumberland Times News

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Shawna Capotosto of Frederick County last month was named statewide winner of the fourth annual Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards program.  State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and Comcast Regional Vice President of Government Affairs Donna Rattley-Washington made the announcement at a special ceremony held at North County High School in Glen Burnie.

PIMA winner Shawna Capotosto, left, State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, and Comcast’s Donna Rattley-Washington.

PIMA winner Shawna Capotosto, left, State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, and Comcast’s Donna Rattley-Washington.

Ms. Capotosto has worked with parents of special needs students throughout the Frederick County Public School System in an effort to help them understand the system and find services important to academic success.  She works on more than a half-dozen school committees, spends countless hours with parents as they meet with school officials, and acts as both a volunteer and advocate.  Through her efforts, scores of children have become successful students.

Ms. Capotosto was selected from five finalists also announced at the award ceremony.  The finalists were narrowed down from a list of 24 semifinalists announced in March.  In addition to Ms. Capotosto, the other finalists were: 

  • David Conn—Mt. Washington Elementary School, Baltimore City
  • Tom Willis—Rock Hall Elementary, Kent County
  • Sophally McCormick—Westover Elementary School, Montgomery County
  • Benjamin Brumbley—Parkside High School, Wicomico County

"Shawna Capotosto is a shining example of the important work that parents and other volunteers undertake in Maryland public schools every day," Dr. Grasmick said.  "Strong parental involvement has rebuilt classrooms and infused energy into our schools.  Teachers, administrators and students cannot improve schools alone.  They need parents as their ally.  Maryland is fortunate to have so many energetic parents working with us, and their assistance has helped our system be ranked number one in the nation for three consecutive years.  We are grateful to have Comcast as our partner in spotlighting the amazing achievements of these remarkable parents."

"Comcast is focused on supporting programs that cultivate and foster learning opportunities for our youth," said Rattley-Washington.  "Parents contribute to this mission on a daily basis, and we are proud to work with the Maryland State Department of Education to recognize them for their involvement and inspiration." In addition to the finalist and statewide winner announcements, Bette Gibbs of Garrett County, was presented with the JoAnne L. Carter Memorial Award in recognition of her parental involvement and work at Accident Elementary School.  This award is given annually in honor of JoAnne L. Carter, Deputy State Superintendent for the Maryland State Department of Education, who lost her battle with cancer in 2009.  A parent herself, Ms. Carter was a staunch advocate for parental involvement in education. The award is given annually to a parent that exemplifies all that she held dear.

The Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards is the nation's first and only statewide award program of its kind.  A collaboration between Comcast and the Maryland State Department of Education, the program recognizes parents and guardians for their exceptional support of public education.  Parents were nominated for demonstrating significant, positive impact in their communities across five areas of parental involvement: Communication, Volunteering, Learning, Decision Making and Community Collaboration.  The statewide winner was awarded a cash prize of $1,250 and the four remaining finalists each received $250 to further their efforts to improve their public schools.


Maryland public schools continue to pile up honors.  A new report has found that for the third year in a row, Maryland ranks first in the nation in the percentage of high schools offering—and students taking—college-level courses.

The Washington Post last week released the annual Challenge Index list of the nation’s top high schools.  The newspaper lists 107 Maryland high schools among its top 1,904 schools—the top 7 percent in the nation. 

Maryland has 184 public high schools, which means that more than half—58 percent—have gained a place on the newspaper’s list.  A handful of states—California (385 schools), Florida (150), Texas (149), and New York (145 schools)—have more schools on the list.  But all of those states have a far greater number of schools overall.

The Washington Post list, based upon the Challenge Index developed by education columnist Jay Mathews, had been published for years in Newsweek magazine.  The Washington Post sold that publication last year, moving the Challenge Index to the paper.  It is based on student enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Cambridge courses and tests, which have been shown to be good preparation for higher education.  Many colleges and universities give credit for success on the rigorous end-of-course exams attached to the courses. 

“Maryland takes seriously our responsibility to students, and has been working with our school systems to prepare our graduates for college and the workforce,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “We know our students must be able to compete with those from across the globe, and we must prepare them for that challenge.”

Maryland has worked closely with the College Board in a unique partnership to bring Advanced Placement courses to underserved schools throughout the State.

The Maryland schools on the list are representative of the State’s diversity.  High schools from 17 different Maryland counties made the Washington Post list.  Nearly a quarter of the Maryland schools spotlighted by the paper have 35 percent or more of their students receiving free or reduced-price meals.

The new ranking follows two reports from earlier this year, ranking Maryland as first in the nation.  Education Week ranked Maryland public schools as the nation’s best for the third consecutive year, and the College Board found that Maryland schools ranked first in the percentage of students scoring at the college mastery level (scores 3-5) in Advanced Placement—also for the third straight year.

To see the Washington Post’s list, go to


The Maryland Education Bulletin is published by Maryland State Department of Education, 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201. 410-767-0600. 410-333-6442 TTY. 1-888-246-0016. Nancy S Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools.  Stephen Brooks, Deputy State Superintendent, Office of Finance. John E Smeallie, Deputy State Superintendent, Office of Administration. James H DeGraffenreidt, Junior, President, State Board of Education. Martin O’Malley, Governor. A publication of the Office of Academic Policy. Bill Reinhard and Gail Tucker, Editors. MSDE Videos: