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Community Still Hopes for Charter School

James Rada Jr.

The Frederick County Board of Education voted to close Sabillasville Elementary School at the end of the 2020-21 school year. The vote was 5-1, with member Rae Gallagher the only opposing vote.

However, the Sabillasville community holds onto hope that the board will approve a charter school for the building. A group of Sabillasville citizens has submitted a concept proposal to Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) for review and planned on submitting a full application by the end of December.

The proposed charter school would be called the Sabillasville Environmental School. It would be a Kindergarten through eighth-grade school, with roughly 23 students per grade. It would begin as a Kindergarten through sixth-grade school and add grades seven and eight in years two and three.

“We want to offer a classical curriculum similar to what the Frederick Classical Charter School offers, with a focus on the environment,” said Alisha Yocum, president of the Sabillasville Elementary Parent Teacher Association. “Given where we are located, we want to reconnect students with nature and agriculture.”

The curriculum, as Yocum explains it, would be based around history, and all the classes will gear their lessons to what history is being taught at the time. The school would also teach the Singapore Math program.

Yocum said that parents of current students in Sabillasville Elementary are overwhelmingly supportive of the idea.

“We want the building to remain a school and serve the community,” Yocum said. “It’s the heart of our community.”

The citizens group has been working hard to pull everything together that is needed to get approval for the school and get it up and running without having an interruption in the students’ education between this year and the next.

The board of education vote hampers that. The Sabillasville parents had wanted the board to show their support by following a part of the state law that allows a public school to be converted to a charter school. This would have simplified the charter process and guaranteed current Sabillasville students a seat in the new charter school.

Superintendent Theresa Alban said she had contacted the Baltimore City school system where schools had been converted, and her belief was that it wouldn’t work for Sabillasville. She said for a charter school to be accepted in Sabillasville, the proposal would have to show that space was available in the town, and the only way to do that was to close the school. However, this also means that the Maryland State Department of Education will have to grant a waiver for current Sabillasville students to be given priority in a new charter.

The group has retained a lawyer to appeal the board’s decision and have a conversion charter school considered. You can donate to the group’s legal fund by mailing a check to: Sabillasville Elementary PTO, 16210B Sabillasville Rd., Sabillasville, MD 21780. You can also donate on the group’s GoFundMe page posted on its Facebook page.

The 56-year-old school has been in the crosshairs for closure for years. Board member Brad Young said it was one of the first topics discussed when he was elected in 2010.

The most-recent discussions about closing the school started in early 2020 when enrollment numbers showed the school had only 70 students. The board’s projections show that shrinking will continue, and in ten years, the school would have only 53 students. This affects how many teachers can be assigned to the school, which has led to some combining of grade levels. The cost of maintaining the aging facility was also cited as a concern. According to the FCPS, it has the third-highest maintenance costs of any school in the system.

Strong community support during that time caused the board to delay its decision as other alternatives were investigated.

The board was supposed to hear an update on the application at its November meeting. However, Alban decided this would create a conflict of interest since the board would also have to make the decision on whether to approve the charter.

“In no way do we wish to deter their efforts, and we would certainly welcome any movement that they want to make towards possibly submitting an application for a charter school,” Alban said.

She did review the results of a survey of Yellow Springs Elementary parents about whether they would support sending their children to Sabillasville Elementary if it was an open-enrollment school. Yellow Springs’ parents were the only ones surveyed because Yellow Springs Elementary is the only overcapacity school within a reasonable distance of Sabillasville. While other nearby schools are overcapacity, their problem will be alleviated when Blue Heron Elementary opens.

Of the 143 parents surveyed, 83 percent said they wouldn’t send their children to Sabillasville. Most parents had transportation concerns, particularly the length of time their children would have to ride the bus to and from school.

During the meeting, it was pointed out that the board hadn’t received any public comment about closing the school. This is because parents had been told there wouldn’t be a vote.

“We were not informed they would be making a final vote on November 23,” Yocum said. “I think the community should have been informed. We would have been there.”

Thurmont Commissioner Marty Burns agrees. During a recent Thurmont town meeting, he said the reason the parents were told there wouldn’t be a vote was because the board knew the Sabillasville community would show up in opposition.

“They didn’t want the opposition,” he said. “They took a quick vote outside the public eye. I bet if it was Urbana, [the board] wouldn’t have even thought about doing that.”

He and some of the other commissioners called it a rushed decision since the new board of education members were sworn in just two weeks later.

Thurmont Commissioner Bill Buehrer said during a town meeting that he wasn’t surprised at the decision and that it was based on politics, not education.

“I feel sorry for the families in Sabillasville,” he said. “You got hoodwinked. You know it, and the public knows it. Not a damn thing you can do about it because they already voted on it.”

Young said FCPS will need to determine whether it has another use for the building. If not, which is expected to be the case, the property is turned back over to the county. The county would then offer the property for sale or lease. This is the point where the new charter school will have to act to secure the property, and it could find itself competing with another business for the property.

Buehrer said that if the community’s charter school application fails, Sabillasville Elementary students will be “embraced” in Thurmont.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help your kids get a good education,” he said.

Blair Garrett

Amidst COVID restrictions and global pandemonium, Mount St. Mary’s basketball is still underway.

Precautions have been put in place to keep players and personnel safe, but the season has not been without its troubles. Breaks in the schedule due to positive COVID tests have put a hold on games through mid-December, but games are planned to resume activity once all proper tests have been cleared.

The NCAA has testing set in place to thin out instances of the virus spreading, and athletic programs around the country are dealing with quarantines and shutdowns following any positive tests.

The Mount is no different, and due to positive tests, the schedule has been shuffled around for both men’s and women’s teams. Games against Wagner College have been rescheduled from their original December 15-16 start date to January 26 and 27. All games and times are subject to change, and with record numbers across the country in Coronavirus cases, more schedule adjustments are likely to happen. 

The men’s team kicked off the season on a high note, taking down Morgan State in a close game on the road, where the team’s veteran players took over late to close the game out. The Mountaineers’ historic season-opening victory against Morgan State was the team’s first win against them since 1984.

The Mount hit a skid after its season opener, facing perennially tough competitors University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University, dropping games to both.  

Despite several postponed and canceled games, the team will have time to regroup and lay the groundwork for the rest of the season after the winter break.

Jalen Gibbs and Damian Chong-Qui have been scoring leaders for the past three seasons, and both lead the team by a substantial amount heading into the holiday break.  

On the women’s side of the court, the team has faced similar challenges with COVID creeping into the conversation. Games against Coppin State University, Maryland, and La Salle have all been canceled due to athletic programs dealing with COVID issues.

Despite dropping its first two games of the season, the team has had positive results against tough competition. The Mount’s offense has thrived on a balanced attack, with everyone on the roster chipping in offensively.

Because of cancellations, Mount St. Mary’s has played just one game in Knott Arena this season, but the team’s home-court advantage was apparent.

The women comfortably beat the UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Retrievers in a full-team effort, shoring up their offensive and defensive struggles from previous games.

The Mountaineers have the bulk of their schedule come January, where they take on more of their usual Northeast Conference rivals in multiple series of back-to-back games that will define the team’s season.

The abridged version of the men’s and women’s season follows unanimously approved guidelines by the NEC Council of Presidents to limit travel and potential exposure for student athletes and staff. From January 7, 2021, through the rest of the season, all games will be against in-conference teams.

Men’s and women’s schedules will be mirrored, too, to help limit the amount of travel programs have to do. Games will also be played on back-to-back days at the same site.

The NEC Tournament has been shortened to just finals and semifinals, with the top four teams competing for the NEC Championship. Regular season play resumes January 7, as both Mount St. Mary’s teams take on St. Francis Brooklyn in an away back-to-back matchup.

Thurmont Middle School is now providing free breakfast, lunch, and supper seven days a week. Meals are provided Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., in the cafeteria of the middle school, located off of Summit Avenue in Thurmont.

All families get a free lunch on those days and an additional pantry bag on Fridays for all children in their homes. These pantry bags have been graciously donated by several local businesses and organizations in the Thurmont community. Free clothing is also available on Fridays. 

During winter break, Thurmont Middle School’s cafeteria will be open, providing free meals on December 28 and 30, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. For any other information, please contact Kelly Pizza, community liaison at Thurmont Middle School, at 240-236-5103 or

Thurmont Middle School will be handing out lunches for Thurmont-feeder families on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., in the cafeteria of the middle school, off Summit Avenue in Thurmont, until December 31, 2020. 

All families get a free lunch on those days and an additional pantry bag on Fridays for all children in their homes. These pantry bags have been graciously donated by several local businesses and organizations.

For any other information please contact Kelly Pizza, Community Liaison at Thurmont Middle School 240-236-5100.

Catoctin High School has a new STEM educational experience for students in Northern Frederick County: FIRST Robotics Competition Team 686, Bovine Intervention. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to encourage and inspire students to pursue, and excel in, STEM-related careers.

Bovine Intervention comprises high school students from across Frederick County (currently Walkersville and Linganore high schools). It includes mentor support from high school alumni, parents, businesses, and Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) staff. Being new to Catoctin High School and Northern Frederick County, the team now invites students, as well as parents, businesses, and other mentors from these areas, to join their team.

Students will forge new friendships and learn valuable tradecraft skills in engineering, programming, project planning, business management, and decision-making processes, as well as compete against other FIRST teams in formal robotics competitions. The team also has opportunities for expanding leadership skills, video photography, newsletter writing, and communications.

Bovine Intervention primarily relies on community and corporate sponsors for funding to cover costs for materials, competition fees, and other resources. Students, family, and friends also support the team through their time and donations.

Operating within FCPS, Bovine Intervention now welcomes students to participate virtually and begin their STEM educational experience with training in engineering principles, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and programming skills. The team looks forward to getting back together, in person, during the 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition season, and will also plan additional activities to inspire the youth and increase team awareness in the community.

To join or sponsor the team, or be placed on its email list, please contact them at

To learn more about Bovine Intervention and FIRST, or for information and links to Facebook and Instagram sites, please visit the team website at

Students routing wires on the robot.

James Rada Jr.

It will definitely be a different year for education as schools work to balance education with coronavirus restrictions and parent concerns.

When school starts in Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) for student instruction on August 31, it will be without the usual pomp of parents taking first-day-of-school pictures and seeing children off on school buses. The Frederick County Board of Education decided in July that all students would learn remotely for at least the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Also, all athletics and extracurricular activities are suspended for this semester.

While the spring may have been hectic and confusing for students, the board of education announced it used feedback from students, parents, and teachers to improve virtual learning. According to the board, the enhancements include:

•   Increased live virtual interactions between students and educators.

•   A single, digital platform for students and parents to access instruction, communication, and feedback.

•   Robust professional learning opportunities for educators to increase their skill set for teaching in a virtual environment, which includes on-demand professional learning videos and courses for educators.

•   Student training videos that will enhance their abilities to access and learn in a virtual environment.

•   Strategies to focus on individual student needs.

•   Continued efforts to ensure every child can connect digitally.

According to a press release from the FCPS, students “will engage in a combination of real-time virtual instruction, instruction on an individual schedule, and completion of assigned tasks. In addition to teachers and school counselors, online learning mentors will also support students, offering designated office hours.”

Also, the grading system will return to normal.

Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg is offering students the choice between remote and classroom instruction. Parents decided which way they would like to have their children educated in the middle of August.

This decision was made in consultation with the Archdiocese of Baltimore and in seeking recommendations from public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and our state and local health authorities. The school will reopen for instruction on September 8.

“For parents who prefer in-school instruction, recommended and appropriate safety measures are in place, including the wearing of masks, social distancing measures, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the school and buses,” according to a release from the school.

Parents are not locked into their choice.

Principal Kathleen Kilty wrote in a letter to parents, “I understand that as the school year progresses, you may want to switch from in-person learning to remote learning, or from remote learning to in-person learning. One switch will be permitted. Additional switches will be discussed and decided on a case-by-case basis. It is important for the students and teachers to have consistency, and it is equally important that students participate in the best possible learning option.”

Both FCPS and Mother Seton School say they will reevaluate conditions as the school year progresses.

Area churches and organizations in Emmitsburg, Lewistown, Rocky Ridge, Sabillasville, and Thurmont are working to provide students in need with school supplies for the 2020-2021 school year. This program is to assist students attending the Catoctin Feeder Schools. These schools include Emmitsburg Elementary, Lewistown Elementary & Pyramid Program, Sabillasville Elementary, Thurmont Primary, Thurmont Elementary, Thurmont Middle, and Catoctin High.

The Annual Catoctin Community School Supply Drive will be held on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., in the Graceham Moravian Church parking lot, located at 8231 Rocky Ridge Road in Thurmont. 

Due to Covid-19, these changes will be in effect this year:

•   This will be a drive-thru event. PLEASE DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR CAR.

•   Backpacks will already be packed with basic supplies according to FCPS guidelines and handed in your window.

If you would like to donate to this program, please drop off school supplies, cash donations, or gift cards (Walmart) to the church on August 12 from 9:00 a.m. until noon. 

Any questions or concerns, please contact Coordinator Jennifer Harbaugh at 301-639-9970 or

The Thurmont High School Alumni Association has canceled its banquet scheduled for September 19, 2020, and rescheduled it for next year on June 12, 2021, at the Thurmont Event Complex, located at 13716 Strafford Drive (off Lawyers Lane) in Thurmont.

In order to give more scholarships in 2021, please make scholarship donations to The Community Foundation of Frederick County, 312 East Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701, or online at, then press “give now” and enter Thurmont High School Alumni Scholarship Fund.

This year’s five scholarship awards of $1,600 each were awarded to the following individuals: Alexa Hopkins, Coastal Carolina University; Abigail Kinnaird, Frederick Community College; Molly Knighton, Loyola University of Maryland; Krista Royer, Von Lee International School of Aesthetics; and Garrett Toms, West Virginia University.

The new Don Dougherty, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund that was started by his mother, Doris Dougherty, awarded scholarships to Molly Harbaugh and Owen Bubczyk.

Funds will be received from the new Donald Lewis Memorial Scholarship Fund in 2021 for scholarships.

Officers for 2021 are Howard Lewis—President; Viola Noffsinger—Secretary; Becky Linton—Treasurer. The alumni association is in need of a vice president and someone with EXCEL abilities for its reservation list for the banquet and people willing to become involved. Please notify them of any address changes and deaths. You can keep in touch by emailing, checking the Facebook Page at Thurmont High School Alumni Assn., or calling Viola Noffsinger at 301-418-1760.

Plans for 2021 will be the banquet on June 12, 2021, honoring the classes ending in 0 and 5 as well as 1 and 6. 

The Northwestern Frederick County Civic Association (NWFCCA) Scholarship Committee has announced the recipients for the 2020 school year. Since the inception of the organization in 1974 and the development of the scholarship programs, a total of 63 awards have been given. Catoctin High School graduates that have attended the Sabillasville Elementary School are eligible to apply.

This year, two graduates have each been awarded $1,000 from The John A. Cliber Memorial Scholarship.

NWFCCA is very proud of recipients Christa Royer, attending The Von Lee International School of Aesthetics in Pikesville, Maryland, and Garrett Toms, pursuing a degree in Pharmacy at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Kathleen J. Kilty, PhD, principal of Mother Seton School (MSS), announced the appointment of Alexis Burns to the position of assistant principal. Burns, a former student of Mother Seton School, has worked at MSS for the past school year in the Seton-LaCroce Learning Center (SLLC) as a special education teacher. She will serve in a dual role as assistant principal and special education teacher beginning July 1, 2020.

Burns is enthused to begin her new position. “My love for Mother Seton has been life-long, and this opportunity allows me to give back even more to the school. It will be my greatest pleasure to work with the teachers and administration and continue to serve our wonderful students.”

Dr. Kilty said she approached Burns with the opportunity after she saw her commitment to the school and, most importantly, to the students. “I recognized the support and respect that Mrs. Burns has gained from faculty and staff, our parent community, and our students. I believe that her dual role of teacher and administrator will help to make Mother Seton School truly a ‘School for All’.”

Among the initiatives Burns has worked with SLLC director, Ann Beirne, to bring about was the institution of the Orton-Gillingham model to assist those students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. Burns also created a sensory hallway to assist students with behavioral and cognition abilities.

“I am thankful to Dr. Kilty for this amazing opportunity and for believing in me,” Burns said. “I cannot wait to work closely with everyone to help continue the legacy of Mother Seton School.”

Dr. Kilty is just as grateful that Burns accepted the position. “I’m excited to work with her, and the rest of the faculty and staff, as we strive to provide the best possible academic and spiritual education to our students.”

Mother Seton School Special Education Teacher Alexis Burns works with a student in the Seton-LaCroce Learning Center sensory hallway. Mrs. Burns was recently appointed assistant principal and will assume that role on July 1, 2020.

The Emmitsburg High School Alumni Association (EHSAA) is pleased to announce the winners of their annual EHSAA scholarship program. Seven $1,000 scholarships were awarded this year. The scholarship applicants were judged on involvement in school and community activities, as well as their academic work. Honors and work experience were also considered.

Recipients were as follows:

1.      Alexi Baumgardner, daughter of Dwight and Kim Baumgardner, attending Virginia Wesleyan University working on her goal to become an orthopedic surgeon.

2.      Max Bingman, son of William and Jennifer Bingman, plans to attend West Virginia University with the idea of becoming a Neurosurgeon.

3.      Grace Blanchard, daughter of Glenn and Maggie Blanchard, will attend Frederick Community College to study Biology with the ultimate goal of becoming a Veterinarian someday.

4.      Gage Frantz, son of Robert and Juliann Frantz, has been accepted at Wheeling University to major in Engineering Science. 

5.      Aubrie Gadra, daughter of David and Lisa Gadra, plans to attend Towson University to start her career as a nurse practitioner in dermatology.

6.      Molly Knighton, daughter of Shannon and Heather Knighton, will be going to Loyola University Maryland to become a high school history teacher.

7.      Isaac Turner, son of Michael and Rhonda Turner, is planning to attend Brigham Young University and major in chemistry.

All recipients will be recognized at the Emmitsburg High School Alumni Association’s 96th annual Banquet to be held October 24, 2020. We congratulate all winners and wish them all success.

Eugene and Julianne LaCroce have long, solid ties to the Catholic community in Emmitsburg.

After moving to the area from Pennsylvania in 1964, Gene and Judy—as they are known to friends and family—enrolled their three oldest children in Mother Seton School (MSS). By 1977, all five of their children were students at MSS, and Judy began work there as a Middle School Language Arts teacher. Gene, who was employed at Mount St. Mary’s University and later at Fort Ritchie, volunteered his time to assist the Daughters of Charity at the school with finances and budgeting. Even after their children graduated and moved on to different areas of the country, the LaCroce family remained champions of Mother Seton School. This commitment to Catholic education was honored on January 31, 2020, with the dedication of the renamed Seton-LaCroce Learning Center at Mother Seton School.

“The LaCroce family’s lifelong dedication to Catholic education mirrors Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s educational mission and vision,” Mother Seton School Principal Kathleen J. Kilty, PhD said. “Our foundress was very sensitive to individual differences among students and impressed upon the sisters the importance of considering each child’s unique talents and abilities. Thanks to the LaCroce family’s generosity and commitment to Mother Seton School students, the Seton-LaCroce Learning Center will honor this vision of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s.”

The Seton-LaCroce Learning Center, or SLLC, originally opened in 2012 as the Mother Seton Learning Center. Its mission is to provide academic support, direct intervention, and guidance for MSS students in pre-K through grade 8. This past year, the SLLC expanded its services to include teacher training in Orton-Gillingham for reading intervention, a sensory path in its hallway to help with behavior and focus, and reading enrichment for students performing above grade level. Currently, the SLLC serves 36 students with documented disabilities, 16 of whom need reading and/or math support, and 15 for reading enrichment. A full-time, experienced special education teacher was also hired to help provide more comprehensive intervention, as well as professional development for the faculty with a focus on teaching students with disabilities.

“We also serve students in all grades who need additional time for a test, or suffer from anxiety and do better outside of the classroom to do a test,” adds SLLC Director Ann Beirne. “In addition, we are able to offer support for students’ emotional needs.”

Mrs. LaCroce was truly touched by the re-dedication. “It is a blessing to have this Learning Center renamed in our honor. We hope that it will enrich the lives of all the students who benefit from the resources offered so that the legacy of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton will continue to flourish in this holy valley.”

Pictured from left: (back row) Brian Stitely; Nathan Stitely; Julia Stitely; Ann Beirne, Director Seton-LaCroce Learning Center; Alexis Burns, MSS Special Education Teacher; Rev. John Lesnick, Pastor of St. Joseph’s, Taneytown; Dan Hallinan, MSS Board President; Jennifer Buchheister, MSS Director of Advancement; (frornt row) Maria Vershel; Julianne LaCroce; Eugene LaCroce; Kathy Stitely; Kathleen Kilty, PhD, MSS Principal

Pictured left to right:  Delaney Hench, Griffin Hench, Joanna Genemans, Cooper DeLauter, Tala Mott, Wyatt Ferson, Wayne Ferson, Michael Metz, Tegan Mott, Will Kimbark, Mike Sanders, and Ben Kimbark. On the team and not represented in the picture: Annalise Abruzzese, Evan Stream, Nora Dugan, and Ethan Williams. 

The Thurmont Middle School team placed third overall (behind both of Urbana’s teams) in the Frederick County Science Olympiad Tournament on January 25, 2020. Susan Mize coached the team with the help of assistant coaches, Jesse Love, Melissa Carter, Bill and Donna Kimbark, Jan Gennemans, and Patty Ferson. The team earned the following awards: 1st Place—Circuit Lab, Mousetrap Vehicle; 2nd Place—Write it Do it; 3rd Place—Disease Detectives, Elastic Launched Glider, Food Science, Reach for the Stars, Road Scholar; 4th Place—Anatomy, Boomilever, Crime Busters, Ornithology, Ping Pong Parachute, Water Quality; 5th Place—Density Lab, Dynamic Planet; 6th Place—Experimental Design, Fossils.

The Vai script is a unique indigenous writing system found in Sierra Leone and what country to its southeast? Sixth-grader Maryn Rajaski could tell you. (The answer is Liberia!) The Mother Seton School student placed first in the school-wide Geography Bee held on January 17, 2020. Maryn is no stranger to the finals; last year, she was the runner-up. Maryn will now have the opportunity to take an online test to be submitted to the National Geography Bee. The top 100 finalists in Maryland as determined by the test will move on to the state-level competition in March. The final competition is the National Geography Bee, which will be held in May. The National winner receives a $50,000 college scholarship. The National Geography Bee is in its 32nd year and is sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Elizabeth Vines, Middle School teacher and Geography Bee coordinator, says participation in the Bee is a fun way to promote the value of understanding the world around us. “I tell the students they are global citizens,” she said. “The Bee is one of the ways in which we try to broaden their minds.”

Maryn competed against other classmates who were selected after the initial classroom screening, including: Robert Mongelluzzo and Dylan Slusher (Gr. 4); Elizabeth Iferd and Vivian Lewis (Gr. 5); Grace Hewitt (Gr. 6); Brady Koenig and Aidan Shranatan (Gr. 7); Elizabeth Goodwin and Tim McCarthy (Gr. 8).

Lewistown Elementary School held its annual Family Night on February 13, 2020. The Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Committee and the School Improvement Team hosted the night to inform families on topics in education and to provide fun activities for students. The PTA generously provided dinner for all.

Parent sessions were held on technology, behavior, and home routines, math and literacy resources, and cyberbullying.  Student rotations included making calming jars and stress balls, science fair prep, and book shopping for free books. Frederick County Public Library, Girls on the Run, and Boy Scouts shared community information for attendees.

It was a great night for staff to share their knowledge and promote connections with families and community members!

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) is accepting nominations for the 2020 Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher Award. Named for a former Hood College faculty member who encouraged young people to enter the teaching profession, this award recognizes an FCPS teacher who has had a significant positive impact on young people.

FCPS has posted eligibility and nomination criteria, nomination process, and selection guidelines at The school system welcomes nominations from current or former students, teachers and support staff, parents, community members, administrators, and supervisors.

Nomination packets are due to the FCPS Public Affairs Department, 191 S. East Street, Frederick, MD 21701, by Friday, March 20, 2020.

Isaac Dugan

On the night of April 5, 2019, the Catoctin High School (CHS) auditorium was filled with parents, students, and members of the community, anxiously awaiting the opening performance of Catoctin’s musical, The Pajama Game. It was a huge success. Even the principal of nine years, Bernie Quesada, remarked that it was one of the best productions he had ever seen at Catoctin High. With all this positive energy surrounding the drama department, it is shocking to think that just five years ago, Catoctin offered little to students interested in theater.

 In 2015, after the departure of long-time director Mrs. Stietly, the theater program fell on hard times. With little student interest, enrollment in theatre classes dropped, and it became hard to fill roles in musicals and plays. In the 2015-2016 school year, there was no play and no musical. In the years following, only small-scale productions were undertaken. Show attendance dropped, and sometimes there was only one showing of each production.

Finally, this past school year, Evan Felmet (CHS music teacher) and his wife, Stephanie Felmet (CHS technology specialist), took on the challenge of rebuilding the drama program. They started by directing a full-length Broadway-style musical. Due to their active recruiting and clever use of resources, there was a fantastic three-performance run of a classic 1950’s musical, The Pajama Game.

Great productions are just a part of Catoctin High’s revamped drama program. Mr. and Mrs. Felmet have also created much excitement by reviving a theater class that focuses on acting and stagecraft. This class helped to put on a fall production of the mystery play Murder by the Book. Students who are interested in theater may also join the International Thespian Society, an honor society for recognized and accomplished actors all over America. “They help with a lot of organization and community outreach for the drama program,’’ said Mr. Felmet. The drama department also hosts a talent show each year to fundraise and to allow additional students at CHS to showcase their talents.

But, even with a director, actors, and crew, a production just isn’t right without an audience. The community plays an essential role in the Catoctin High School theatre program.

Members of the community purchase ads in the program, hang posters in their shops, donate costumes and props, and attend various performances. Because Catoctin is one of the smallest schools in the county, it takes a community to be able to provide these opportunities for students. To donate to this wonderful theater program or if you are looking for opportunities to volunteer, please contact the director at

This spring brings a wonderful opportunity to watch this talented group of kids perform the Rogers and Hammerstien’s musical State Fair on March 27 at 7:00 p.m., and on March 28 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

This growing theater program helps offer a variety of activities to students. “I’ve got a lot of very dramatic students in every sense of the word,” says Mr. Felmet, “and it’s a way for students who wouldn’t really have an outlet otherwise to find out what kind of person they are.’’

While some students find satisfaction on the athletic field and some find it in the classroom, many students are now finding fulfillment on the stage.

Catoctin High School’s production of Murder by the Book.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Miller Photography

Each year, all Frederick County Public Schools select a student representative to be honored at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The student is nominated for embodying the characteristics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year, Thurmont Primary School is proud to recognize second-grade student, Evan Laird (pictured right), as its award recipient.

Evan comes to school each and every day ready to build his brain, heart, and body power. He works hard in all that he does. If there is something he doesn’t understand, he asks questions to make sure he is meeting the learning targets. Evan is extremely thoughtful and includes others in games and activities throughout the day and at recess. He is responsible with completing his work and making sure he is putting forth his best effort with all his assignments. He consistently uses his manners with adults throughout the building. Evan easily exhibits all the pillars of good character and leadership qualities that are characteristic of Dr. King.

Thurmont Primary School honored and celebrated Evan, alongside all other FCPS nominees, at a celebration on Thursday, January 9, 2020, at TJ High School.

Alex Potter

January was a quiet month for the LEO Club. Plans and posters were made for the Share the Love Food Drive and Pennies for Patients.

Share the Love Food Drive will collect food for our local food bank, and Pennies for Patients raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The Leo Club decided to donate $100 to Days End Horse Rescue and $50 to Cuddles Cat Rescue.

Lastly, we are planning to make Valentine’s Day cards for the seniors at the Thurmont Senior Center, as well as scheduling an afternoon to play bingo with the seniors.

Lis Ruppel

The Thurmont Middle School (TMS) LEOs have been very busy the past couple of months. During October and November, TMS LEOs held a coat drive in conjunction with the Thurmont Lions Club Coat Drive for Make a Difference Day. The LEOs collected multiple bags of coats, which were combined with the other coats collected by Lion Marci Veronie and sent to be dry cleaned. Some of the coats were then distributed to kids and families in the TMS community in need, with the help of TMS Community Outreach Coordinator Kelly Pizza.

For Halloween, the TMS LEOs held a Costume Contest fundraiser. For a small fee, students could wear their costumes to school on Halloween. A contest was held at lunchtime, with judging by the lunch staff. An Amazon gift card was given for the best costume from each grade level. The TMS LEOs voted to use some of the money raised to buy a Thanksgiving dinner for a family in need at TMS.

Teacher Melanie Ware spoke with both Food Lion and Weis. With their generous assistance, she was able to put together baskets with food for Thanksgiving dinner for two families. Kelly Pizza distributed the baskets. In December, the LEOs assisted the Language Arts Department at TMS with its Food Drive by collecting the donated food and loading it into Ms. Ware’s car for delivery to the food bank. They also voted to fund several Christmas dinner baskets the same way they had done for the Thanksgiving baskets.

On the final day of school before the winter break, TMS LEOs held a “Holiday Hat” fundraiser, where students could wear a festive holiday hat to school for a small fee. After school let out, the LEOs met at Thurmont Regional Library for a Holiday Party and Secret Santa gift exchange. TMS LEOs are looking forward to an exciting 2020, filled with fun and service!

With the winter and flu season approaching, here are some helpful guidelines from Frederick County Public Schools Health Services to help decide what to do if your child tells you they are not feeling well.

When to keep your child home from school:

•  Temperature of more than 100 degrees for more than 24 hours

•  Nausea or vomiting

•  Stomachache

•  Diarrhea

•  Pale or flushed face

•  Persistent cough

•  Earache

•  Thick discharge from the nose

•  Painful sore throat

•  Rash or infection of the skin

•  Red or pink eyes

If your child had a fever the evening before, or through the night, keep the child at home. Students should have a normal temperature under 100 degrees for 24 hours prior to returning to school. If the symptoms are severe or persist for more than 24 hours, you should contact your private source of medical care. Children sometimes use illness as an excuse to miss school. On the other hand, some children force themselves to go to school even though they are sick. It is up to you to be alert to your child’s health and to decide when it is best to send him/her to school. This is also when you need to consider if your child would be contagious to classmates.

If your child complains of being sick or does not look well after reaching school, the school will contact you. Therefore, it is important that updated information and phone numbers be provided. As you read this, please remember these are general guidelines. You know your child the best! This is also a perfect time to reinforce hand washing to help minimize the spread of germs. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and please call the health room at your child’s school if you have any questions.

Thurmont’s Masonic Lodge is offering two scholarship awards this year: Mary and Robert Remsberg Memorial Scholarship Award and Bernhard “Bernie” Cohen Memorial Scholarship Award.

Since 1995, Thurmont Masons have awarded scholarships worth over $100,000 to area students! Scholarships are available to all graduating high school seniors from a Maryland State accredited public, private, and/or homeschool program who reside within the Catoctin High School district boundaries as per the Frederick County Public School district map.

Scholarship application forms are available at the Catoctin High School Guidance Office and the Thurmont Public Library. Interested students must complete an application and return it to the location where it was obtained on or before April 30, 2020.

The successful applicant and family will be invited to Acacia Lodge’s annual Strawberry Festival in June for the presentation of the scholarship.

Questions regarding the application should be directed to Acacia Masonic Lodge #155, attn: Scholarship Committee via the Lodge website at

Miss Katie Gaffigan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Gaffigan of Woodsboro, Maryland, was named to the title of Miss Catoctin-Aires Queen, to begin the 2020 year. Miss Gaffigan was chosen by the peers in the twirling group as the best representative of the organization for the coming year. She will be featured in the group’s hometown parade in June. Gaffigan received her title from the outgoing queen, Elizabeth Floyd. First runner-up to the title was McKenzie Walker, with Stephanie Kennedy as court royalty.

The Catoctin-Ettes, inc. recently produced its annual holiday show at Catoctin High School. Group numbers, as well as solo numbers, were showcased in the 46th consecutive year-end show. The highlight of the production was the Christmas medley of “Frosty the Snowman,” performed by the Tiny Tot section of the corps; followed by “Jingle Bell Rock,” by the Complimentary Unit; and, finally, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” performed by the Juveniles, Juniors, and Senior sections.

Soloists were Caitlyn Purdum, Elizabeth Floyd, Katie Gaffigan, Lily Marquette, Madelynn Corns, and India Mitchell. Each soloist performed a dance-twirl style baton routine to their choice of music.

Following the entertainment part of the evening, the group presented year-end awards for work throughout the year. Members who were recognized with a plaque for finishing their very first year with the organization were Stephanie Kennedy and Madelynn Corns.

Those members who achieved accumulated perfect performance attendance were honored with jacket pins and plaques. McKenzie Walker received the pin for five years of accumulated attendance. The dozen-year plaque was presented to Rachel Bechler, representing 12 years of consecutive performance attendance. Pins were presented to Caitlyn Purdum and Kelly Reed for 16 years and 32 years of attendance, respectively, at performances to end the 2019 year.

Caitlyn Purdum was honored with a special pin to recognize her special efforts with the organization throughout the year as a substitute twirler within three sections of the twirling group. The group finished the evening with refreshments and closed its year for 2019. The organization began its new year on January 9, 2020. Anyone interested in joining the group may contact the director, Donna Landsperger, at 240-405-2604 or

Good teachers are not hard to come by. The profession by trade is dedication of time and energy into shaping the future and guiding youth to be healthy and educated adults. Jessica Valentine Derr’s efforts for Frederick County Schools have not gone unnoticed. Valentine Derr was awarded the Simon A. McNeely Award for her outstanding contributions to health education for Frederick County Public Schools.

Valentine Derr has spent years developing an opioid prevention program and creating consistent and uniform curriculum content for health education for schools across Frederick County. She hopes to launch her opioid program in the coming year.

Simon A. McNeely Award winners must demonstrate teaching excellence in health or physical education, innovations in health or physical education, be actively involved in school and community affairs, and much more. Frederick County Public Schools are lucky to have such a dedicated professional.

Jessica Valentine Derr receives the Simon A. McNeely Award.

Sparkles the Therapy Dog visited Catoctin High School in December and received a warm welcome from students.

Sparkles volunteers with Wags for Hope, which uses therapy dogs in a variety of programs, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), Hospice of Frederick County, Rock Creek School, and Frederick Memorial Hospital.