For three decades, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School has provided students with academic challenges and a quality education, and on June 8 students and staff — both past and present — celebrated the school’s 30th anniversary.
“We consider ourselves a family,” Principal Nancy Seifert said. “I love Jenifer Elementary School. I love the children, I love the staff and the many successes we see every day.”
Over the past 30 years, 19,155 elementary students have attended Jenifer. “To learn not only how to read, write and do math, but about friendship, cooperation, compassion and good character,” Seifert said.
Jenifer opened in 1987 when Charles County was experiencing a population boom and new schools were being built every few years. Jenifer, tucked away off of Route 228, is a serene gem in a bustling Waldorf.
“It’s a nice, delicate pocket in Waldorf,” said Thadine Wright, a former Jenifer vice principal and principal who is currently J.P. Ryon Elementary School’s principal. “No one knows we’re here.”
Physical education teacher Franco Foraci said Jenifer has become a second home to him since he started at the school in 1998. “I feel like this school is an incubator for the leaders in this building,” Foraci said.
Some Jenifer teachers were familiar with the layout of the school before they arrived for their first day of work. Anna Lancaster and Carrie Heard are current teachers and Jenifer alums. Fifth-grade teacher Heard served as the event’s mistress of ceremonies and Lancaster shared the highlights of her time at Jenifer, starting as a kindergarten student.
Her mother, Susan Belmore, was an art teacher at Jenifer, and Lancaster recalled the field days and sock hops among her favorite memories. “I made lifelong friends here,” said Lancaster, who teaches third grade. “And as a teacher, I enjoy making new memories with my students.”
Susie Fowler, a former Jenifer principal, was at the school when it celebrated its 20th anniversary. “And in the blink of an eye …,” she said, the school has hit its 30th year. When she started at Jenifer, kindergarten was a half-day, there wasn’t centralized curriculum — lessons varied classroom to classroom and there was no state testing for elementary schools. “How in the world did we know what was going on,” Fowler asked the other educators in the audience. But some things don’t change. “Children need teachers who will create a safe and caring environment where the students can thrive,” she said.
Included in the celebration were members of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco, Joyce Edelen, Kevin Grote and David Lassman. In costume, Grote — who lives in Jenifer’s home Ellerslie in Port Tobacco — and Lassman portrayed Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer and his brother, Daniel Jenifer (the family really clung to the name Daniel, Lassman explained). Westlake High School’s JROTC presented the colors at the event, Westlake sophomore Brianna Goulbourne sang “America the Beautiful,” Jenifer’s choir performed a medley of patriotic songs and fifth-grade student Brie Landers spoke about what the school means to her.
Superintendent of Schools Kimberly Hill, Board of Education Vice Chairman Barbara Palko and member Virginia McGraw attended, and Board Chairman Michael Lukas gave the school a proclamation. Also giving proclamations were the Charles County Commissioners, represented by Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy and the Charles County Delegation, which Del. Edith Patterson represented.
The school honored volunteers and employees who make the school run smoothly and foster a sense of community. Among those honored were LaTonya Barton for her advocacy; Don Bazzle, a bus driver with 29 years of experience; Melissa Brown with Alpha Best; Toney Darden, a basketball coach who was honored for community service; Marcia Dehanas for helping the school, staff and students, and being a “school loyalist”; Teresa Nunn for substituting; parent volunteer April Sterling; and Jennifer Brown, PTO treasurer, on behalf of PTO President Nse Witherspoon.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,400 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.