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Board honors five outstanding employees at May meeting

Each month, the Board of Education honors outstanding employees for their dedication to students of Charles County Public Schools (CCPS). At the May 21 meeting, five staff members were recognized including Amy Clements, instructional specialist at Berry Elementary School, Tricia Harrington, special education teacher at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School, Devette Price, school counselor at Eva Turner Elementary School, James Swann, building service manager at La Plata High School, and Matthew Walker, an instructional assistant (IA) who oversees in-school intervention (ISI) at Piccowaxen Middle School.

Clements started her career in education as a second- and third-grade teacher before becoming an instructional specialist, a title she has held for the past 15 years. At Berry, Clements is the coordinator of peer coaching and coaches the math team. She leads staff development at the school and county levels, and models classroom instruction. She coordinates guided school visits and can be counted on to volunteer to present at the New Teacher Academy. “In the work that we do, it is so refreshing to be beside individuals who are truly the heartbeat of a school,” LeighAnn McLaud, Berry principal, said. “Amy Clements is part of the fabric of Berry. For the past 12 years, Mrs. Clements has been at the center of all things at Berry Elementary.”

At Higdon, Harrington is the special education team leader. It takes an organized, dedicated and committed educator to handle the position. Harrington brims with those qualities, Higdon Principal Shannon Finnegan, Ed.D., said. “She tirelessly advocates for the needs of our students, and she ensures that every service and accommodation is provided with precision and care,” Finnegan said. Additionally, Harrington leads by example and ensures her colleagues are supported and have what they need to effectively teach and advocate for their students. “Mrs. Harrington sets a remarkable example, guiding her colleagues with wisdom, empathy and expertise,” Finnegan said. “Her work ethic is unparalleled.”

An elementary school counselor’s day is never dull. In a day, a counselor can meet with individual students, visit classrooms to conduct a lesson, hold a small group session, conduct a schoolwide event and take care of anything else that might crop up. At Eva Turner, Price juggles it all like a pro. She connects and establishes meaningful relationships with students, their families and staff, Gary Lesko, Turner’s principal, said. At the school, Price is the 504 coordinator and its Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coordinator. She oversees Thanksgiving baskets that are put together each holiday season for Turner families in need and every Tuesday supports the afterschool mentoring program in partnership with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. “Ms. Price is a constant advocate for our students,” Lesko said. “And not a day goes by that she doesn’t come in my office and ask for money. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes it’s no. But I know the request is always in the best interest of our kiddos.”  

Swann has remained a stalwart supporter of La Plata for 22 years. As the building service manager, he has an almost innate knowledge of the building and operates it at an exceptional level. “His positive energy is contagious and his commitment to his profession are unmatched,” La Plata Principal Douglass Dolan said. “Mr. Swann and his team are an integral part of the La Plata High School community.” Despite the manager title, Swann tags in when his team is short staffed, staying after hours to ensure work is completed and when the school went through a recent extensive HVAC replacement, Swann and his team coordinated the schedule to make sure the work didn’t disrupt students and staff during the school day. Over the years, Swann has become a member of the Warriors community, coaching girls basketball, Unified tennis and Unified track. He has played in staff vs. students basketball games, takes part in pep rallies, Battle of the Classes and other activities. “Mr. Swann is a champion of our building, community and the students and staff of La Plata High School,” Dolan said.

Before becoming the IA in ISI at Piccowaxen, Walker was an IA in the SOAR classroom. It was that experience that helped him transform the ISI room into what it is now. “Mr. Walker has created a positive and nurturing environment where students feel respected, supported and encouraged to reflect on their behavior and make positive changes,” Piccowaxen Principal Wualanda Thenstead said. Walker employs positive, fair and compassionate guidance when addressing disciplinary issues to support students and help them learn from their mistakes as they strive for improvement. Walker also keeps students on pace with their assignments, so they return to the classroom caught up with their peers while fostering a sense of responsibility in them that they can build on once they leave ISI. “Mr. Walker’s passion for education, commitment to student success and exceptional interpersonal skills make him a valuable asset to our school community,” Thenstead said.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,765 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 38 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 Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, 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.

CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).