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Board honors outstanding CCPS non-certificated staff for commitment to school system

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) recently announced the 2024 Outstanding Non-Certificated Staff Award winners. Each year, non-certificated staff are nominated by supervisors and colleagues with letters of support.

This year’s awardees include Natalie Brindle, secretary to the coordinator of the Early Learning Center (ELC), La Plata; Elise “Marie” Cutchember, a food service worker at Gale-Bailey Elementary School; Rodney Davis, a painter in the CCPS maintenance shop; Robert Hazard, a computer analyst III at Westlake High School; Rydell Keys, building service assistant manager at Gale-Bailey; Carolyn Washington, an instructional assistant (IA) at Gale-Bailey; Angelia Willett, executive administration assistant to the CCPS Chief of Schools; and Nathanial “Woody” Woodland, a building service worker in CCPS Operations and Supporting Services.

Secretary — Natalie Brindle

Brindle was new to the role of financial/principal’s secretary this year and she jumped in with both feet. On top of learning the job duties that go along with the position at the ELC, La Plata, she also had to become acquainted with Oracle, a cloud-based business platform used for human resources, financial and other functions. When she doesn’t know something, Brindle isn’t afraid to reach out to those who do. This has led to her making connections and building relationships throughout the school system that have created a network of resources for the ELC, La Plata.

“Mrs. Brindle is relentless until a task is complete,” Candice Vallandingham-Adam, the center’s coordinator, said. She arrives early and stays late, students make it a habit to stop by her desk to say “hello,” and “good-bye,” to her each day and she’s supportive of staff. 

“In the 27 years I have worked at CCPS schools, I have never encountered a school secretary who is as involved in every single aspect of the school day as Mrs. Brindle,” Nichole Garner, a prekindergarten teacher, said.

Parents appreciate that Brindle is knowledge and approachable, and that she is welcoming to students. “The special attention she demonstrates when speaking with each student as they walk through the door remind them that they are cared for and nurtured,” Camilla Lynch, a parent of an ELC, La Plata, student, said.

Food Service — Elise “Marie” Cutchember

Starting at Gale-Bailey in 2012 as a substitute cafeteria aide, Cutchember became a fulltime cafeteria aide at the school in 2021. She leads by example with a strong work ethic and organizes special days like Ice Cream Day showcasing her creativity. While she understands that the students need a treat now and then, Cutchember also encourages students to make healthy choices during meals at school.

“Ms. Cutchember actively encourages students to choose well-balanced meals, thereby instilling values regarding health and nutrition,” Kelly Kavlick, a reading resource teacher, said. “Her greetings and smiles are more than just courteous gestures; they are a warm and welcome start to the day for everyone she encounters.”

She also goes out of her way to make feel students and staff feel welcome.

“Her warmth, friendliness and genuine care for others make her a standout member of our team,” Gale-Bailey Principal Tangie Scales said. “Every morning, she greets everyone with a smile, hug or a simple ‘How you doin,‘” creating a welcoming and inclusive environment that sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.”

Cutchember is an integral part of the Gale-Bailey staff, Lisa Jones, a school secretary, said. She not only follows intricate USDA procedures for cleaning and food preparation, her interactions with students and staff shine. Students recognize that Cutchember looks out for them. “She sees if you have enough money to get food and ice cream,” Dexter Hoffman, a first-grade student, said. “She is nice. She is respectful.”

Rodney Davis — Maintenance

Davis’s job title is painter. “Although his primary focus of work involves painting, patching, spackling and caulking of all facilities within Charles County Public Schools, it’s Mr. Davis’s knowledge and experience that has the biggest impact,” Henry Lancaster, Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) administrator, said. He is often asked to find a solution to issues that crop up in CCPS facilities and works with representatives from Sherwin-Williams and McCormick Paints on behalf of the school system.

Davis is a team player who collaborates with staff working in other trades and shares knowledge of his with others. “His attention to detail and his knowledge of specific paint products and recommendations have become an invaluable resource,” Travis Harman, foreman of building trades, said. “He’s truly a master of his craft and his skillset has been widely sought after on both small- and large-scale projects with outstanding results.”

He is called to work overtime, weekends and holidays, and has to keep up with new procedures and practices. Problem-solving and reworking his schedule are everyday skills he handles with ease. “His work ethic, professionalism and communication skills have made him a true asset to our CCPS maintenance team,” Thomas Gragan Jr., supervisor of maintenance, said.

Orlena Whatley, principal of General Smallwood Middle School, has worked with Davis on several projects during her time with CCPS. “Rodney is highly reliable, punctual and professional,” she said. “He is an asset to our school system and any project he oversees; he will undoubtedly provide exceptional service.” 

Robert Hazard — Information Technology

Hazard began his career with CCPS as a temporary computer intern shuttling between Milton M. Somers Middle School, Walter J. Mitchell and Mary H. Matula elementary schools. He rose through the ranks as a computer analyst (CA) before advancing to the most senior computer analyst position of CA III working at Westlake. He oversees and manages an array of devices including more than 2,300 laptops.

The complicated and involved work is lightened by Hazard’s sense of humor, Charmaine Thompson, chief of instructional technology, said. “Mr. Hazard possesses a remarkable ability to lighten the mood, even in challenging situations,” she said. “His sense of humor is infectious and fosters a positive work environment for both colleagues and those we interact with. This is no small feat, considering the complexities and demands of our work.”

Hazard is a team player who works to ensure all technology needs at Westlake are being met. He makes his way through the school meeting with students or staff to troubleshoot an issue with a laptop, projector or WIFI. “I have seen him resolve technology conflicts and handle difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact,” Bethany Thornton, the library media specialist, said.

Hazard is a member of the Wolverine family, working side-by-side with staff to make sure students have what they need to be successful. “He is not just some ‘computer guy,’” Assistant Principal Erin Kaple said. “He is a member of our school community.”

Rydell Keys — Building Service

Prior to starting his career with CCPS, Keys owned his own cleaning service. He began as a building service floater at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building then moved on to North Point High School moving to J.C. Parks Elementary School before becoming the building service manager at Gale-Bailey in 2019 where he has remained.

Keys attention to detail is evident as he and his team have earned an 100% rating in inspections for a building built in 1969 and a Green Thumb Award. “One of Mr. Keys admirable qualities is his willingness to always step up to the plate,” Megan Parsons, Gale-Bailey assistant principal, said. “He has become an invaluable resource to our school community.” 

Keys is a leader and team player, often taking part in school activities. He keeps spaces spotless, quite a feat in an elementary school where glitter explosions and bathroom mishaps are uncommon, teachers penned in a recommendation letter. “We keep him busy at Gale-Bailey Elementary School with our many assemblies, Pride Time and afterschool events,” Michelle Foxx, an instructional specialist, Kelly Kavlick, a reading resource teacher, and Amy Tascione-Hoffman, a learning resource teacher, said in a combined letter. “We couldn’t do it without him.”

Students take notice of the care Keys shows to their school. “Mr. Keys keeps the school clean. He is organized, respectful and very nice,” Reese Hoffman, a Gale-Bailey fourth-grade student, said. “This is why I think he is helpful.”

Carolyn Washington — Instructional Support

At Gale-Bailey, Washington’s role as an instructional assistant (IA) spans across several programs including SOAR, ACHIEVE and inclusion, and she’s one of the first-grade IAs. “Her ability to work seamlessly within these diverse educational settings speaks volumes about her adaptability and dedication to meeting the unique needs of our students,” Gale-Bailey Principal Tangie Scales said.

Washington was an IA at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School for about five years before leaving CCPS to work for a career training program for young people. She returned to the school system as an IA at Gale-Bailey where she’s been working for the past decade. “Ms. Washington is an integral staff member in our building,” Megan Parsons, assistant principal, said. “She instills in all students a desire to learn and achieve.”

Christine Johnson, an ACHIEVE teacher and prekindergarten case manager, met Washington when Johnson was in first year of teaching. “She made the transition into the program easier for me with her confident, comfortable rapport with the students and their needs,” Johnson said. While Washington moved on to a new position after that first year, Johnson continued to meet with her each morning for breakfast to discuss different topics related to work and life. “She has the perfect combination of no-nonsense, firm authority figure but loving parental figure that so many of our children need here at school,” Johnson said.

“I love Ms. Washington,” William Grinder, a first-grade student said. “She helps me and other students. She is very nice to us. She is funny and makes me laugh.”

Angelia Willett — Central Office Support Staff

For many who work with her, it is fitting that Willett goes by Angel, the shortened version of her first name. “Ms. Willett has such an undeniably pleasant spirit about her that not only is she able to maintain a calm demeanor in any situation, but always has a positive word in the midst of a storm of requests, and routinely transfers this upbeat energy onto anyone with whom she comes into contact,” Sonia Blue, Mattawoman Middle School principal, said on behalf of CCPS middle school principals.

Before Willett was the executive administrative assistant to the Chief of Schools Marvin L. Jones, Ed.D., she worked as the principal’s secretary at Mary H. Matula Elementary School and was the executive assistant to the head of CCPS human resources. Her wealth of knowledge and experience serves her as she takes the lead on several district projects such as high school graduations, Board resolutions and presentations, the Ronald G. Cunningham Leadership Institute, the bi-weekly publication of the LEADER, Board updates and professional development sessions. “She is known for her brilliance, her humility and her kindness,” Linda Gill, Ed.D., executive director of schools, said. “She is an exemplary model of leadership and is my fortune to know her.”

While Willett finds quick solutions to issues and problems that crop up, she also finds a way to make others feel seen. “In a world where attention is often fragmented and priorities can seem overwhelming, she possesses a rare and invaluable gift — the ability to make each individual feel like their concern is the most important matter in the world at the time,” Thomas Stone Principal Shanif Pearl said on behalf of CCPS high school principals.

Nathanial “Woody” Woodland — Operations Support Staff

Woodland spent 35 years working as a radiographer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center before retiring in 2019. Shortly after, he began as a building service floater for CCPS, working evenings at different schools that were short staffed. Within a year, he came onboard fulltime — during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and is ready at a moment’s notice, Emilio “Joey” Mattera, CCPS field service foreman, said. “He is extremely reliable, and willing to help in any way he can,” Mattera said. “Woody often works later to keep up with the needs of our schools.”

Woodland’s daily responsibilities include delivering custodial supplies and equipment to schools and offices, but he is also called on to respond to emergencies like waterline failures that create flood situations or snow removal after storms.

“He makes himself available to do anything asked of him, both in and outside of his normal job duties,” Brian Richard, CCPS warehouse foreman, said. “Woody is always smiling, friendly and personable. He is mindful of his surroundings in making sure his areas are neat and secure, stopping to pick up items that are trash in midstride to the keep the system a more pleasing place to be.”

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).