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Sunderland celebrates a state Blue Ribbon

Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon and Sunderland Elementary School Principal Pam Kasulke
Left to right, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon and Sunderland Elementary School Principal Pam Kasulke, who is displaying the "Medallion of Excellence."

Sunderland, MD - Of the State of Maryland’s list of several hundred schools, six have emerged to be recognized for significant achievements. One of the six is Sunderland Elementary School (SES) in Calvert County. In early June state and local school officials announced SES has been named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. On Tuesday, June 6 the school’s staff and student body gathered in the gymnasium for a brief celebration.

The SES Chorus sang the school song and visitors—including Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller and Calvert County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Daniel Curry address the gathering.
“So many good people work here,” said Curry. “Everyone contributes. It doesn’t become a great school without a great principal.” Curry praised both SES’ previous principal Karen Vogel, who now holds the same post at Patuxent Appeal Elementary Campus after a decade at Sunderland; and current Principal Pam Kasulke. “Sunderland Elementary has had good, consistent leadership,” said Curry.

With the earning of a state Blue Ribbon, Curry reminded the staff and students, “now comes the challenge to continue it. The administration and faculty here has what it takes to continue.”

Miller, who has two grandchildren who are SES students, told the audience of his love for books and reading and praised Calvert’s school system. He noted one of his granddaughters was able to earn 40 college credit hours from the College of Southern Maryland while attending high school. “That’s what Calvert County does for you,” said Miller.

Observing the five grade levels of students seated on the gym floor during the program, Salmon stated, “I am looking into the future.” Salmon marveled at the collective academic achievements of SES students, who scored high on statewide standardized tests--students scored overall at 73 percent proficient or above in math and 70 percent in English/language arts areas of The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). “You have wonderful teachers,” said Salmon, who added that teaching “is the most important job in the world. It makes all other jobs possible.”

In addition to academics, a panel of judges deemed SES Blue Ribbon-worthy because of its use of technology—particularly by fourth-and fifth-graders. According to state education officials, “all students become ‘future ready’ by using IPads, HP Streambooks, document cameras, SMARTBoards, and computers. In grades 4 and 5, a 1:1 device program has students utilizing technology in daily instruction.” The state panel was also impressed with SES’ status as a “Green School.” its extracurricular activities—including a drama club, a cooking club and a “kindness” club. “The Seahawk Kindness Crew works in partnership with Huntingtown High School’s Key Club to foster respect and kindness,” Salmon stated. “Community partnerships with local churches provide support for families in the school though the HeartFelt Backpack Program and The Angel Tree Project.”

Salmon also noted that SES’ Family Student Organization (FSO, an alternative to a PTA) “gives back to the community.” State officials also took note that SES The school offers services for special needs students, as well as regional programs that include Inclusive Pre-K, Co-Taught Kindergarten and HeadStart. 

While the state Blue Ribbon is a major achievement, Salmon told the audience SES has a chance to earn a National Blue Ribbon later this year. The last Calvert school to earn that distinction was a private school, Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings in 2015.
Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Office of Partnership and Recognition Executive Director Dr. Darla F. Strouse told TheBayNet.com that 250 schools earn National Blue Ribbons annually. Because of its population Maryland is allowed six nominees. It order to be considered for Blue Ribbon School designation in Maryland, a school must be in the top 15 percent in statewide testing. The panel will also factor in such things as the school’s innovation and parental involvement.

Strouse bestowed upon Kasulke the “Medallion of Excellence and suggested the principal wear it at school until the end of the current year. After the ceremony Kasulke indicated she would. Strouse announced Blue Ribbon School “prizes.” In addition to several thousand dollars’ worth of donated gifts from corporate sponsors, SES will receive a $2,000 allocation from the MSDE. Those announcements were greeted enthusiastically by students and staff. However, pandemonium erupted in the gymnasium when Strouse announced that every student and staff person would receive a chocolate chip cookie later in the day. It was a great day to be a Seahawk.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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