CCPS honors outstanding support staff

CCPS honors outstanding support staff

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) annually honors outstanding support services personnel in the areas of maintenance, information technology, secretary, central office support, food service, building services and instructional assistant. The awards program was established to recognize the roles support personnel have in maintaining the effective and efficient operations of the school system.

Honorees for 2020 include Gary Cook, a building controls system technician in the CCPS maintenance shop; Richard Day, a computer analyst III at North Point High School; Carol Jewell, secretary to the principal at North Point; Annemarie Murphy, secretary to the assistants in school administration at the Starkey building; Dana Steffe, food service manager at Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School; James “Earl” Swann, building service manager at La Plata High School; and Lisa Willis, a kindergarten instructional assistant at Mary B. Neal Elementary School.

Outstanding Maintenance Employee

Cook started his career as a steamfitter with Honeywell and was with the company for 30 years before coming to CCPS in 2002 as a building systems control technician. His primary job duties are associated with the HVAC temperature control systems in all CCPS facilities. But his expertise it not limited to his job title. “Mr. Cook is always willing to work beyond his assigned duties to assist HVAC mechanics with any issues needing attention,” Brian Ball, administrator of the CCPS energy/building automation systems, said in a nomination letter. “He has an outstanding work ethic coupled with a great sense of humor that contributes to the overall morale of our department.”

Cook shares his knowledge with colleagues and is often called upon to offer his advice or opinion. “He works remarkably well within the system which makes him highly productive and an excellent role model,” Laurence Budd, foreman of the operations center group, wrote. “No job is too challenging for him,” wrote Ernest Downs, foreman of the electrical/mechanical department.

Cook is lauded by his colleagues for his creative problem-solving, work ethic and willingness to lend a hand — most of it behind the scenes. “Gary’s work is outstanding, but goes unnoticed because he performs so many tasks in uncommon areas such as mechanical rooms, penthouses and in the ceiling of schools,” Henry Lancaster, administrator of CCPS’s computerized maintenance management system, wrote. Ken Schroeck, a senior project manager in supporting services, said Cook is a credit to the school system. “Compassionate, dedicated and high-energy individuals are the cornerstone of any top quality educational system,” Schroeck wrote. “Gary Cook is one such person.”

Outstanding Information Technology Employee

Since starting with CCPS in 2010 as a computer intern, Day has risen to become a computer analyst III. After spending a couple of months at the central office, Day moved to North Point where he continues to work. “For a school that prides itself as a ‘technology school,’ a computer analyst is essential to the successful function of our organization,” North Point Principal Daniel Kaple wrote in a nomination letter. “When we have a technology need or issue, Rick is always ready to save the day. This has earned him the reputation as North Point’s own Superman.”

North Point serves as more than a traditional high school, it is often used as an event space. From hosting high school graduations for the county’s seven high schools to opening its doors for school-based and community events, the building is almost always in use. “Rick has come in on multiple occasions to take care of emergency issues outside of regular hours and on days off,” Jill Warring, a systems analyst II, wrote. “He frequently puts in extra hours in evenings or on weekends to assist with special events.”

Day is tasked with training new and temporary computer analysts. “He tries to instill in other employees his extraordinary work ethic and courteous manner,” Lora Bennett, executive director of IT strategy, wrote. “He shows unusual initiative, is a self-starter and once involved in a task, can be depended upon to carry it through to completion.”

North Point staff know they can count on Day to assist or take on a challenge. “Mr. Day never makes me feel like my problem is small or insignificant,” Anastasia M. Griffin, a North Point mathematics and student leadership teacher, wrote. “If I call about a computer problem, he is in my room within minutes fixing it. It is truly comforting to know he always puts us first.”

“He works hard to make our lives easier,” wrote Cary Smith, a North Point English teacher and yearbook advisor. Day is a colleague everyone at the school appreciates, Smith said. “He is always going a mile a minute, popping in and out of classrooms, fixing any technology issue that we may have. … I cannot imagine this building running without him.”

Outstanding Secretary

Jewell started at North Point as a main office secretary in 2007 before becoming the principal’s secretary in July 2013 when Michael Simms was principal. Now she works with Principal Daniel Kaple, who calls her his “right hand and most valued advisor.”

“No task is too small or too large for her to take on and successfully execute,” he wrote in a nomination letter. “She is dependable and hard working. She is able to conduct the diplomacy and provide the discretion needed for the effective functioning of the principal’s office. Her honesty, loyalty and disposition make her the ideal person to support a school principal.”

Jewell’s professionalism and kind manner resonate with parents and students, as well.

“Her positive demeanor helps to set the positive tone for the school,” wrote parent volunteer Revel Battle. “No matter what she is doing (and she does a lot!), she takes the time to ask if there’s anything she can do to assist. As a parent volunteer, it is refreshing to interact with someone such as Carol.”

Her influence extends to students at North Point, according to junior Gabriela Rodriguez, who chats with Jewell in the hallways. “She taught me to have responsibility with things and to think about others other than myself. She reminds me of my mom sometimes — which is nowhere near a bad thing,” Rodriguez wrote. Jewell frequently volunteers to work at open houses, back-to-school nights, at concession stands and ticket booths. She cheers on the NPHS Eagles at athletic competitions and supports afterschool activities. “Ms. Jewell aims to support the “heart” of North Point,” Cpl. Tiffany Smith, a member of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and North Point’s school resource officer, wrote. “She quite frequently volunteers her personal time to ensure that our school is the best that it can be.”

She is also a valued staff members during working hours. “Throughout our school, she is well known as a “go to” resource — if you need something done, go see Carol and she will point you in the right direction or simply work her magic to make things happens,” retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Brown, the JROTC department chair, wrote. “The words ‘team player,’ ‘dependable leader’ and ‘proven performer’ are qualities that come to mind when I think about what Carol means to the North Point community.” Holly Dolan, high school resource teacher, agreed. “Throughout the school, Ms. Jewell is viewed as both ‘the lady with the answers’ and someone who wholeheartedly cares for those with whom she works,” Dolan wrote. “Simply put, Ms. Jewell is a cornerstone of North Point High School.”

Outstanding Central Office Employee

Murphy was an airman in the U.S. Air Force for four years before transitioning to civilian life and working as an administrative assistant. In 2010 she started with CCPS as a temporary secretary before becoming a secretary in School Administration for the school system.

Murphy is on the frontline when it comes to receiving calls from parents and community members who have a concern or questions. “She is on the ready to determine where or to whom the calls should be directed, but more importantly, she takes the time to hear the concerns of those who need assistance, and is able to reassure them that their voices will be heard,” Kathy Kiessling, director of student services, wrote in a nomination letter.

“She is very professional in her communications with these individuals,” Steven D. Lee, coordinator of student activities, wrote. “Ms. Murphy has the innate ability to diffuse the emotions of the individual that is expressing the concerns and advises them of the different procedures that are in place regarding the particular situation.”

Murphy not only directs people to an appropriate staff member who can help, she collaborates with them to come up with a solution. “Mrs. Murphy is very proactive and forward-thinking as it relates to anticipating potential challenges,” Marvin Jones, executive director of schools, wrote. And Murphy does it with a kind disposition that doesn’t slip, even in times of crisis. “I have witnessed her interaction with parents, taking them from a high level of stress, to a level of calmness,” Susan Dobbs, financial secretary for the Career and Technical Education (CTE) office, wrote. “Her ability to calm angry or frustrated parents and others over the phone is unparalleled,” wrote Pamela Mucciolo, secretary for the office of instruction. “Annemarie is unflappable and unflustered; she takes the day’s events in stride as they occur, no matter how unusual they may seem,” Linda Gill, Ed.D., executive director of schools, wrote.

Murphy is an active volunteer with Relay for Life of Charles County and United Way of Charles County events. She supports the annual Ronald G. Cunningham Leadership Institute, assists with monthly principal meetings and helps with high school graduation ceremonies. “In today’s world where many things are occurring simultaneously, Ms. Annemarie Murphy has not forgotten the importance of taking the time to be present for others,” Carrie Richardson, principal of Mary H. Matula Elementary School, wrote.

Outstanding Food Service Employee

Steffe’s career in CCPS food and nutrition service has come full circle since she started in 2002 as a food service worker at Mitchell. Before landing in her current position as Mitchell’s food service manager, Steffe was an assistant food service manager at La Plata High School and Mary B. Neal Elementary School. At Mitchell she is known for her commitment and ability to teach her staff how to juggle multiple demands— a vital skill when working with elementary school students, Principal Nick Adam wrote in a nomination letter. She also has a strong relationship with students. “Ms. Steffe relates well with students, teaching them understanding, caring and respectful rules that create a kitchen and cafeteria that is well organized, on task and efficient,” Adam wrote.

Steffe ensures students are getting enough to eat and that it is nutritious. “I have seen her during lunch shifts encouraging the students to not just get a milk and snack but to get the full healthy lunch because nutrition is important,” Jocelyn James-Smith, secretary to the principal wrote.

Students appreciate Steffe’s caring demeanor and sing her praises. “She is a very nice lunch lady,” wrote fourth grader Laila Thompson. “Like, one time when I was getting my lunch, she told me a joke.” Denzel Nguyen, a fourth grader, agreed that Steffe is a stellar employee. “She is the best staff member in lunch,” he wrote. “She gets the best cooking food ever. She gives us good food and healthy food too.” Thompson wrote that she has a favorite menu item. “I love it when she makes those yummy tater tots and she always makes them fresh.” Though they might be young, students recognize the work Steffe puts in as the food service manager. “[She] deserves a lot of thanks,” fifth grader Sofia Ortiz-Camacho wrote. “I bet it’s hard to run everything with school lunches.”

Outstanding Building Service Employee

At La Plata High School, where he has been the building service manager since 2002, Swann fills many roles. “His badge says that he is a building service manager, but he does so much more for us here at La Plata,” Principal Douglass Dolan wrote in a nomination letter. “He has been a teacher, coach and mentor to many people who have walked through the school doors.”

Swann began his career with CCPS in 1986 as a building service worker at Thomas Stone High School and Dr. James Craik Elementary School. He has served as building service manager at Craik, and Benjamin Stoddert and Mattawoman middle schools before starting at La Plata. Swann leads his team to go above and beyond expectations. “La Plata is one of the largest and oldest facilities in the county which makes it a challenge to maintain,” wrote John Parkhurst, a government teacher who has worked with Swann for 20 years. “You would never know it by how clean and inviting the building is.”

While he has built friendships with staff members that span decades, Swann also makes new teachers feel welcome. “As a first year (and second year) teacher, I have made a lot of ‘dumb rookie’ mistakes,” Kate Sellers, instrumental music teacher, wrote. Among them were getting leaves all over the auditorium stage, forgetting an alarm code and trying to figure out which of some 30 keys go with which lock. “Mr. Swann, every time I would make a mistake (big or small) would usually smile, say something encouraging and then give me the tools and assistance I needed to fix it.”

He offers the same assistance and encouragement to students. “Students feel comfortable asking him for assistance with their locker, how to get to a class or getting free throw shooting tips,” Stephanie Barry, a special education teacher, wrote. Swann has also taken on the role of coach for Unified teams and other sports throughout the years. “When we have been up against hard times and did not have coaches for sports, Earl has stepped up and filled the missing role as needed, and done so with the intention of not just filling in, but making a difference,” Parkhurst wrote. “There is not a single person who I have interacted with during my entire career with CCPS who has been more consistently dependable and supportive over the long haul.”

Outstanding Instructional Assistant

Willis has worked with young children in CCPS since 2006 — first as a substitute teacher then as an instructional assistant (IA) at Mitchell. She has been an IA at Neal since 2009 when the school opened.

Her duties at the school span from moving very quickly and efficiently as the in-charge staff member of bus and daycare van arrivals and dismissals, to paced and deliberate when leading small groups of students who need extra attention in reading and math.

Willis works with kindergarten teacher Michelle Theders who said the two are a team. “We help the students learn and grow together. We plan together and we teach together,” she said. “She always keeps it positive, even discussing negative behaviors. There was always hope and we were always a team.”

Former students, who have since been promoted to first grade, applaud Willis. “I love Ms. Willis because she is nice and always helps people learn and follow directions,” Meagan Jones wrote in a nomination letter. Tyrone Hall likes Willis because she does fun activities with students. “She plays Pac-Man with me when I do a good job,” he wrote. “If I do my work, we play Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots.”

Parents appreciate how Willis cares for their children. Ian Marco Melchor’s parents, Harold and Janice Melchor, wrote “By the way Ian talks about Mrs. Willis, we know that she loves what she does and puts the students before her own needs. Staff members like Mrs. Willis are one of the many reasons why we feel at ease when our child goes to school.”

Michell Cuellar, the mother of a former student of Willis, has nothing but good things to say about her. “Mrs. Willis is not just an instructional assistant; she wears different hats throughout the school day. Mrs. Willis is a nurse, a second mom, a friend and a teacher,” Cuellar wrote. “My child comes home almost every day and tells me she wants to be just like Mrs. Theders and Mrs. Willis. That speaks volumes about the influence that she has.”

Beyond her IA duties, Willis volunteers on the walkie-talkie during lunch duty, has coordinated the talent show and plans retirement parties. Her flair for decorating is evident around the school, making Neal an inviting place to be. “Mrs. Willis is someone who makes me proud to be an educator,” Principal Deborah Brown wrote. “She is firm and fair, and loves the children she teaches.”

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,521 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 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).




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