Board honors school system support staff for outstanding commitment to Charles County Public Schools | details | #schoolsaftey

Board honors school system support staff for outstanding commitment to Charles County Public Schools

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) annually honors outstanding support services personnel in the areas of information technology (IT), central office support, instructional assistant (IA), food service, maintenance, secretary and building services. 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 2023 include Brenda Garner, executive assistant for transportation who was named outstanding center office support staff; Deanna Gomez, secretary at Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School, who was named outstanding secretary; Pamela Hawkins, building service manager at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School, who was named outstanding building service employee; Beverley Johnson, food service manager at Henry E. Lackey High School, who was named outstanding food service employee; Allen Latimer, foreman in the electrical/mechanical group for CCPS, who was named outstanding maintenance employee; Brent Roberts, network engineer III, who was named outstanding information technology employee; and Trina Short, instructional assistant of Gale-Bailey Elementary School, who was named outstanding instructional assistant.  

More than 23,000 CCPS students ride a bus to and from school with buses making more than 14,700 stops and traveling over 36,530 miles each day. Garner, secretary for the director of transportation, is in the office each morning as early as 6 a.m. to ensure the school day gets off to a smooth start. Garner has worked for the school system for more than 40 years, starting as a clerk typist in transportation following her graduation from La Plata High School. Her experience in the office has made her the go-to person for new and veteran transportation staff. “Transportation staff members continually go to Brenda with questions about policies, procedures and past events,” Michael Heim, chief of operations and supporting services, said. Garner manages the records of physicals for school bus drivers and a system to ensure drivers do not exceed two points on their driving records — requirements set out by the Code of Maryland Regulations, known as COMAR, and the state department of transportation. She also communicates with drivers, attendants, contractors, school staff and parents. “She brings unmatched experience and knowledge that assists in providing the best possible service to our students, staff, contractors and drivers,” Steven J. Miller, retired supervising specialist in transportation, said.

Gomez began her career with the school system as the attendance secretary at J.C. Parks Elementary School in 2018. She stayed at Parks through June 2021, before heading to Mitchell as the registration secretary. Gomez took the position as secretary to the principal earlier this year in February. Mitchell’s principal Nick Adam said Gomez has a positive influence on parents and is always willing to jump in to help others, including students who might need extra support. She is also flexible and adjusts her schedule to benefit students and staff. “It is Deanna’s understanding of uncertain events and her ability to adjust that has enabled her to be so successful,” Adam said. Known as a team player, Gomez helps establish routines and procedures for staff, students and parents to maintain a safe and orderly environment where children can thrive. “Deanna always focuses on safety and security for all,” Holly K. Smigal, learning resource teacher, said. “Building relationships is something Deanna excels at.” Gomez is the school’s Just Say No club coordinator, supports Parent Teacher Organization initiatives and volunteers as a member of committees.

Hawkins has been a member of the Higdon community since 1989 when she started working for the school as a building service worker. In 2008, she became the building service manager and took on the responsibility of the needs of the building, as well as those of students and staff. Hawkins is organized and willing to take on challenges, Higdon Principal Shannon Finnegan, Ed.D., said. “Ms. Hawkins is no stranger to demanding work and does what it takes to support school activities,” Finnegan said. “This is whether during normal school hours or after school events.” Hawkins is usually the first one at the building in the morning to prepare the school for the day and the last one to leave, Brad Buzby, assistant principal, said. Staff often get compliments on the cleanliness of the school which is thanks to Hawkins and her team. The team routinely receives perfect scores on audits and displays professionalism and commitment. “It is a reflection of how good and how consistent Ms. Hawkins is as a building service manager,” Buzby said. Staff who work for Hawkins appreciate her “lead by example” managerial style. “She has taught us so well that we know what to do in her absence,” Daniel Goldring and Tony Waugh, building service workers, said. “She can be called anytime for anything. She not only tells us what needs to be done but she also assists us in each job.” Goldring and Waugh said that Hawkins is a positive role model for the students, with the students agreeing. “I like how she’s kind, funny and help kids,” Bradley VanDeWeert, a fifth-grade student, said. “I like how the school is always clean and healthy and safe from any germs. Without her, everyone would be sick all the time.”

Jenkins has worked at Lackey since 1997 when she took a job as a food service worker. During her time there, she has adapted to new skill sets and when schools shut down in 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, she pivoted to ensure students had access to school meals to-go while doing so safely. It was in 2020 that Johnson became the food service manager at Lackey. “Preparing orders, taking inventory, completing payroll and supervising staff are just some of the facets of her daily routine she facilitates with grace and ease,” Lackey Principal Kathy Perriello said. Jenkins is no stranger to accolades for her work. She was named the 2017 Employee of the Year by the Maryland School Nutrition Association (MdSNA). The award recognizes a nonmanagerial school nutrition employee for the contributions they have made throughout their career, according to the MdSNA. Jenkins doesn’t do what she does for awards. She is committed to the students at Lackey. “I always want to take care of the kids and make sure they eat a quality meal each day, and that I provide them with a variety of options, so everyone has something they like,” Jenkins said. Leonard Stevenson, a special education teacher at Lackey, first became acquainted with Jenkins while he was a student at Lackey. Now a co-worker of Jenkins, Stevenson’s respect for her has only grown. “Mrs. Jenkins always knew how to put a smile on a student’s face, or at least make us forget about the daily grind of school, even if it was only for 30 minutes during lunch,” Stevenson said. “Now that we are colleagues, I’m truly able to see the amount of love and care she uses while she preps meals and speak with her peers.”

Latimer is an Electrician III with CCPS and has been with the school system since 2017. During the workday, he can be found troubleshooting, repairing, installing or upgrading electrical systems such as interior/exterior lighting, power required to support classroom equipment and devices, and electrical systems associated with mechanical systems. For a several months this year, Latimer found himself a one-man show as the only staff electrician while the CCPS maintenance shop adjusted to retirements and promotions. “This past year, he has been instrumental in keeping our electrical needs maintained as he handled the majority of the workload of his trade,” Steve Vance, supervisor of maintenance, said. “He demonstrated tremendous dependability and worked diligently on every work order to keep the priorities with our system addressed in a timely manner.” Latimer’s skill set extends beyond electrical work, as he is well versed in other trades, and he can be counted on to work extra hours to ensure the workflow is smooth. Earl Swann, the building service manager at La Plata High School, worked with Latimer on an issue plaguing the school’s outdoor electronic scoreboards. Latimer arrived and began troubleshooting the problem while uncovering other issues with the scoreboard. “His help saved us a lot of time and money,” Swann said.  

Starting as a computer intern in May 2010, Roberts was named a computer analyst I by September of the same year supporting C. Paul Barnhart and Mary B. Neal elementary schools, and Benjamin Stoddert Middle School. As a network engineer II, Roberts uses his strong technical skills to ensure technology meets the needs of instruction. While he is no longer a member of the computer analyst team, Roberts maintains ties and is willing to tag in when the team needs assistance. “When we are shorthanded or an analyst falls behind due to heavy demands, he volunteers to work after hours at schools to help the computer analyst catch up, in addition to performing all of his regular job duties,” Jill Warring, help desk administrator, said. Roberts is a member of the Wide Area Network (WAN) Engineering Team and has contributed innovative ideas and solutions to help improve technology. “He shows unusual initiative, is a self-starter and once involved in a task, can be depended upon to carry it through to completion,” Lora Bennett, executive director of IT strategy, said. Roberts works to properly maintain student laptops to ensure they are safe for use by children and young adults. “Brent has been pivotal in assisting in increasing the network security for student laptops when there were issues with non-school appropriate sites being accessed by students,” Juan Gilmer, computer analyst III, said. “The bottom line is, Brent has been a valuable source for the WAN team and the technology department.”

Short worked as a substitute for CCPS for seven years before she took a permanent role in the classroom as an IA at Gale-Bailey. For five years, she was an IA in Gale-Bailey’s SOAR program before moving to Jenna Webb’s kindergarten classroom, where’s she’s worked since 2019. “I have been lucky enough to work with Ms. Trina Short in our kindergarten classroom for the past four years,” Webb said. “Over that time, we have become not just coworkers, but teammates and friends.” Short is dependable, frequently co-teaches in the classroom and manages small groups of students during reading and math. She pitches in to substituting and takes on other roles around the school including working car and bus duty, lunch duty and supporting students. The children, especially her students, are appreciative. “When she enters our classroom each morning after car rider duty, our students rush up to her with smiles to get a hug and tell her ‘Good morning,’” Webb said. Short’s patience and kindness are evident. “She handles the personalities and behaviors of the students in her class with a soft tone and gentle guidance,” Michelle Foxx, math instructional specialist, said. “The students respect her and know that she is there to keep them safe and to make sure they can learn every day.” Amy Tascione-Hoffman, a learning resource teacher at Gale-Bailey and mother of one of Short’s students, sees how her son’s teachers care about him. “My son has a lot of worries throughout the day, and Ms. Short helps to calm his fears,” Tascione-Hoffman said. Short makes sure students are greeted each morning and lays out the plans for the day. When at home, her students show off what they learned during the day, delighting parents. “[My son] will show us the hand movements Ms. Short taught them that day at dinner,” Tascione-Hoffman said. “Ms. Trina is a wonderful example of how forming relationships with kids can truly impact their educational experience.”

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 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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