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Press Release: Montgomery County's Andrew Niebler Named 2015 Winner Of Parent Involvement Matters Award

Ceremony Honors Parent Volunteers For Positive Impact On Maryland Public Schools

For Immediate Release                               Contact: Bill Reinhard, 410-767-0486, Cell: 410-241-7108

Baltimore, MD (June 5, 2015)

Andrew Niebler of Montgomery County on Friday night was named statewide winner of the eighth annual Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Awards (PIMA) program.

Niebler, a volunteer at Westland Middle School, developed the Westland Cares program, designed to help students and their families gain stability by providing goods and services to those in need.  It has the added effect of helping them feel welcome in their community.  Westland Cares began as a holiday card-giving effort but quickly expanded to include a food and household item pantry, a holiday gift-giving andwrapping program, scholarships for afterschool activities, book fair certificates, and more. 

“Andrew has never looked for a quick fix… it has always been about neighbors connecting with neighbors,” said Alison Serino, principal of Westland Middle.  “A secondary gift of Andrew’s work with Westland Cares is the consciousness he has raised with other families.  He calls on neighbors to help, and they do not disappoint.”

Niebler was selected among the five finalists announced at the gala awards ceremony at Martin’s West.  The finalists were narrowed down from a list of 24 semifinalists announced earlier this week.  The other finalists were: 

“Parents and other volunteers make an important difference in the success of our students," said Governor Larry Hogan.  "I would like to congratulate all of the finalists for their continued involvement and significant contributions to Maryland’s students, schools and communities.”

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery noted that parent involvement is critical to Maryland’s educational success.  

“Andrew Niebler saw a need, filled it, and then found new ways to improve that initiative,” Dr. Lowery said. “Strong parental involvement strengthens our classrooms and schools, and Andrew never stops working to make Westland Middle better for students and the community. His commitment inspires us all.”

PIMA is the nation’s first and only statewide award program of its kind, honoring parents and guardians for their critical work.  The PIMA Program recognizes parents from local school systems across the State of Maryland, nominated for their contributions in one or more of the five areas of parental involvement:  Communication; Volunteering; Learning; Decision Making; and Community Collaboration.

Many of the honorees from previous years have become parent involvement advocates on the statewide level – serving as members of task forces, presenters at statewide meetings, and participants in education conventions as well as focus groups.

The PIMA Program is supported by: Martin’s West, BGE, Comcast, Rudolph’s Office and Computer Supply, Maryland PTA, Cullins Trucking, Inc., Harvest Enterprises, Inc., The Mid Atlantic Equity Consortium, Inc., and Target.

In addition to Andrew Niebler,  the semifinalists for the Parent Involvement Matters Award were:

2015 Parent Involvement Matters Award (PIMA) Local Honorees

Malinda Darber - Northeast Elementary School - Allegany
As President of the PTA, Malinda organized numerous fundraisers and ensured funds be used to support all students. She helped organize and carry out several movie nights at Northeast and organized various holiday activities, including a holiday shop for students during Christmas. 

Kerry Petz – Arnold Elementary School - Anne Arundel
Kerry is quite the advocate.  She was a leader in encouraging a feasibility study for school construction for Arnold Elementary, galvanizing parents, governing bodies and school leaders. Success on this level led her to advocate for improved sidewalks and crosswalks to enhance walker safety.  

Anne Matthews – Gardenville Elementary School - Baltimore City
Volunteering countless hours of her time in the classroom, hallways, running the school store and helping in the cafeteria only touches the surface of Anne’s participation.  Leading a beautification project, she orchestrated the painting of hallways and lockers with the school colors and worked to create a mural for the annual Scholastic Book Fair. 

Monica Leigh – West Towson Elementary School - Baltimore County

“Going green” is the theme for Monica Leigh, who created an “upcycling program.”  This involves training the school’s team of Greener Cleaners -- three or four students from each class -- to assist with upcycling waste in the cafeteria: from chip bags to energy bar wrappers. Her efforts go a long way in recycling and at the same time, contribute funds to her school.

Kimberly Koteff – Plum Point Elementary School  - Calvert County

With more than 100 new families coming to Plum Point, Kimberly organized a welcome barbeque for new families and students to meet current families and students as well as teachers, administrators, and staff members.  She also helped raise money for technology needs such as iPads and Smartboards, thereby encouraging the installation of wireless internet throughout the building.

Danielle Jacobsen – Ridgely Elementary School - Caroline County
Danielle was integral in forming the PTA Facebook group, which quickly relays information to parents and helped to greatly increase parent and teacher involvement.  She spearheaded a fundraiser that doubled fundraising goals and is also became the school’s unofficial graphic designer – creating school spirit wear, flyers, posters, and yearbook layouts. 

Sara Zaranski – Robert Moton Elementary School - Carroll County

Sara created a parent volunteering project for grade level teams that enhances communication and parent volunteering needed at the school.  She compiled a volunteer schedule, suggesting ways parents can support teachers and students and upgraded communications about upcoming events so they run smoothly and seamlessly.

Joseph Cline – Holly Hall Elementary School -  Cecil County

Joseph is the spirit and volunteer behind the creation of a rain garden habitat and outdoor classroom to assist Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education initiatives at the school. Joseph identified experts in the community who donated their time to help plan and create the habitat, in addition to securing materials for little or no cost from local businesses or organizations. Both the school and the environment have benefited greatly.

Yolanda Judge – C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School - Charles County
Yolanda assists teachers in the classroom, helps administration with office needs, and serves as PTO President. Under her leadership, the PTO membership has tripled, participation and feedback during PTO meetings has significantly increased, and the quality of parent nights greatly improved.

Shelli Blake – Warwick Elementary School  - Dorchester County

Good marketing and a new name made a huge difference as Shelli overhauled a less effective parent organization with a new brand - Parents Assisting Warwick Students, or PAWS. In its first year, more than $15,000 was raised to purchase student materials, provide funds for field trips, offer assemblies, and sponsor Spring Fest.

Tracy Herald – Kemptown Elementary School - Frederick County
Tracy planned and executed the school’s first STEM night - a successful parent outreach activity. Through her work as an employee of WeatherBug, the world’s largest weather and climate-sensor network, Kemptown became a weather reporting station used by students on a daily basis. 

June McClosky - Southern High School  - Garrett County

June’s daughter, Samantha, dreamed of attending art school and pursuing a career in the arts.  After losing her in a tragic car accident, June turned her grief into something positive – creating the  Samantha Funding the Arts Foundation, which has brought grants to schools for art and music supplies, provided field trip opportunities, and helped bring special performances to schools and the community at large. 

Susan Kipp - Youth’s Benefit Elementary School - Harford County

As STEM Club Coordinator and STEM Representative in the school’s PTA, Susan created a school Facebook page connecting and encouraging families to participate at monthly after-school STEM events.  She also established a partnership with Aberdeen Proving Ground scientists, who bring scientific demonstrations and lessons to students in grades K-5.

Richard Ryans - Ducketts Lane Elementary School - Howard County
Richard took the reins and charted a new course for his school’s PTA. He established an official PTA Charter and helped families get to know each other, the new school, and its staff.  He also successfully led the development of a PTA Strategic Plan, focused on building a strong school community and shaping parent involvement initiatives for the year. 

Alberto Rosanova – Worton Elementary School - Kent County
Alberto has been a leading member of Worton’s Watch D.O.G. Program, which was developed by the National Center for Fathering and designed to increase the number of positive male role models in schools.  Alberto has logged more hours than any of the other volunteers and is the first to arrive and the last one to leave at all activities.

Latrena Hines-Bean - Columbia Park Elementary School - Prince George’s County
Latrena mobilized parents, students and staff and formed the Columbia Park Elementary Beautification Committee that transformed the school grounds, which had become a dumping place for trash. She managed to recruit the largest turnout of parents, staff, and students for a Beautification Party that has had a lasting impact on the school.

Dominique Ellingsworth-Mohen - Sudlersville Elementary School  - Queen Anne’s County

Dominique’s trademark volunteer project is Sudlersville’s Earth Day Celebration. From scheduling experts of the Department of Natural Resources, to recruiting volunteers and organizing activities, she is involved in every aspect of the event. Her goal is to make sure the celebration provides an educational as well as a fun learning experience for the students.

Sharmella Riggs - Leonardtown High School – St. Mary’s County
Sharmella, an Aircraft Systems Acquisition Manager at the Naval Air Warfare Center, volunteers on the school’s Executive Diversity Council as the STEM Educational Outreach Team Lead. She also serves as the Ladies of Excellence program mentor, helping female students with workshops ranging from budgeting to dressing for success and from resume writing and job applications to workplace etiquette.

Tara Evanusa - Greenwood Elementary School - Somerset County
When asked to serve as the PTA president, Tara wasted no time in recruiting parents and family members. Within the first month of the school year, the PTO membership increased significantly – the largest jump in five years.  With new parents on board came new ideas, more increased fundraising activities, and a greater sense of community involvement. 

Colleen Gabler – Easton Middle School – Talbot County
Colleen’s volunteer efforts are highlighted through the school’s basketball program. Recognizing that middle school students need a safe place to be on a Friday night, and that basketball provides just such a haven, Colleen is involved in every detail of the program.  She even makes certain that after practice, all participants have a hot meal before they leave and a safe ride home.

Lauren Myers - Pangborn Elementary - Washington County
When Pangborn’s PTA dissolved and only a skeleton group remained, Lauren stepped up and became its president. Since then, parents have hosted many successful events as well as a variety of fundraising programs which have contributed significantly to the school. Lauren was able to create success through structure and accountability

Dr. Glenn Hornstein - Westside Intermediate School - Wicomico County
Four years ago, Glenn, an emergency room physician, created a vibrant Westside Chess Club.  A Chess Tournament came next and this year included more than 100 students from all parts of Wicomico County.  Glenn is convinced that chess enhances memory, boosts spatial and numerical skills, increases problem-solving, and strengthens logical thinking. Many teachers agree, noticing academic improvement among Chess Club students.

Stephanie Truitt-Drimal - Cedar Chapel Special School  -
Worcester County
Stephanie knows first-hand the challenges facing families needing resources and support for their special needs students.  She created a network of parents and organizations called Parents Helping Parents, which has greatly improved communication and awareness among families and organizations. As a result, contributions have poured in for needed technology that can help instruction.