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News Release
For Immediate Release Contact:Bill Reinhard, MSDE, 410-767-0486, cell: 410-513-3155, wreinhard@msde.state.md.us or
Alisha Martin, Comcast, cell: 443-670-7072 cell: 443-418-1353, Alisha_Martin@cable.comcast.com
Important news for the public NEWS RELEASE

GLEN BURNIE, MD (May 20, 2011)

Shawna Capotosto of Frederick County has been named statewide winner of the fourth annual Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards program. State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and Comcast Regional Vice President of Government Affairs Donna Rattley Washington made the announcement this evening at a special ceremony held at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

Ms. Capotosto has worked with parents of special needs students throughout the Frederick County Public School System in an effort to help them understand the system and find services so important to academic success. She works on more than a half-dozen school committees, spends countless hours with parents as they meet with school officials, and acts as both a volunteer and advocate. Through her efforts, scores of children have become successful students.

Ms. Capotosto was selected from five finalists also announced at the awards ceremony. The finalists were narrowed down from a list of 24 semifinalists announced in March. In addition to Ms. Capotosto, the other finalists were:

  • David Conn—Mt. Washington Elementary School, Baltimore City
  • Tom Willis—Rock Hall Elementary, Kent County
  • Sophally McCormick—Westover Elementary School, Montgomery County
  • Benjamin Brumbley—Parkside High School, Wicomico County

"Shawna Capotosto is a shining example of the important work that parents and other volunteers undertake in Maryland public schools every day," said Dr. Grasmick. "Strong parental involvement has rebuilt classrooms and infused energy into our schools. Teachers, administrators, and students cannot improve schools alone. They need parents as their ally. Maryland is fortunate to have so many energetic parents working with us, and their assistance has helped our system be ranked number one in the nation for three consecutive years. We are grateful to have Comcast as our partner in spotlighting the amazing achievements of these remarkable parents."

"Comcast is focused on supporting programs that cultivate and foster learning opportunities for our youth," said Rattley Washington. "Parents contribute to this mission on a daily basis, and we are proud to work with the Maryland State Department of Education to recognize them for their involvement and inspiration."

In addition to the finalist and statewide winner announcements, Bette Gibbs of Garrett County, was presented with the JoAnne L. Carter Memorial Award in recognition of her parental involvement and work at Accident Elementary School. This award is given annually in honor of JoAnne L. Carter, Deputy State Superintendent for the Maryland State Department of Education, who lost her battle with cancer in 2009. A parent herself, Ms. Carter was a staunch advocate for parental involvement in education. The award is given to a parent that exemplifies all that she held dear.

The Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards is the nation’s first and only statewide awards program of its kind. A collaboration between Comcast and the Maryland State Department of Education, the program recognizes parents and guardians for their exceptional support of public education. Parents were nominated for demonstrating significant, positive impact in their communities across five areas of parental involvement: Communication, Volunteering, Learning, Decision Making, and Community Collaboration. The statewide winner was awarded a cash prize of $1,250 and the four remaining finalists each received $250 to further their efforts to improve their public schools. A photo of the winner is available at http://msde.state.md.us/PIMA2011/ShawnaCapotosto.jpg.

Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards Semifinalists

Rosalie Knippenberg - John Humbird Elementary School, Allegany County Public Schools

John Humbird Elementary School has benefitted from the unwavering volunteerism and exemplary support of Rosalie Knippenberg for more than 15 years. She is an invaluable resource for the administrators, teachers, support staff, as well as the students at John Humbird. From volunteering in the annual "Fun in the Sun" to directing the annual "Santa Shop" festivities – Ms. Knippenberg makes every student feel as if they are her priority.

Ruth Lurz - Jessup Elementary School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Ruth Lurz is Jessup Elementary School’s PTA President and she meets each and every challenge of the PTA with eagerness and positivity, which results in an outcome of success. Further, PTA membership has doubled for the 2010-2011 school calendar year. The passion and courtesy she exhibits as a role model to students is invaluable and infectious. Ms. Lurz’s communication and leadership skills with parents, teachers, and students, her ability to engage a diverse student body population, and her positive can-do attitude make her indispensable at Jessup Elementary School.

David Conn - Mount Washington Elementary School, Baltimore City Public Schools

Without hesitation, David Conn eagerly assumed the project manager role at Mount Washington Elementary School when the school was granted the golden opportunity to expand sixth, seventh, and eighth grades to its prek-5 program. His leadership role has had a significant and positive impact on the present and future education of students, not to mention the expansion is moving forward with full community support and collaboration. In addition, Mr. Conn oversaw the development of the school’s website, which communicates and stores all information about the expansion project, as well as allows parental and community buy-in.

Becky Karatzas - Sandy Plains Elementary School, Baltimore County Public Schools

Because of the dedication and commitment of Becky Karatzas, the students and families at Sandy Plains Elementary School learn the joy of giving and service to others through a variety of events to include: PTA Family Restaurant Nights, Mother’s Day Flower Sales, Fall Festival, Movie Nights, Library Nights, Book Fair, Grandparent’s Breakfast, and Santa’s Workshop. Ms. Karatzas’ contributions are not limited only to Sandy Plains Elementary School – she also holds the position of president of the community civic league, where she raised enough money for a new playground for the bayside community.

Janet Cratty - Huntingtown High School, Calvert County Public Schools

Janet Cratty is vice-president of the Huntingtown Athletic Booster Club. With her assistance, the club has raised $10K for maintenance of the practice/game fields. In addition, she chairs committees, chaperones and organizes dances, supports testing efforts, serves as sports team liaison, and provides office support when called upon. Ms. Cratty works hard to support the efforts of the school staff and administration to make the high school experience a rewarding one for all students at Huntingtown High School.

Lisa Lednum - Federalsburg Elementary School, Caroline County Public Schools

Lisa Lednum not only provides indispensable service in the Library Media Center at Federalsburg Elementary School, she also plays intricate roles in the bi-annual book fairs and the reading incentive program – The High Flying Readers. Further, Ms. Lednum selflessly lends her time and knowledge to the Parents Advisory Committee, PTA, Girl Scouts, and the Math Improvement Committee. Her generous character and quality of performance and commitment are assets that Federalsburg Elementary School feels most fortunate to have.

Vicki Mahr - Westminster West Middle School, Carroll County Public Schools

An advocate for every child at Westminster West Middle School, Vicki Mahr is an outstanding representative of a parent who knows and lives the belief that education matters. Ms. Mahr trains more than 800 parents annually on the Carroll County Volunteer Training Program and advocates in a variety of ways at the school and county levels for equity in services for each and every student. Fundraising efforts and programs for MSA and enrichment all benefit from her exemplary activism.

Linda Hamdy - Holly Hall Elementary School, Cecil County Public Schools

Linda Hamdy has been a faithful volunteer for more than four years at Holly Hall Elementary School. Dubbed the “humble unassuming” force behind the school’s media center, Ms. Hamdy’s volunteerism has impacted the learning process, as well as improved reading skills and increased excitement in students visiting the media center. Her worthy contributions on the Family Involvement (FIT) and School Improvement (SIT) Teams have not only affected student learning and decision-making on several school committees, but they have also provided the noticeable rewards of dedicated parental involvement in public education.

Latrina Carr - J.P. Ryon Elementary School, Charles County Public Schools

Thomas Stone High and J.P. Ryon Elementary Schools’ Mentoring Program has been the "brain child" of Latrina Carr, for which she is the driving force. The hugely successful program offers high school students the opportunity to earn service learning hours, while providing elementary students with positive role models and reading and math tutors. Her influence and forward thinking ideas will have far reaching effects on Waldorf students for years to come. Ms. Carr's dedication and volunteerism demonstrate how parent involvement impacts public education at many academic levels.

Blanca Cruz - Hurlock Elementary School, Dorchester County Public Schools

Blanca Cruz provides a conduit for communication between school staff and many non-English speaking parents in the Hurlock Elementary School community. In addition, she designates countless hours so that English Language Learners (ELL) students can gain valuable assistance from a native speaker of their first language. When provided the opportunity of a salaried position with benefits elsewhere – Ms. Cruz elected to continue volunteering to help the students and families of Hurlock’s growing Hispanic population.

Shawna Capotosto - Frederick County Public Schools

Shawna Capotosto is a trailblazer who advocates for all students' success, especially those with special needs in the Frederick County Public School System. If supporting parents by attending Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings throughout the entire county is not enough confirmation of her dedication to children, Ms. Capotosto also serves as a member on more than six committees, which provide outreach programs and services for parents of children with a variety of special needs – ranging from IEPs to Autism. Her community involvement is tireless and her volunteerism is priceless as she brings a dual perspective to special education in Frederick County – that of dedicated parent and unwavering advocate.

Bette Gibbs - Accident Elementary School, Garrett County Public Schools

Parent-volunteer extraordinaire is synonymous with Bette Gibbs, who assists students, faculty, and administration in a multitude of ways at Accident Elementary School. Ms. Gibbs’ strongest assets are her ability to encourage students to achieve to the best of their abilities in the Accelerated Reader and her leadership and organization of the Fluoride Swish Program. There is no job too big or too small, as students admire her patience, and staff value her contribution to creating a positive work environment each and every day.

Elisabeth Goetz - Forest Hill Elementary School, Harford County Public Schools

"Get Involved!" is Elisabeth Goetz's philosophy, which was instilled by her parents early in life. Because of this, Ms. Goetz's said she feels fortunate for a variety of rewards she receives, but that the “real” rewards are the daily smiles on the children’s faces and knowing that she has been instrumental in not only promoting teamwork among students and volunteerism among parents, but also that she has contributed, in some way, to the Forest Hill Elementary School experience.

Susan Lustbader - Atholton High School, Howard County Public Schools

It is because of Susan Lustbader’s leadership and, more importantly, her example of volunteerism that makes Atholton High School an extremely effective organization. Without seeking attention, she remains the driving force behind a variety of school activities and outreach initiatives. For more than 10 years, Ms. Lustbader has lead by example in three Howard County Public Schools by giving her time, unsolicited support, and tireless energy, for the betterment of the entire school community.

Tom Willis - Rock Hall Elementary School, Kent County Public Schools

Tom Willis has spent many hours helping others by being involved with the youth and senior citizens in Kent County. Mr. Willis’ creativity and resourcefulness, coupled with his ability to see projects through, has helped make every activity at Rock Hall Elementary School a success. However, his activism does not begin or end there: from soccer coach and Sunday school teacher to volunteering at the local fire department and local food pantry, he is a shining example of true community volunteerism.

Sophally McCormick - Westover Elementary School, Montgomery County Public Schools

"Can do Attitude," and "Full of Energy," and "Webmaster Extraordinaire," are ways in which Sophally McCormick is described by her peers at Westover Elementary School. Ms. McCormick’s organization, creativity, and strong work ethic, along with her genuine caring and concern for all students, make her an indispensable volunteer. Westover Elementary School will continue to benefit from her efforts for many years to come.

Stephanie Pressley - Gwynn Park High School, Prince George's County Public Schools

Stephanie Pressley is a true testament to the significant positive impact a single person can have on a school like Gwynn Park High School. With zeal and support, Ms. Pressley has become the “life-line” of the instrumental music program. Furthermore, her impact on the Brandywine community is nothing short of amazing – from tutoring and mentoring to serving meals to the homeless – she gives so much of herself for the benefit of others.

Michelle Kealey - Kennard Elementary School, Queen Anne's County Public Schools

Michelle Kealey has an excellent rapport with the students of Kennard Elementary School. Described as a phenomenal, talented parent, who leads by example by her peers, she founded the Kennard Chess Club, all while maintaining a demanding full-time job. Her organizational and technical talents as well as her people skills are crucial attributes for a successful undertaking such as this, and one which she believes helps develop Kennard students’ academic and social skills.

Beth Rawlinson - Leonardtown Middle School, St. Mary's County Public Schools

Theatrical artist extraordinaire and priceless contributor are synonymous with Beth Rawlinson. Ms. Rawlinson is the heart and soul of the drama department at Leonardtown Middle School. She embodies both the spirit and the depth of parental involvement by ensuring the success of all students and in the process, contributes to the enhancement of the culture of learning in both the school and community of Leonardtown.

Antonio Deepree - Princess Anne Elementary School, Somerset County Public Schools

Antonio "Tony" Deepree is an active advocate for parent involvement, who has become an unofficial liaison between Princess Anne Elementary School and many parents due to his contagious enthusiasm. His caring and giving nature knows no end, as he moonlights as Little League Coach and an officer with the Maryland Natural Resources Police. Mr. Deepree says he just wants to make a difference – and he does.

Joanne Newmier - White Marsh Elementary School, Talbot County Public Schools

Joanne Newmier's contributions represent not a single project, but a multitude of efforts in many layers. She is a consistent and valued presence at White Marsh Elementary School, who is committed not only to giving her own time, but also to encouraging and supporting the next generation of parent volunteers. Ms. Newmier is a valued, trusted resource, with an impressive level of commitment to the students as well as the staff.

Geraldine Barnes - Rockland Woods Elementary School, Washington County Public Schools

Geraldine "Gerry" Barnes’ contributions to Rockland Woods Elementary School have positively impacted the students and community. She is a role model with an unassuming manner, who is helping to create a blueprint for the future success of many lives. Whether teaching math intervention and Junior Achievement, or coordinating the Ink Cartridge Recycling and Caps for Cancer projects, Ms. Barnes exemplifies a person of high character who truly believes every child can succeed.

Benjamin Brumbley - Parkside High School, Wicomico County Public Schools

Hailed “Advocate for all Wicomico County Students,” Benjamin Brumbley’s passion, perseverance, and commitment for an effective education for all Parkside students are what distinguish him among other parent volunteers. Whether advocating for a program in the school or driving children to various competitions, Mr. Brumbley is a constant figure recognized by the entire Parkside High School community.

Christine Brous - Ocean City Elementary School, Worcester County Public Schools

Christine Brous has solidified the bridge between home and school through her outstanding volunteer work at Ocean City Elementary School. Her efforts on behalf of all students have positively impacted their quality of education by ensuring they are provided with the necessary materials and supplies, even during difficult budgetary times. Because of Ms. Brous, the school is more than just a place where children come to learn – it is a community of caring individuals who work together to benefit all children.

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