Old Forge Elementary School wins state award

February 25, 2002|By TARA REILLY

Old Forge Elementary School, located on a country road surrounded by farmland outside of Hagerstown, holds a top state honor sought by several elementary schools across Maryland.

The school of just less than 400 students received the 2001-2002 Exemplary Reading Program Award from the State of Maryland's International Reading Association Council.

It's the only school in the state to receive the award, and the second straight year that a Washington County school has won the honor. Last year, Winter Street Elementary received the award. Eleven other schools across Maryland applied for the honor.

"We are quite thrilled and excited," said Principal JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown.

Old Forge will be honored March 13 at a state ceremony and receive a banner to display in the school.

Palkovitz-Brown attributes the honor to the dedication and teamwork of the school's teachers and parents and to the Board of Education for having a strong reading program in place.


She said students spend 90 to 120 minutes every day on English language arts, which includes reading and writing activities.

"We believe that reading pretty much underpins everything that students need to be successful (in school)," Palkovitz-Brown said. "There are many opportunities for students to develop a lifelong love of reading."

She said the school has several reading programs to offer, along with PTA-sponsored reading activities, tutoring programs, and summer and after-school reading programs.

Staff members also meet to discuss reading strategies and how to improve those that are already in place. Reading teachers Tina Stowell and Elizabeth LaRue also assist other teachers with those strategies and help students understand what they're reading and writing.

"Our instruction is based on the belief that we teach for understanding," Palkovitz-Brown said. "We really strive really hard to provide a balanced program for our students."

"They have a strong staff. They have a dynamic principal," said Jim Newkirk, the board's elementary reading and social studies supervisor. "They have a complete program."

He said the county's schools also provide one-on-one reading instruction to their young students.

Newkirk said Old Forge's successful reading program is impressive because it's doing it without additional federal funding to pay for extra supplies or programs. He said the school doesn't qualify for the federal funding, such as the Title I program, because of its low percentage of high-poverty students.

"It's not a high-poverty school, and the classroom teachers are asked to do a lot more because they don't have the resources," Newkirk said. "I am so proud. I'm proud as a peacock for them."

Palkovitz-Brown said Old Forge was confident that the school had all the ingredients to win.

"We felt confident that the programs that we had been implementing were effective and helped students progress in reading and writing," she said. "We felt all along that we were on the right track and we could be an exemplary program."

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