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Stretching students' wings

September 07, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - After 22 years in administration at Brunswick High School in Frederick County, Md., Melvin "Buzz" Whitfield said he was ready for a new challenge.

So he came over the mountain to Smithsburg High School to assume the principalship in time for the 2005-06 school year, which just began.

"A year or two ago, I felt I needed a change," Whitfield said.

He retired from Frederick County Public Schools and took the top job at Smithsburg High, which had been held by Valerie Novak, now the principal at North Hagerstown High School.

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One of his first challenges will be dealing with a student population of approximately 890, which is overcapacity for the building housing grades nine through 12.

"We have one portable classroom and several teachers who must move from classroom to classroom," Whitfield said. "It is unfortunate, but we're coping."

Whitfield said he would like parents and students to know he expects Smithsburg High to be a safe educational environment with very "high rigor."

"I expect students to stretch - there will be no coasting here," Whitfield said.

He earned his undergraduate degree from Frostburg State College, now Frostburg University. Whitfield's master's degree resulted from additional study at Western Maryland College in Westminster, Md., now McDaniel College.

"I have completed a lot of additional education, probably 30 or more hours, since then," he said. That includes recent courses in reading and special education.

He started his educational career teaching science on the middle and high school levels. Administration became a goal after about eight years and he started applying when there were openings.

"Teaching was satisfying but repetitive," Whitfield said.

In his 22 years at Brunswick High, Whitfield was assistant principal for seven years and principal for 15 years.

The commute to Smithsburg from his home near Middletown, Md., is about 16 or 17 miles, which Whitfield describes as an easy trip. He and his wife have two grown children and one granddaughter.

Whitfield said his sister is responsible for his nickname.

"When she was little, she tried to call me brother and it came out Buzz," he said. "And it stuck - no one calls me Melvin."

Whitfield said he plans to get around the school as much as possible while dealing with administrative tasks.

The principals at the two other Smithsburg schools are the same this school year - Robin Handler at Smithsburg Elementary and Deidre Shumaker at Smithsburg Middle.

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