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What’s New at Herbert Hoover Middle School?

Billie-Jean Bensen, who is beginning her fourth year as principal of Hoover Middle School, said that her goal is to increase reading and writing skills throughout the curriculum.

“We’re taking on literacy as a school-wide focus,” she said. “We’re looking at increasing rigor in our classes through a variety of activities. It’s not just happening in English, we’re working on essay writing, short paragraph writing … as a whole school effort.”

Students at Hoover Middle can continue Potomac Elementary School’s Chinese Immersion Program. Sixth-graders at Hoover take Chinese language and Chinese art. Seventh- and eighth-grade students can move up to Chinese 4 or Chinese 4 Honors, and AP Chinese will be available this year or next year. In addition, Spanish and French are now offered as options in the sixth-grade curriculum.

This year, the school system is implementing “Edline,” a new online service that allows students and parents to see grades and other information from teachers about classes. Hoover was already using Edline last year, and Bensen said that she’d like to see teachers utilize online technology even more.

“We’re moving toward more online textbooks,” she said. “It will minimize the issue of heavy backpacks. Students could also leave their textbooks at home if there is a class set.”

Parents can also keep abreast of school news and information on the school Web page, which Bensen said is updated extensively, and through Hoover Notes, the e-mail announcements sent out by the PTA. Instructions on how to join the listserv are available on the PTA website.

Another focus this year is development of a consistent grading rubric in all subjects. Teachers plan together and collaborate to find model papers to help develop a consistent grading scale.

A new computer lab was completed at Hoover prior to the start of school. The county provided 35 Macintosh computers, and money from the PTA and the Hoover Foundation funded upgrades to the equipment as well as programs in animation, web design and digital art.

NANCY FITZGERALD of Potomac is beginning her first year as PTA president of Hoover Middle School. She served on the Wayside Elementary PTA board as president, vice president, and delegate to the county PTA board. She has two children in the school system — a seventh-grader at Hoover and a fourth-grader at Wayside. Fitzgerald is sharing the duties of the position with Vice President Joy Stein, also of Potomac. The two served together on the Wayside PTA board for five years.

Fitzgerald praised the “very open-door administration” at Hoover.

“It’s very easy for parents to contact their children’s teachers, counselors, or the principal directly,” she said. “There are no barricades to get through for the communication. … You can pretty much get to anyone you need to get your questions answered.”

Potomac-area schools are known for their academic rigor, but Fitzgerald said that staff at Hoover cater to the abilities of each student.

“The academics are to my knowledge one of the most challenging in Montgomery County, yet I don’t feel the children are lost in the shuffle of that challenge,” she said. “I feel they’re keeping an eye on every level of learner, and helping each child to progress to their fullest.”

Last year the PTA contributed funds to convert an extra room into a much-needed science classroom. The PTA also hosted two information sessions for parents on the topic of children’s Internet safety, and invited local law enforcement offers to meetings to speak on school safety issues.

Fitzgerald said that her goal this year is to increase parent participation in the PTA, which she hopes to achieve by scheduling speakers on informative topics prior to PTA meetings.

“For some reason when you get to middle school, there’s an impression that [parents] aren’t needed as much, and you still are,” she said. “As a parent, your help is still needed and your presence is still needed. My goal is to make the volunteer opportunities more available to the parents.”

Fitzgerald said that in the wake of recent school shootings around the country, another PTA goal is increased safety.

“In light of everything going on across the nation right now, we want to really examine safety procedures and get Hoover functioning in a way that parents can rest a little more assured in the safety of their children,” she said.

<b>Hoover Middle School PTA Calendar</b>

PTA meetings are generally held on the 2nd Tuesday of the month in the Hoover Media Center:

* November 14, 7:30 p.m.

* December 12, 9:30 a.m.

* January 9, 7:30 p.m.

* February 13, 9:30 a.m.

* March 13, 7:30 p.m.

* April – no meeting

* May 8, 7:30 p.m.

School testing dates:

* High School Assessments (Algebra) – May 24

* MSA testing (grades 6-8) – March 12-21