Board of Education Honors 23 Individuals, Organizations for Distinguished Service

October 31, 2020

The Montgomery County Board of Education honored 23 individuals and organizations during its  annual Distinguished Service Awards ceremony. The virtual ceremony was broadcast at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30. Video of the ceremony is available here.

The Board established the awards to recognize and show appreciation for exemplary contributions to public education and to MCPS by members of the community, businesses, MCPS staff and school volunteers.This year’s Distinguished Service Award winners are:

Community Individual

Craig Koralek

Over the past seven years, Mr. Craig Koralek, a retired chemical/environmental engineer with more than 40 years of experience, has dedicated his time to volunteering in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Volunteer Program at Glenallan Elementary School. Mr. Koralek has been an integral part of the program, which has more than 90 volunteers in 60 elementary, middle and high schools. The program supports 130 teachers to bring the real world of STEM to more than 10,000 students every week.

He brings in speakers from a variety of STEM fields to provide students with real-world experiences. Mr. Koralek also teaches a unit on climate change and global warming to the Grade 4 classes, focusing on the causes and effects of climate change. Mr. Koralek has served as a school science fair judge and chaperoned class trips to the University of Maryland Chemistry Department and the George Washington University Science and Engineering Hall.

He consistently demonstrates the professional and personal characteristics that personify the value of service in the spirit of enhancing the educational experience for all students. He is dedicated to developing positive and meaningful relationships with students and families and is committed to providing students with engaging learning experiences to activate their imagination and creativity, sharpen their critical-thinking skills, and build a foundation for lifelong learning.

Zoe Tishaev

Ms. Zoe Tishaev has made it her mission to provide students with a voice. A senior at Clarksburg High School, Ms. Tishaev serves as Student Government Association (SGA) president. She also serves the greater MCPS community in innumerable ways. Her contributions to the conversations held at the table with the Montgomery County Council, Board of Education and the Montgomery County Regional SGA are invaluable. She has served as a mentor and model for others.

Ms. Tishaev has led an effort to inform her peers about the boundary analysis, Board of Education policies, MCPS regulations, and other key issues. She has formed relationships with council members, Board of Education members and key MCPS staff in order to create open lines of communication to share the student perspective. Although Ms. Tishaev ran unsuccessfully for the Student Member of the Board of Education, she continued to advocate for her fellow students with decision-makers.

Ms. Tishaev has been a staunch advocate for the Kirwan Commission and has worked to inform her peers about the commission’s background and policies. Her leadership will be remembered and shared with others for years to come; and her hard work and efforts to improve the lives and experiences of her peers will be her legacy.

Community Group

Building Foundations for the Future

The Building Foundations for the Future (BFFF) club was founded by Sullivan Phillips, Raymond James and Alvin James. The group originated as the Rocky Hill Middle School (RHMS) MORE (Men Organized to Raise Engagement) five years ago. BFFF’s vision is to change the culture of schools by empowering young men. They have provided an invaluable service to adolescent and teen boys by helping them to develop leadership skills and build positive relationships with each other and within the Clarksburg community.

The BFFF club mentors students and engages them in activities that foster communication, collaboration, leadership, problem solving, and to serve as role models for other students. In addition, they tutor students to support their academic achievement and help them develop strong work-study skills. The BFFF club encourages and facilitates opportunities for students to participate in community service activities, such as the RHMS Black History Month Celebration.

Over the past few years, BFFF has grown to support adolescents and teens in the Clarksburg community with groups that meet at RHMS, Hallie Wells Middle School, and Clarksburg High School. BFFF has organized an annual 50 Men on Deck event, during which influential male adults welcome students to the school. Recently, the BFFF club started to include high school National Honor Society students as mentors and tutors of RHMS students.


Community Group

Difference Makers

Difference Makers was started in 2009 by a group of students at Takoma Park Middle School. Its mission is to get youth involved in service at all levels of community (local, national and international). Student projects are designed around the Youth Service America tenets of awareness, service, advocacy and philanthropy. Student projects focus on the elderly, underserved, physically and intellectually disabled, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and underrepresented populations. All projects are developed and implemented by students with support from adults, as necessary.

The impact of Difference Makers, under the leadership of teacher and sponsor Bryan Goehring, has been felt in the school and in the communities of Silver Spring and Takoma Park. This student-led group has grown exponentially in size and impact to become an integral part of the City of Takoma Park. They have been recognized by a mayoral proclamation by the City of Takoma Park, the Montgomery County Council, and local radio stations WTOP and WGTS for being local community heroes and for its programming. Students have earned thousands of Student Service Learning hours through their work with Difference Makers. The group has since expanded to White Oak Middle School, Richard Montgomery High School and Montgomery Blair High School.

Pro Power Foundation

Pro Power Foundation’s founder, Mr. Mark Smith, has been a leader in the community for more than 14 years. His foundation supports youth ages 7–17 with educational supports, mentoring, sports programs and camps. Pro Power Foundation’s mission is to make a difference in the community where Mr. Smith grew up. He has also mentored young adults who have also mentored youth and worked with the foundation to continue to give back.

For the past two years, Pro Power has partnered with Farquhar and Rosa Parks middle schools, and their cluster elementary schools to support their summer enrichment programs. They have provided mind breaks, social emotional supports, games and physical activity for students during half-day programs. Pro Power also extended its program to support students who need a full-day program in the summer. An additional collaboration was established with the Summer RISE program to involve high school students in running and organizing activities for students.

Pro Power Foundation has had special relationships and programs with students from various schools. Mr. Smith coaches and mentors a basketball team Montgomery Village Middle School. Other students at Montgomery Village have also have made academic and social gains, thanks to the mentoring by Pro Power.

Volunteers in Science and Technology

Ishita Chatterjee, Sanjana Kumar, Sadhana Lolla, Preethi Prakash and Megha Tummalapalli

Ms. Ishita Chatterjee, Ms. Sanjana Kumar, Ms. Sadhana Lolla, Ms. Preethi Prakash and Ms. Megha Tummalapalli serve as student coaches for the Hallie Wells Middle School Science Olympiad teams. While they did not attend Hallie Wells, they wanted to give back to the community they lived in and reached out to the principal. For the past four years, they have conducted weekly after-school meetings to prepare, organize, mentor and coach students to compete in the Maryland Science Olympiad.

These women have had a tremendous impact on the students they have worked with over the past four years, as well as future students in the Clarksburg area. They have shown that females can be successful in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related fields and encouraged many of the female participants to enroll in STEM courses in middle school and high school.


DARCARS Automotive Group

DARCARS Automotive Group is the gold standard for a symbiotic partnership between industry and education. They have been part of the local landscape for 40 years, and have been building and enhancing a relationship with MCPS for decades. Their unwavering support is evident in their donation of time, funds and resources.

DARCARS, through the advocacy of owner Jamie Darvish, has had continuous representation on the Montgomery County Students Automotive Trades Foundation’s (ATF) Board of Directors for years. Through this partnership, the DARCARS Automotive Group has helped shape automotive curriculum and project-based learning throughout MCPS. DARCARS representatives share their automotive and business expertise with staff and students at all five MCPS ATF program locations, advising on industry trends and workforce needs, offering field trips, and guiding curriculum updates to ensure students have the skill sets necessary for lucrative careers.

In the past decade, the DARCARS Automotive Group has increased their partnership with MCPS. Additional DARCARS representatives have engaged with the ATF program, under the leadership of Technical Director Farzad Makarehchi, a senior member of the DARCARS family. This engagement has increased the pipeline of graduates who are skilled and certified in the automotive field. As an active member on the board of directors, Mr. Makarehchi focuses on increasing opportunities for students to visit, shadow, and interact with dealership personnel, thereby exposing them to the multitude of career possibilities at local dealerships.

Educational Systems Federal Credit Union

Educational Systems Federal Credit Union has been a longtime partner with MCPS with a core purpose of serving the education community. The credit union fulfills its mission by helping teachers, administrators, support staff, students, parents and retirees achieve their financial goals and dreams.

The credit union supports students, administrators, teachers and support staff through scholarships, internships, charitable donations and financial education. They also provide professional development awards and sponsor events.

Elite Soccer Youth Development Academy

For 10 years, Elite Soccer Youth Development Academy (ESYDA), owned and directed by Agbegnigan Amouzou (also known as Coach Fofo) has provided after-school, evening and weekend activities to more than 300 students.

The ESYDA development program works with youth from low-income families. Youth are able to play soccer and exercise, as well as participate in leadership and academic activities. Coach Fofo works with team members and coaches to teach families how to be more engaged in their children’s lives, how to participate in their academic careers, and how to become their child’s biggest advocate.

This school year, ESYDA formed the first inclusive soccer team for MCPS students in Silver Spring. This neurodiverse elementary school soccer team includes students with autism and intellectual disabilities playing together with typically developing students.

MCPS Staff

Rina Chaves

Ms. Rina Chaves, ESOL transition counselor, has spent 28 years in education and is consistently going above and beyond. 

Ms. Chaves works to raise awareness about trauma in schools. Over the years, she has seen many changes in how services for the immigrant population have been provided. She has seen how issues, such as violence and sexual abuse, have affected the ability of families to adjust to their new country and culture. She works to build the capacity of educators to understand where these students are coming from and to understand them better. 

In 2018, she started The Hope and Resilience Center, a nonprofit organization to promote healing and success through “hope and resilience trauma-informed training and consultation.” Most of the work is done during pre-service, a two-day training that is informative and provides practical tips for teachers. Ms. Chaves also trains other MCPS professionals who work with families and children. As the MCPS student population becomes increasingly diverse, her work has been significant. Ms. Chaves has helped spearhead a series of trauma-informed trainings for staff that has helped build the capacity of teachers to become better equipped in supporting students impacted by trauma.

Lana Haddad

Ms. Lana Haddad has 27 years of service to MCPS students and staff. From her first job as a Head Start instructional assistant to her current position as administrative services manager for the Board of Education, she has made an invaluable contribution to the education of MCPS students.

Ms. Haddad has been the Board’s administrative services manager for five years. She is masterful at handling and organizing voluminous amounts of information (and keeping track of all the paper that goes with it); managing the calendars of the eight members of the Board and its chief of staff; helping the public and supervising the daily operations of the Board staff and office. She does this all with kindness and timely efficiency.

In addition to being a self-starter who uses her initiative and meets deadlines (she often anticipates what people need and gives it to them before they ask for it), she understands the need to maintain confidentiality in her work when necessary. She has outstanding writing and technology skills, and is committed to the success of those for whom she works.

Ms. Haddad has had a significant impact on students, the school system and the community at large. She has helped to ensure that the students, teachers, high-level administrators and Board members have everything they need to ensure an outstanding instructional program.

Margaret “Peggy” Mannhaupt-Khoury

Ms. Margaret “Peggy” Mannhaupt-Khoury has been the Gaithersburg Middle School (GMS) grant site coordinator for GMStrong! for the past five years. GMStrong! is an innovative, holistic program that incorporates messages of hope, health, strength and leadership into a variety of activities addressing the often-overlooked needs of students, including bullying, mental health, and the repercussions of poverty. Ms. Khoury has collaborated with multiple organizations to design and facilitate a schoolwide program of social and emotional learning. She has trained countless peer leaders to help students develop their “sources of strength,” or protective factors that prevent suicide and increase school connectedness.

Ms. Khoury’s GMStrong! provides wraparound services to the most impacted students and serves as a model for other schools looking to build students’ social and emotional intelligence. She has achieved amazing results for GMS students, including reduced office behavior referrals, increased attendance and better academic performance.

She has been trained in the Sources of Strength national program, and has trained adult advisors (staff) and peer leaders (students) to be leaders in spreading messages of hope, help and strength throughout the school.

Richard “Dick” Lipsky

Dr. Richard “Dick” Lipsky arrived at MCPS in 1985, and has worked tirelessly and successfully to build MCPS TV into a key central services unit that serves students, staff and the community. At its height, MCPS TV was 22 people, producing more than 400 programs annually that connect families and staff to critical information that improves teaching and learning in MCPS.

In recent years, Dr. Lipsky has worked to increase and improve programs that support key MCPS stakeholders, including increasing the number of staff development programs, student instructional programs, and key “explainer” or public information programs. He has also been instrumental in establishing programs about the MCPS budget, staffing and systemwide operations.

One example of Dr. Lipsky’s work is Homework Hotline Live!—the student homework-help program. As students have integrated technology in their lives, Dr. Lipsky has worked to ensure that the TV program includes support via the web, social media and text message. He has increased instructional staff support to ensure this valuable resource remains viable to students. His expertise and innovation have been invaluable.

VaRysa Williams

Ms. VaRysa Williams has taught special education students life skills through academic experiences, and she has helped individual students reach their academic grade level and gain social skills that will benefit them in life. Ms. Williams’ ability to reset and teach logic and understanding in a moment of small crisis has made a significant difference in the way her students deal with tough situations. She communicates with children with autism and other disabilities so that when she speaks, they listen and respond.

Ms. Williams takes the time to explain things to parents and provide them with helpful tips and tools to help their children academically. She goes above and beyond to teach, reach and lead children to academic success and understanding. 

School Service Volunteer

Anne Baldini

Ms. Anne Baldini was a highly regarded and outstanding teacher in MCPS. Three years ago, she retired as a science teacher from William H. Farquhar Middle School and ever since, has been volunteering weekly at Brooke Grove Elementary School. Ms. Baldini inputs data, creates documents, locates and gathers resources, puts up displays, organizes and labels materials, manages a schoolwide reading incentive program, creates data spreadsheets, sends orders to Copy-Plus, organizes materials for professional learning community meetings, compiles resources for intervention groups, laminates materials and designs anchor charts.

No task or request for help is too daunting. She goes to Brooke Grove each week with a smile on her face and a positive attitude, ready to do anything and everything needed or asked of her. She routinely stays past the work day to finish tasks or projects.

Sheila Chandler

Mrs. Sheila Chandler provides amazing support to the staff and students of James Hubert Blake High School. She serves as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Parent Coalition (NAACP-PC) coordinator, parent volunteer, temporary part-time employee and overall support to the Blake community. Her dedication to and passion for the well-being of students has had a positive impact.

Mrs. Chandler has focused on directly supporting students at Blake. In the past three years, she has worked to improve NAACP-PC meetings. Knowing the struggle to get parent attendance during the evening, she moved meetings to during the day, directly supporting students. She worked with Blake staff to develop monthly programs that support the student growth, development and leadership. Many of the sessions are targeted at the needs of the students, and students receive invites to attend. Sessions have covered topics from college and career readiness to job skills.

Ruthanne Stoltzfus

Retired teacher Ruthanne Stoltzfus felt called to volunteer as a crossing guard in the heart of Germantown in October 2012, when the Seneca Valley community lost Christina Ward Morris, who was killed while walking to school. For the last seven years, Ms. Stoltzfus has stood at the corner of Middlebrook and Rt. 118 virtually every school afternoon. She met with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation pedestrian safety coordinator for specific training to educate the students. Ms. Stoltzfus engages the students as they wait for the light and establishes connections and relationships, in hopes that they will understand that she is concerned for their safety.

It is Ms. Stoltzfus’s desire that the strengthened partnership between community groups, such as Safe Routes to Schools and the Action Committee for Transit, will result in safer routes for all students.

Individual Pioneer

Nancy Navarro

Since her election to the Montgomery County Board of Education in 2004, Ms. Nancy Navarro has been a guiding light for Montgomery County residents by working to champion all students.

A resident of Maryland for more than 26 years, Ms. Navarro has worked throughout her career in public service to improve the lives of all students and residents within Montgomery County. Ms. Navarro has been a champion for equity and social justice. She has led by example and has provided important leadership for racial equity through her role as an elected official and her many outreach efforts and community-based meetings. She has been an ardent advocate for dedicated funding for high-quality and accessible early childhood education and prekindergarten. She was lead sponsor of Bill 13-15, which created the Child Care Expansion and Quality Enhancement Initiative, providing technical assistance, training and mentoring to prospective and licensed family child-care providers. Her leadership was also instrumental in creating the Montgomery County Children’s Opportunity Fund, which leverages private dollars to fund high-quality programs that are sustainable and scalable. Ms. Navarro has encouraged economic growth and development in traditionally underserved regions.

She authored the framework for the county’s Early Care and Education Initiative and the Economic Development Platform Resolution, both launched during her council presidency. The Early Care and Education Initiative is a $7 million investment to provide access to top-quality early education. The Economic Development Platform Resolution is a guiding document that identifies a thriving and diversified economy, greater innovation, racial equity and social justice, and environmental sustainability as desired outcomes. Throughout her career, Ms. Nancy Navarro has demonstrated that enlightened leadership does make a difference.

Elizabeth Spencer (In Memoriam)

Ms. Elizabeth Spencer was an influential member of the Board of Education from 1974–1982, advocating for students, regardless of race, gender or religion or whether the student was collegebound. As she said when she left the school board in 1982 to run for U.S. Congress, “I speak and act with common sense, and avoid gross emotionalism and attempts to polarize issues and people.” She was known for her sterling integrity, common sense and ability to get along with people of varying viewpoints.

In 1976, Mrs. Spencer was one of the deciding supporters in a 4-3 Board vote to desegregate Rosemary Hills and Chevy Chase elementary schools, by having students in Grades K–2 attend Rosemary Hills and students in Grades 3–6 attend Chevy Chase. Rosemary Hills became a symbol of integration in Montgomery County, and a 5-2 majority of the Board that was elected in 1978 in opposition to the school system’s desegregation efforts voted to close Rosemary Hills in 1981. MCPS now uses many different measures to encourage the integration of schools, all built on decisions Mrs. Spencer made in the 1970s.

She established the rights and responsibilities for the Student Member of the Board position, enforcing and defending the student’s legal rights on more than one occasion, and providing wise counsel to the first four students to serve on the Board. Mrs. Spencer died in March 2020.





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