Board of Education Honors Individuals, Organizations for Exceptional Service

May 9, 2016

The Montgomery County Board of Education honored 12 individuals and organizations during its annual Distinguished Service Awards ceremony on Thursday, April 28. The ceremony took place at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville.

The Board established the awards to recognize and show appreciation for exemplary contributions to public education and to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) by members of the community, businesses, MCPS staff and school volunteers.

“Tonight we honor members of or community for their exemplary work for all of our children,” said Michael A. Durso, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.


[Learn more about the awards on the Board of Education's website.]

[Watch a video of the event]


This year’s Distinguished Service Award winners are:

Individual Pioneer

Larry A. Bowers, interim superintendent of schools, has dedicated more than 38 years to serving the students of our community. No one knows our school system better or has spent more time building a culture of excellence than Mr. Bowers. MCPS won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2010, in large part thanks to Mr. Bowers’ tremendous leadership and commitment to making sure that our schools and offices are doing all they can to serve students at a high level each and every day.


Community Individual

Dottie Fitzgerald has been a passionate supporter of public education for nearly three decades. As vice president of Fitzgerald Auto Mall, Ms. Fitzgerald shares her expertise and resources with the automotive programs at MCPS. For more than two decades, she has volunteered as second vice president and director of the Montgomery County Students Automotive Trades Foundation (ATF), which administers the automotive careers program at four high schools. ATF’s operation as a student-run mini-dealership has proven successful since 1978, and it has repeatedly been used as a national model for other institutions.

Joe Hooks is a mentor to many youths in the community. Mr. Hooks has taken on many roles within MCPS and in the community to effect positive change among students. He is a highly respected leader and has been a Watkins Mill High School volunteer football coach, a mentor and advocate; helped to operate the 480 Club spring break camp in preparation for high school; served as a site coordinator at the Montgomery Village Middle School Excel Beyond the Bell program, and been a long-term substitute teacher.

Melissa McKenna is an amazing leader and volunteer who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help students. Ms. McKenna truly understands what selfless community service to MCPS is about. She advocates for all students with passion, selflessness, and boundless determination. Ms. McKenna has been a valuable advocate for the co-location of Maryvale Elementary School and the Carl Sandburg Learning Center for the past three years. While she has been working to get a building constructed for both, she orchestrated a series of visits to Carl Sandburg for Board of Education members, the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Association (MCCPTA) leaders, and state delegates. These visits resulted in positive changes for this school, including the addition of shelving on the stage for the gym classes, lockers, new beds for the health room, and proper fittings on the main doors.


Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education, a program of the nonprofit 114th Partnership, brings together leaders from local businesses and MCPS. The shared goal is to ensure that all students graduate prepared and inspired to thrive in college, careers, and the community. MCBRE runs a suite of programs using the successfully proven approach of problem-based learning directly from industry professionals to high school students. Evaluation data shows that all programs have a statistically significant positive impact on students’ engagement and understanding of how their courses relate to the real world.

MCPS Staff

Bruce Crispell began his career with MCPS in 1984 as a planner in the Department of Planning and Capital Programming. Throughout his distinguished career, he has served as the school system’s demographer, preparing enrollment projections that help drive decisions for the operating and capital budgets.  For the past 10 years, he has served as director of the Division of Long-range Planning in the Department of Facilities Management. Mr. Crispell is known for the “Bruce Crispell Show,” a much-anticipated annual presentation to the Board of Education on enrollment projections and changing demographics in the school system. Making accurate predications has been crucial to MCPS, and this task has become increasingly more challenging, given the school system’s change in enrollment and demographics.

Geoffrey Edgar has dedicated three decades to the students, teachers, and community of MCPS. He began his career as an elementary school teacher, and later taught at the middle school level. For the past 18 years, Mr. Edgar has served as a school-based administrator. He is currently an assistant principal at Argyle Middle School, which is part of the Middle School Magnet Consortium. During his tenure, Mr. Edgar has been instrumental in creating a positive and nurturing culture among staff, students, and community at Argyle, which enrolls students from all over Montgomery County. He actively collaborates with the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) to organize events that bring families to the school.

Patricia Janus is supervisor of the Physical Disabilities Program in the MCPS Department of Special Education Services. Ms. Janus has garnered a well-earned reputation and respect for the never-ending enthusiasm and support that she provides for all occupational therapists and physical therapists in the department. Ms. Janus’ positive attitude cultivates a nurturing work climate and inspires her colleagues to commit to doing their best with students, colleagues, parents, and caregivers. Ms. Janus is a model supervisor and administrator; she is sincere, supportive, and makes people feel genuinely appreciated.

Fernando Moreno is an elementary school counselor at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres. As a passionate advocate for the students at his school, Mr. Moreno is deeply involved with the families in the community. He is there around the clock, a joyful, determined, gentlemanly, and dynamic presence in the lives of hundreds of children who see far too many challenges in their lives. The principal instrument that Mr. Moreno uses for education and social cohesion is chess. The children play chess at lunch. They play at recess. They play at breakfast and after school. They compete in tournaments. They celebrate, think, and dream chess. In the process, they are training themselves to think systematically, strategically, and creatively.

Jeanette Simmons is an academic intervention teacher at Northwood High School. She supports students and the community with her work on initiatives, such as the College Test Prep and READ 180, to help students overcome reading challenges. IN honor of her work, Ms. Simmons’ photo graced the cover of the May issue of Education Week. In addition, she was one of four teachers to receive the 2013 National Scholastic Outstanding Educator Award—a first for MCPS.

School Service Volunteer

Paul Geller works tirelessly on behalf of Belmont Elementary School students and parents, and on behalf of MCPS. He is always positive and upbeat, and brings a formidable “can do” attitude to every project and activity. In addition to serving as Belmont’s PTA president, Mr. Geller serves as the vice president for programs for the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations. He has been instrumental in networking with state representatives for additional funding, and had worked to push initiatives forward at the county level, such as lobbying for additional technology resources.

Anthony Giles has served as an unpaid basketball coach for the Col. Zadok Magruder High School varsity boys’ basketball team for the past several years. He has also mentored a number of young men. In this capacity, his interaction extended far beyond the program. He worked with students, teachers, coaches, parents, administrators, and counselors to help players meet academic requirements necessary to participate in interscholastic sports. 

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