Thanks to the help of hundreds of volunteers from across the country, Lanhamís Thomas Johnson Middle School will look a little brighter for students returning in the fall — including incoming Bowie sixth-grader Symone Temoney.
Symone joined about 400 volunteers in the National Education Associationís annual Outreach to Teach school makeover event, working eight hours painting stairwells, planting flowers and — like her mother, Nkenge Temoney, volunteered to do — decorating bulletin boards.
ďIím helping give community service to the school,Ē Symone said as she helped her mother. ďIím really excited.Ē
The NEA is a national organization that advocates on behalf of teachers and administrators. Outreach to Teach, an annual NEA event that began in 1996, targets a school for renovation within the metropolitan area where the association holds its annual National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly event. This year, the meeting is being held Monday through July 5 in Washington, D.C.
Thomas Johnson Middle, which is 46 years old, received priority out of four area schools for consideration because it already received a federal School Improvement Grant and was designated as a ďturnaroundĒ school, said Tommie Leaders, a chairman for the NEA Student Program, an extension of the association for college students studying to be teachers. Thomas Johnson was identified as a ďturnaroundĒ school because it struggled to reach state standards for reading and math proficiency on the annual Maryland School Assessment, a standardized test given to students in grades three through eight.
Leaders, who is studying at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to become a teacher, said the NEA worked with the Maryland State Education Association to come up with a list of schools in need. The last Prince Georgeís County school to get the same treatment was Forestvilleís Longfields Elementary School in 2004, according to the NEA.
ďA lot of us are future teachers or retired teachers so being able to give back to a school is just huge and something we want to do,Ē Leaders said.
A total of $100,000 from NEA dues and fundraising went into school improvements such as an updated teacherís lounge, a weeded and mulched courtyard, and fresh coats of paint to the hallways, Leaders said.
Zory Kenon III, a Thomas Johnson assistant principal, said having an inviting environment gives students the will to learn and said they will be excited to see the changes this fall.
ďI donít think anybody really knows the extent or magnitude of this event,Ē Kenon said. ďIím impressed. You have close to 100 people standing around, waiting to work. Itís a great thing.Ē
Nkenge Temoney heard about the upcoming renovations when she attended an orientation for her daughter and again from a neighbor before deciding to join the effort.
Temoney, whose son attended Thomas Johnson until 2010, praised Principal C. Michael Robinson, saying the school has stepped up its focus on academics and holds its teachers accountable for the quality of their lesson plans.
ďI think the school is making changes itself internally, and the beautification of the school is just the icing on the cake,Ē Temoney said.