Stevenson Dedicates New Academic Building, Schools

From left: Malcolm and Sandra Berman, Stevenson University president Kevin J. Manning, State Sen. Bobby Zirkin and Stevenson board chair Jim  Stradtner take part in a ribbon cutting for the  university’s new academic center. (Photo provided)

From left: Malcolm and Sandra Berman, Stevenson University president Kevin J. Manning, State Sen. Bobby Zirkin and Stevenson board chair Jim Stradtner take part in a ribbon cutting for the university’s new academic center. (Photo provided)

Last week saw the opening of Stevenson University’s new state-of-the-art 200,000-square-foot academic center, which university officials say will  enhance the Stevenson educational experience, grow its student population and expand its programs to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving workforce.

The event, held on Aug. 30, included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the announcement of two major naming gifts for two of the schools that are housed in the new center.

The large expansion of Stevenson University over the past two decades is largely due to the vision of its president, Kevin J. Manning. In his brief discourse at the event, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin said to Manning, “I remember your vision for the growth of Villa Julie College at the time. And I thought to myself, ‘He’s a dreamer. … I’m glad that he thinks he’ll be able to do these things that are critically needed for our community.’ I didn’t  realize that he would actually exceed even the plans that he presented on that day.”

It was announced at the ceremony that Manning is being honored by the university, which has named the new building the Kevin J. Manning Academic Center. Manning is serving his 17th and final year as the president of Stevenson University — he will retire in June 2017.

In his speech at the event, Manning said, “The opening of this building is the latest in a fantastic journey that we have taken, and there is much to celebrate. It has been an enormous undertaking and is a culmination of years of planning and building. The results are incredible and will give Stevenson students access to some of the best academic space around.” More than $13 million has already been raised by benefactors to fund the continued growth of Stevenson University.

The first school dedicated in the new academic center was the Sandra R. Berman School of Nursing and Health Professions. Berman has been on the Stevenson board of trustees since 2013. Through her philanthropic service, she has actively worked to guarantee that Baltimore’s health care and education systems are thriving. Malcolm Berman, Sandra’s husband, said in his speech, “This is all about Kevin Manning: his  direction, his commitment and his hard work … We have a big space in our heart for Stevenson, and we’d like to continue to see it grow.”

Additionally, the Beverly K. Fine School of the Sciences was made possible by the Beverly K. and Jerome M. Fine Foundation. The foundation’s trustees, Louis and Phyllis Friedman, selected Stevenson as the beneficiary of the gift this year because of Mrs. Fine’s keen interest in helping community health care initiatives. The Friedmans believe that this naming gift is an ideal project for the foundation and a fitting way to honor and  remember Beverly Fine.

Phyllis shared, “Beverly Fine loved to help other people. When we went through this school and saw the incredible ability to educate the children for the 21st century, we thought there could be no nicer gift for Beverly than to have her name associated with this marvelous school and the wonderful vision of President Manning.”

According to Susan Thompson Gorman, Stevenson’s new executive vice president for academic affairs, the new academic center features “a nursing simulation laboratory suite … that allows student nurses to engage in very realistic clinical experiences right here on campus [and] a nursing resource  center that … functions just like typical hospital rooms so that students can practice nursing skills and patient care in an  authentic clinical setting. You’ll find 25 laboratories dedicated to the natural and applied sciences, as well as a dedicated learning laboratory for mathematics, that collectively will allow  inquiry to serve as the foundation of a creative synergy among our faculty and students that will enhance student learning.”

Gorman added, “The new academic center will launch and support Stevenson’s next steps into the future, serving the university and our students for many years to come. The scale and caliber of this facility will permit growth while fostering the learning, inquiry and discovery that characterize the excellence of the Stevenson learning experience.”

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes also attended the event. “Every time you build a building, you make a statement about having confidence in the future,” he said. “When you build a building that’s going to serve students, you make a special statement about your confidence in the future. Sen. Cardin and I, and our whole delegation, are constantly looking at the need to match the skillset of people coming along with the emerging workforce, and you need institutions that are nimble and know how to turn in the direction of where that next opportunity is going to come from. Nobody does that better than Stevenson in my experience.”

The new academic center is located adjacent to student housing on the Owings Mills campus of Stevenson, and a future footbridge will join the two areas.

A ‘Lot’ of Memories: Sugarville Boomers Reunite



In the mid-1950s, the Jewish community of Baltimore was moving along the Park Heights corridor toward what is today known as Pikesville. In this area, local developer Gordon Sugar built what would become known to the neighborhood as Sugarville. In this enclave, a group of local youths would end up discovering their own “Field of Dreams.”

Sugarville was comprised of a small group of approximately 100 houses bordered by Park Heights Avenue, Stevenson Road and the Druid Hill Cemetery, ending just south of the beltway. Some chance in fate resulted in this small neighborhood having anywhere between 25 and 50 boys living in and around the area at any given time. However, the greatest chance of luck came in the form of the empty lot in the center of it all.

To this day, the kids who grew up in Sugarville do not know what twist caused a prime lot of real estate to be left open in the middle of the neighborhood. There are two theories: that a piping or zoning issue made it impossible to build on the lot; or that Gordon Sugar himself had seen that children played in the open space every day and chose to leave it open because he liked that the kids in the community used it so well.

Now that the Sugarville crew has grown up and dispersed across the U.S., they still stay in touch, having reunited in 1987 and in 2004. August 27 saw the group’s third organized reunion since childhood, where it met up to play a game of softball together, eat lunch and commemorate their childhoods. Although the original lot is now occupied by a house that was built by Gordon Sugar’s successor, the group played their softball game on the campus of the Park School, which was appropriately donated to the school by Gordon Sugar himself.

We were so lucky to have this experience as kids, to have an empty lot just to play and congregate.” — Bert Polan


William “Bill” Schapiro grew up in this idyllic Sugarville. He reflected, “Our whole lives were centered around this lot. We were there day and night. I don’t remember a parent ever setting foot on the lot. It was our base of operations from the time that we were 7 or 8 years old until we were about 14. Parents didn’t have to worry about us; we were just on the lot playing our games.”

“It was an innocent ‘Leave it to Beaver’ world,” Schapiro reflected, “We played three sports a year, depending on the season — baseball or softball, football and a little bit of soccer. Every kid had their own unique call from their parents to come in for dinner. We were 13 when Kennedy got assassinated, and the age of innocence ended. A lot of kids can’t have experiences like ours anymore; it was just an innocent time.”

“I remember one of our older friends, Richard Kress, collected over a hundred dollars to put up goal posts in the lot back then. It was amazing how fortunate we were to have had those times,” reflected Jack Goldenberg, another member of the gang. “And to get to see those guys again, to be able to share those memories with all of those people is just wonderful.”

Bert Polan also grew up in the Sugarville of the ’50s. “It was so simple and easy,” he said, “nothing bad ever happened. Often we had to play with imaginary men for the games if we didn’t have enough people. Once we organized a tackle football team and went and played up at Dunbar Heights. It was just the simple, beautiful experience of our childhood.”

About 80 percent of the Sugarville kids still live in the area today, and not much has changed about their neighborhood. Schapiro recalled, “Those homes were mainly $50,000 in that day and age, but it’s probably the equivalent of today’s million-dollar home. Other than that, the generation before us was in the Forest Park area, but this place is the same profile, it hasn’t changed. It is still the Jewish neighborhood.”

Polan added that their childhood crew has changed a lot as well — “It’s a group of very accomplished people. Some guys that we perceived as not very academically oriented turned out to be stars and are really people who are tremendously positioned in their communities.”

The largest change in Baltimore since their childhood, however, is the growth, strength and generosity of the Jewish community. “When we were in college, it wasn’t so fashionable to be at Beth El,” Polan recounted. “Now all the kids want to be there. I’ll visit with friends who look around and say they’ve never seen so many synagogues tossed together in one spot.”

Polan now resides in Sacramento, Calif. He reflected, “The community is about 20,000 Jews, while Baltimore has 90,000. However, the giving of the Federation in Sacramento each year is less than half a million. There is no history there, people don’t have a sense of the Jewish community. There are no long-standing Jewish families that have a sense of community, that want to be giving and be part of that. We were so lucky to have this experience in this community as kids, to have an empty lot just to play and congregate. What more could you ask for? We were fortunate to have it and are fortunate to continue to have the connection 55 years later.”

JCS Launches Holocaust Trauma Effort

Myra Giberovitch (provided)

Myra Giberovitch (provided)

Jewish Community Services launches an effort to spread awareness of the impact the trauma of the Holocaust had on survivors this month.

JCS, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, received a $45,000 grant from the Jewish Federations of North America and provided $15,000 of its own funds for the two-year project.

“It’s the start of an effort to create a community that’s aware of and sensitive to the impact of the trauma of the Holocaust had on the survivors,” said Karen Nettler, director of community connections at JCS. “There’s a lot of survivors not just in the community, but  in facilities throughout the community, and they deserve a special sensitivity to what they’ve been through and what can bring back past traumas and how they deal with them.”

The free community event launching the effort is “Shadows of the Past: How the Trauma of the Holocaust Impacts Survivors Today” on Sept. 13 at the  Edward A. Myerberg Center. The speaker is Myra Giberovitch, an expert in this field who is the daughter of survivors and who was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the war. She is a social worker, educator and author who wrote the book “Recovering from Genocidal Trauma: An  Information and Practice Guide for Working with Holocaust Survivors.”

Giberovitch will be doing staff training with JCS professionals while she’s in town — a major component of the JFNA effort. JCS staffers will be trained on Holocaust trauma, and then in turn, 15 of them will go out and train community organizations in the methods they’ve learned. They will also meet with a consultation group of other professionals who work with trauma survivors throughout the program and share experiences and skills.

“This is a really big launch for us,” Nettler said. “We’re just very excited.”

“Shadows of the Past” takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  at the Edward A. Myerberg  Center, 3101 Fallstaff Road, Baltimore. Call 410-466-9200 for more information.

You Should Know … Sarah Mersky

Sarah Mersky (Daniel Nozick)

Sarah Mersky (Daniel Nozick)

Sarah Mersky is the director of government relations for the Baltimore Jewish Council, where she lobbies in Annapolis on behalf of the Baltimore Jewish Community. She has also run Democratic campaigns at all levels of  government.

Mersky, 27, received her bachelor’s degree in political communication from George Washington University and her law degree from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

She has been active in the Jewish community for her  entire life, attending Akiva Hebrew Academy (now called the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy) in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and participating in the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program. In college, she was actively involved with both Hillel and Chabad. Throughout her career, she has also held a multitude of political internships and jobs, working for both Sen. Joe Biden and his successor. She became involved with  political activism in the Jewish community through her work in communications with Rabinowitz/Dorf, her public relations work for Empire Kosher and her management of media strategies and press releases for J Street. She began working for the BJC in January 2015.

What does your position  entail day to day?
I have been the lead lobbyist for the BJC and associated agencies since October of 2015. During government session, which is just 90 days in Annapolis from January to April, I work constantly. I work 70-plus hour weeks during which I’m in meetings with elected officials or talking to the executive government relations committee about different policies and trying to find out what is best for us.

Last year, we did over 100 pieces of written legislation. We work really hard with other coalitions during and outside of the session — we are very involved with the Maryland Alliance for the Poor, and we are also very  involved in non-public school funding. I work on the federal level to make sure that the city and the county get the appropriate money allocated.

During the interim, we have a lot of events and bring in a lot of speakers. If there is a new piece of legislation coming out and we don’t have a policy on it but believe that we as the Jewish community should be active on it, I bring in high level folks from the opposition and the people who support it, and our community listens to them  and then makes an informed decision based on that.

Are you involved with any other projects and legislature?
All of the coalitions are deciding on their priorities right now. During summer is a lot of brainstorming sessions, and the fall is when things are  decided. This year, we have a few more budget asks that we are working on. It was The  Associated’s main goal last year to help the aging population, which is very rapidly  increasing.

In terms of policy, we are very big on paid sick leave. We have been really active in that campaign and are hoping that this year we are successful. Those bills take a long time to pass. Similarly, we have been working on nonpublic school scholarships for a long time — last year, for the first time, we got a budget item for $5 million, and we are really proud of this. So far, $900,000 has gone to Jewish day schools, specifically to kids who qualify for free meals. It is alarming how many people in our community are living in poverty. We think that is something that a lot of people don’t realize about our community, and this funding really helps them. So hopefully, we will keep that funding for the future.

What are your goals?
I want our Baltimore Jewish community to be more unified, because it is not one entity. We’re about one-third Orthodox — one of the fastest-growing  Orthodox communities in the United States — we’re one-third Conservative and one-third  Reform roughly. I want to do things where we are unifying within our community. I want to bring more and more awareness to both big national events and local events. We  really should care: What happens in Baltimore is going to affect the Jewish community, and the Jewish community is going to affect what is going to happen in Baltimore in the  future. We need to be really cognizant of that with the type  of programs and events that we do.

Brand-New Alex. Brown Will Invest in Baltimore

The name Alex. Brown has always had a special meaning for Barry Garber. The legacy investment banking firm is where Garber, 60, got his start in the wealth management industry more than 25 years ago and has remained ever since.

So having the opportunity to bring the Alex. Brown name back to the forefront is something Garber started to ponder more than a year-and-a-half ago when he learned the division of its parent company was on the selling block.

On Tuesday, Raymond James Financial, the seventh-largest assets brokerage firm in the country, made its acquisition of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management’s U.S. Private Client Services Unit official and announced it would  rebrand the unit as Alex. Brown.

“I think what is particularly interesting about this is I  anticipate a major reinvestment back into the Baltimore region,” Garber said. “I think the [Alex. Brown] name will be more prominent than it has been over the last 15 years.”

Barry Garber is  committed to helping Alex. Brown rediscover its Baltimore roots. (Justin Silberman)

Barry Garber is committed to helping Alex. Brown rediscover its Baltimore roots. (Justin Silberman)

Founded in 1800, Alex. Brown & Sons ­— the name it went by throughout much of its history — started as a linen-trading firm on Gay Street before it morphed into an investment and brokerage house. During its early years, the company was instrumental in the construction of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the formation of the Baltimore Water Co. and the financing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with bond sales.

As the firm grew, it became known for taking companies such as Microsoft, Microsystems, Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse and Krispy Kreme, among others, public so investors could buy stock options.

The company was acquired by Bankers Trust in September 1997 for about $2.5 billion. A little less than two years later, in June 1999, Germany-based Deutsche Bank purchased Bankers Trust for more than $10 billion and rebranded the Alex. Brown name.

But if anyone can accelerate the progression of the Alex. Brown name, Garber figures to be at the top of the list.

“What Barry brings to the table in terms of his connections to the community and the business end is invaluable,” said Marcus Aiello, the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regional executive director at Alex. Brown. “With Barry possessing the experience he does — we’ve worked together for 16 years — along with the rest of our team, I know we’re a great position moving forward.”

After graduating magna cum laude from Syracuse University’s School of Management and earning his master’s degree from New York University, Garber entered management training at General Food Corp. From there, he joined what is now known as Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company, where he was a product manager responsible for profit and loss statements. Prior to joining Alex. Brown, he was recruited as a senior executive for U.S. Health, which owned and operated about 65 fitness centers across the country.

Now, he specializes in building custom portfolios with expertise in overlaying alternative investments — including private  equity, hedge funds, real estate and structured solutions — as head of the Garber Wealth Management Team.

Garber attributes much of his success to the right mix of people working together, heading a team of six associates with more than 100 combined years of experience in the wealth management industry. Together, he and his staff oversee about $2.4 billion in assets for more than 100 clients that include entrepreneurs, institutions,  endowments, family offices and high-net-worth individuals.

All of his business comes from referrals, and Garber says he doesn’t make cold calls to solicit business and is at  advantage to gain new clients because of the focus he puts on them.

“If I lose my own money, that’s too bad,” Garber said. “But if I lose other people’s money or don’t do the right thing, then that’s unacceptable.”

That’s the kind of self- assured attitude that has helped Garber gain national recognition.

Garber has been featured in Forbes magazine, which this year ranked him No. 81 on its list of the top 100 wealth managers in the nation. In addition, he has been featured on Barron’s annual list of Top Financial Advisors for the past seven years and has been recognized by the Financial Times as a Top 401 Retirement Advisor.

Under the Alex. Brown name, Garber is helping the firm do its part to reestablish its footing in the city and giving back to a number of causes to underserved citizens. It’s also part of the growth strategy Garber and Aiello plan to  incorporate into their aggressive strategy for the region.

“To be able to do what I do and have the platform to give back is what I have found to be really worthwhile in all this,” Garber said. “That’s an important piece of all this. What good is what we do if you can’t give back to the community?”

With his work ethic as strong as ever, Garber has no plans of retiring anytime soon. Once his youngest daughter, a senior at Roland Park Country School, graduates from college, then Garber said he might  entertain that notion.

And who knows? If she’s anything like her older brother, Zack, 28, who went to work for his father recently, she may take up the family business as well.

“If you love what you do and can continue to meet the demands of yourself and your clients, you have to keep going,” Garber said. “It’s a very unique and interesting  element to have my son now working for me.”

Rezoning Means Homes Coming To Woodholme

Maps created using Baltimore County’s My Neighborhood interactive map highlight areas in which zoning changes could lead to new development. (Zoning maps:

Maps created using Baltimore County’s My Neighborhood interactive map highlight areas in which zoning changes could lead to new development. (Zoning maps:

The Baltimore County Council on Aug. 30 approved a rezoning request that will pave the way for homes to be built on a piece of vacant land near the Woodholme Country Club.

On another contentious zoning issue, the matter of the Hidden Waters property in Pikesville, the council blocked a developer’s request to up-zone the land for high-density housing.

The decisions were part of the council’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) that occurs every four years and allows property owners, businesses and community  organizations to petition the seven-member council to  request zoning changes on specific properties.

Council chair Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat who represents District 2, said she hopes her constituents understand she did what she felt was best for the community as a whole.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the outcomes, and I believe in all of my decisions,” Almond said. “Those decisions were made with thoughtful care, and I made them with the thought of my community, my district and Baltimore County in mind. They’re tough decisions, no doubt.”

The council voted 7-0 to  approve the rezoning of a 40.94-acre parcel along Mount Wilson Lane and Iron Horse Lane that serves as the final piece of the puzzle for Woodholme to build 153 townhomes. Under the original proposal, Woodholme had sought to build 225 townhomes on the plot, reducing the number of units in the approved legislation by about 35 percent.

Still, Woodholme spokesman David Nevins, CEO of Towson-based public relations firm Nevins & Associates, said Woodholme officials were thrilled a compromise was reached that benefits all sides.

“We’re thrilled with the outcome,” said Nevins, a Woodholme member. “We think that it was a win for all parties. All we want is to do right by what’s best for the community and what’s best for the club, and I think this decision accomplishes just that.”

Now that the council has authorized the rezoning, Nevins said Woodholme is in the process of marketing the property to a developer who will respect both the club’s and community’s interest.

He added that there is currently no timetable for when Woodholme plans to hire a developer and break ground on the land.

The council passed the  rezoning after Woodholme and neighboring communities formed a covenant on a number of key issues.

At first, some of the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods opposed because they felt the area — specifically Mount Wilson Lane — wasn’t equipped to handle large-scale construction. Less than a week before the vote, Almond and representatives from Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Woodholme Reserve, Pikesville Farms, North Oaks and Cobblestone sat down to hammer out their differences.

As part of the agreement, there are a number of restrictions and requirements Woodholme must follow. For one, the minimum width of the townhomes must be 22 feet, exceeding the Baltimore County mandate of 20 feet. In addition, the agreement requires the use of masonry and other quality materials for the townhouses, open space on the  corner of Mount Wilson and  Division Lane, notation of a  historic burial ground off Division Lane and a substantial  contribution to the Woodholme Elementary School PTA.

Critics of the rezoning said they wanted to see more  environmental protections for wildlife and open-space requirements for developments in the surrounding areas.

Sid Bravmann, a resident at the Villages of Woodholme, a community for residents 55 years and older, said those were two of the biggest reasons he was disappointed with the council’s decision.

“I just don’t think this is what’s best for the area at this time right now,” Bravmann said. “How is all the additional incoming traffic into Mount Wilson Lane when there isn’t enough road space to accommodate all the traffic that there is right now? What about all the animals in the area that are going to be forced from that land now?”

In another case that stirred community debate, the council denied an application from the Bozzuto Group, a Greenbelt, Md.-based real estate and development firm, to up-zone at Hidden Waters. The Bozzuto Group requested the DR 3.5 zoning, which would allow three-and-a-half homes per acre, and hoped to build 50 units on 25 unprotected acres of land, but the council ultimately decided that was not ideal for the area and went with its own recommendation of keeping the current zoning DR 1, which allows one home per acre to be built.

Neighbors of the property on Old Court Road were pushing for it to be downzoned to RC 8, which is intended to encourage agricultural use and allows single-family dwellings, farms and limited-acre wholesale flower farms, among other amenities.

Micha Carton, vice president of the Old Court-Greenspring Improvement Association, said she was satisfied with the decision the council came to after meeting with Almond repeatedly in the last few months.

“We are grateful that zoning has remained at DR 1 on the Hidden Waters property,” Carton said. “We would have preferred downzoning to RC 8, obviously, but at least we are not anticipating intense development on this property at this time.”

While Almond met with Bozzuto Group officials toward the end of the zoning process, she said she had already decided to go with her own recommendation of DR 1, which allows one home per acre to be built. She doesn’t know if the Bozzuto Group plans to regroup and come up with another plan to build on the land.

Bozzuto officials did not  respond to requests seeking comment.

“It was a brutal process,” Almond said of CZMP. “I visited every single site, because I am a visual person and I need to be there to see everything. It takes a lot out of you, and I think maybe for me, it’s a little harder to get over and move on because I take it so seriously. I know that I have affected  people’s lives.”

Classroom Conundrum County schools wrestle with air conditioning, calendar



The new school year brings new teachers, old friends and for some kids and parents a countdown to the next summer break.

But for Baltimore County students and parents, a number of lingering issues resurfaced right at the  outset of the 2016-17 school year.

High-heat weekdays forced county schools without air conditioning to close twice in the first week of class, and the school calendar has been a hot topic as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced an executive order for Maryland schools to open after Labor Day beginning next year. Baltimore County Public Schools also discussed the subject of Muslim holidays, ultimately deciding to remain open on holy days Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

During two of the first five school days alone in Baltimore County, sweltering temperatures exceeding well over 90 degrees forced 37 of 173 schools to close.

The Baltimore County Board of Education, whose Towson offices are pictured, must adjust its calendar to comply with an executive order from Gov. Hogan.

The Baltimore County Board of Education, whose Towson offices are pictured, must adjust its calendar to comply with an executive order from Gov. Hogan.

“I am glad that they closed schools, because it is absolutely ridiculously hot,” said Lori Wheat, a local substitute teacher and the parent of an elementary schooler who attends one of the 37 schools. “I know what it’s like from working in the classrooms. Of course, it is not fair that they close these schools but leave the rest of the county open. But as a parent, I am happy that my child is home and safe.”

While he didn’t draw a connection between the two issues, Hogan issued an executive order to push back the start of the school year to after Labor Day starting in 2017, citing the best interests of the state.

“Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue — it’s an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders,” Hogan said. “Comptroller [Peter] Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this executive order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue, and it is simply the right thing to do.”

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat, said he specifically took issue with how Hogan proceeded to institute the edict without seeking advice from any outside counsel.

I think a lot needs to be discussed about what they are planning. I have an issue with it, because they might take away from our breaks if we have too many snow days, too. Spring and winter breaks are the only time that teachers can take a vacation during the school year, and if that is going to be taken away as a result, that’s a big issue.” — A Baltimore County teacher who wished to remain anonymous


This is not the first time Kamenetz has squared off with state officials on school issues. In the fall of 2015, a contentious debate played out between Kamenetz and Franchot, with the comptroller pushing for window air conditioning units in county schools. The county executive refused, citing expense and electrical infrastructure concerns. Shortly after the debate played out, Kamenetz announced a plan to accelerate school renovations.schoolcover_2

“I think this is a worthy discussion, but it should involve our education experts and the General Assembly,” Kamenetz said in a statement. “There seems to be a troubling pattern where Gov. Hogan takes a ‘my-way-or-the-highway approach’ with a lot of issues.”

Mychael Dickerson, chief communications officers of Baltimore County Public Schools, said his district would comply with the executive order and adjust if  the Hogan administration calls for any additional changes.

Calendars are submitted for approval in late October or early November, but the need to resolve scheduling conflicts is paramount. Because the executive order signed by Hogan stipulates that public schools must start after Labor Day and complete 180 days by June 15, it leaves school systems with less control over their own schedules.

“The new mandated start and end dates require us to go back to our Stakeholder Calendar Committee and the [Baltimore County] Board of Education to consider all options to identify ways to meet the  required instructional time and days  for school systems,” Dickerson said in  an email.

schoolcover_3A teacher employed at a county school without air conditioning who wished to remain anonymous said that the calendar change brings up the issue of spring and winter breaks.

“I think a lot needs to be discussed about what they are planning,” the teacher said. “I have an issue with it, because they might take away from our breaks if we have too many snow days, too. Spring and winter breaks are the only time that teachers can take a vacation during the school year, and if that is going to be taken away as a result, that’s a big issue.”

Shortening the length of vacations is not the issue that may cause planning  issues. To accommodate the new schedule, the school system might have to eliminate time for some religious holidays, Dickerson said.

In recent years, parents of Muslim students have lobbied school board members for closures to allow their children to recognize major Islamic holidays without falling behind on their studies.

A move to close schools in Baltimore County for Muslim holidays was voted down in a 6-5 decision last month. This year, though, Eid-al-Adha falls on Sept. 12, a day students are scheduled to have off for a teachers’ training day.

Casey Parson, Pikesville High School Parent Teacher Student Association president, wonders how Baltimore County will draw the line with what religious faiths’ holidays get time off in the school calendar. She thinks that since Jews and Christians get off for their holiest days, giving that same consideration to Muslims would accommodate a majority of the school population.

“There’s ways to accommodate the school schedule to recognize that,” Parson said. “We’re a very tiny portion of the world, yet the school system recognizes the Jewish faith.”

Still, moving the calendar may save the school system from closing on those hot August days and may be what’s best for their children’s well-being in the long run.

Jeff Jerome, chair of the Pikesville Schools Coalition, remembers his son’s first day of school at Pikesville High School, when Jeff first realized a lack of air conditioning was a serious problem.

“I picked him up at the end of the day and one of his papers was all smeared and I asked him what happened,” Jerome said. “It was all sweat.” Jerome’s son is now a junior in college.

While Pikesville High just underwent a $45 million facelift — which included air conditioning — Jerome still feels for those without air conditioning.

“We’re asking kids to concentrate, we’re asking kids to pay attention six to eight hours a day in a non-air-conditioned school,” he said. “That’s almost impossible.”

Jerome thinks the group of parents that lobbied for Pikesville High’s renovations may have helped the county speed up school construction by providing actual measurements of temperatures, some of which were provided by Jerome’s son when he was a student.

“I think they started to seriously approach the problem. Up until then it was anecdotal,” he said. “After they had already committed to renovate Pikesville, that helped bring the whole issue for all the schools to the forefront.”

But for those schools that aren’t as fortunate, some teachers will just have to deal with the heat until the cooler months hit.

“I know a few teachers have even taken pictures of the thermometers in their classrooms as proof,” the anonymous teacher said. “I sweat nonstop. I’ve gone through three water bottles today and still have a headache from being dehydrated. The cafeteria is sweltering. We can get through it — it is just hot and packed.”

In May, Kamenetz and Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance pledged $83 million in the county schools budget to accelerate school construction and renovation projects. The additions are part of a 10-year, $1.3 billion program called “Schools for Our Future,” which also includes renovations and construction projects to relieve overcrowding.

“Even if the state allowed it, which it does not, it would be fiscally irresponsible for the county to spend millions of dollars to put portable units in those schools for such a short period of time,” Kamenetz said in a statement. “Taxpayers would be outraged at such a shortsighted expenditure. And let’s not forget, that the county puts up [$2] for every dollar that the state spends on school construction.”

The county, however, remains in a committed process to install cooling systems in all its schools.

While significant progress has been made, county and state officials have debated over funding, scheduling and whether to use portable air conditioners as a stopgap measure at the schools still awaiting relief.

District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, is not in support of pushing back the start date to the school year because she said hot temperatures still persist well into September.

But Almond is satisfied with the fact that students will be able to learn in a more comfortable environment once air-conditioning units are put in at all the schools.

“I worry about the kids, because in this day in age, they are so used to living in air conditioning,” Almond said. “I think I’m looking at this from an older person’s point of you view, like, ‘Hey, I lived through it.’ I know that’s not the right way to look at it, so I am thrilled that [Kamenetz] has a plan. It’s not like we’re not doing anything about it, but I don’t see how we can go any faster.”

In Almond’s district alone — which covers parts Pikesville, Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Lutherville-Timonium and Ruxton — students at Bedford and Reisterstown elementary schools, parts of Franklin Middle School and parts of Franklin High School are all without air conditioning.

Under the plan, all but 13 schools are slated to have central air-conditioning systems by next fall. In addition, every school but three, Bedford, Colgate and Berkshire elementary schools, which are all being replaced, will have air conditioning by 2020.

“I understand how hot it is,” said Richard Train, the father of an 11th-grade student. “But the issue shouldn’t have gotten to this point. The heat index for outside does not reflect the heat and lack of airflow inside of these old schools.”

Software Helps Monitor Older Individuals

It was Mary Shofer’s bad fall that spurred her grandson, Paul Merenbloom, to take action. (Provided)

It was Mary Shofer’s bad fall that spurred her grandson, Paul Merenbloom, to take action. (Provided)

Mary Shofer vowed to  regain her independence no matter what hurdles she faced along the way.

A bad fall in the foyer of her second-floor Pickwick East apartment at the age of 95 left her stranded on the floor for more than two hours with a broken femur, fractured hip and dislocated ribs.

Her grandson, Paul Merenbloom, recalls Shofer telling him at the hospital that she would “kill him” if he or his mother put her in a nursing home.

“The question came up: ‘Not what if it was going to happen again, but when?’ At that stage in life, you’re not getting any stronger,” Merenbloom said. “And yet that need for independence is very, very substantial.”

In response, Merenbloom, 52, embarked on an effort more than 11 years ago to find a way for seniors to maintain their independence while  offering family members some of peace of mind.

This past June, about a year after Shofer’s passing at age 107, Merenbloom’s company, Concordia Systems, introduced SentinelCare, a software program that uses motion  detector records from home security systems to identify and measure seniors’ movement. Through the program’s application on smartphones and tablets, as many as five family members and five caregivers can automatically stay up to date on their loved ones” health at any given time.

“This system makes it easier for many concerned family members like myself sleep easier at night,” Merenbloom said. “It’s really like someone being right there in the room and knowing everything that’s going on  without actually being present.”

SentinelCare, which ranges from $30 to $65 per month depending on the package, tracks people’s behavior patterns — including bathroom use, sleeping, kitchen activity and medication administration — and sends alerts when something appears awry. Then, family members and caregivers are left with the choice to respond quickly to potential emergencies or call for help if further assistance is needed.

The necessity of a security system that monitors seniors is something that was instrumental for Toni Ngangana, one of Shofer’s home health care aids during the final two years of her life.

“If there are seniors who can’t care for themselves 24 hours a day, this type of technology  is sometimes the difference  between life and death,” said Ngangana, who now works at Howard County General Hospital. “It makes a home health care aid’s job that much easier to be aware of what’s going on at all time, so that these people can look after themselves without looking over their shoulders.”

On many occasions, the system helped Ngangana catch unusual activity that deviated from Shofer’s normal routine. In one such instance, Ngangana successfully identified a urinary tract infection Shofer had developed, spotting her  recurring trips to the bathroom.

But without the partnership of local security companies like Vintage Security, ADT  Security Services and Guardian Security System, none of that would have been possible.

Vintage Security, a Jessup-based division of Protection 1 Security Solutions, has teamed with SentinelCare from its  inception to bring the technology into people’s homes.

Robert McDonald, general manager for Vintage Security, found SentinelCare especially appealing because he felt there was an untapped market he could provide for his growing client base.

“The day-to-day tracking of what’s going on in and around homes has advanced to where it’s more real-time monitoring,” said McDonald, who’s responsible for more than 19,000  customers in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. “This is where we’re headed  in terms of security now — becoming more of a lifestyle attribute in people’s lives.”

While Merenbloom admits he never saw himself working in the elder care market, he wants to use his new platform for more than just business by giving back to the people he assists.

He said it’s simply what his late grandmother would have wanted.

So for each new subscriber SentinelCare receives, Merenbloom has pledged to set aside a portion of his proceeds to benefit senior citizen charities. His hope one day is that he can supply Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland with more than 100,000 meals every year.

“Yes, we are a business, but we are first and foremost about the community,” Merenbloom said. “If that takes down profitability, I don’t care, because giving back to the community is what it’s all about. These are people living beyond any time period they thought they would.”

Jacobs to Lead HCPF

Kyri Jacobs (Provided)

Kyri Jacobs (Provided)

Kyri Jacobs, president of Bonnie Heneson Communications (BHC), was named president of the Howard County Police Foundation board of directors. The Howard County Police Foundation works with the police department and community to fund projects not possible under the county budget.

Jacobs has spent nearly 25 years as a communications, public relations, advertising, media and marketing professional, leading major campaigns for some of BHC’s largest clients. As an agency principal, she is integral in the company and has managed agency operations for 15 years. She continues to play a hands-on role for clients, serving as a strategic counselor and advising BHC senior managers on development and implementation of communications, advertising and marketing plans.

She is past chair of the boards for Leadership Howard County and HC DrugFree. In addition, Jacobs is a member and past president of the Maryland Society of Healthcare Strategy and Market Development. Among her honors,  Jacobs joined The Daily Record’s Circle of Excellence, a  distinction earned by being named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women three times.

Tempest in a Swimsuit

Jewish publications are not known for their swimsuit issues, let alone swimsuit editorials. But the tussle over the burkini in France is fit for commentary because it exposes yet another misfire aimed at Muslim immigrants, with the anti-burkini-istas essentially arguing that modesty is a threat to Western values.

Last Friday, the French Council of State overturned a temporary burkini ban in a ruling that is expected to become a precedent for the 30 towns that have drawn a line in the sand against the modest beachwear. The bans were passed as part of an anti-terror effort, with supporters arguing that the bans help uphold France’s strict secular traditions.

Opponents, though, say the burkini ban is an Islamophobic reaction to recent terror attacks carried out by Muslims in France. And human rights groups argue that in addition to stigmatizing Muslims, the ban infringes on women’s civic rights.

In any other year, we would point to the situation as another example of the failure of Europeans in general and the French in particular to integrate their Muslim

immigrant populations into the mainstream. In any other year, we would be comforted by the religious freedom

enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and America’s overall welcome of immigrants, including many of our families. We would be so confident that we wouldn’t need to say, “It couldn’t happen here.”

But this year is different. Goaded by the unique politics of Election 2016, the meteoric mainstreaming of the so-called alt-right has given cover for those who might call for banning the burkini on American beaches. And there are certainly those on the American fringe who consider the French burkini war as a good thing.

For a swimsuit that is supposed to cover up, burkini-bashers are seeing a lot in the garment. Moshe Sebbag, rabbi of the Grand Synagogue of Paris, for instance, said he supported the ban “because you see that going with [a burkini] is not innocent, it’s sending a message.” Really? We respectfully suggest that France and Rabbi Sebbag spend their time working to ensure that Jews can wear a kippah in public without fear, rather than forcing Muslim women to disrobe.

Then there is the question of modesty, over which religious Muslims can claim no monopoly. In Israel, as well as on American beaches, many observant Jewish women wear dress-like swimsuits. And in France as well, Catholic nuns are known to wear their habits while swimming in public places.

It’s awfully difficult to see this whole burkini fiasco as anything other than men — well meaning, perhaps, but wholly

antiquated in their thinking — unfairly attacking what a woman chooses to wear. We’ve seen this before, and the effort just doesn’t work.