School Notes: Walt Whitman High Holds ‘Whitman Strong’ Day in Wake of Losses

Plus: Hogan again rebuffs school board’s request for calendar wiggle room


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Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda is holding a “Whitman Strong Day” on Friday as students and staff grieve the deaths of local teenagers.

The school’s principal, Alan Goodwin, wrote in a message to the community that Whitman students would take time to write “hopeful comments” on a paper chain.

“During the day, we hope everyone will express kindness to each other,” he said.

Staff served hot chocolate to students and wore “Whitman Strong” shirts, Goodwin wrote on his Twitter account.

The student government association on Monday will hand out “Whitman Strong” bracelets to each student, he told parents.

The past few weeks have been difficult for the Whitman community.

Jordana “Jojo” Greenberg, a Whitman sophomore, died by suicide in November.

Another Whitman student, Navid Nicholas Sepehri, was found dead in a wooded area in Bethesda on Sunday after going missing the night before. Police have said the 17-year-old student had been present Saturday night at an underage drinking party on Elgin Lane.

These recent deaths and that of Thomas “Tommy” Silva, a junior from Walter Johnson High School who died by suicide earlier this month, have shaken students and community members throughout the county.

Renay Johnson, the principal at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, on Tuesday sent parents a letter on mental health and suicide prevention, including a long list of resources.

“The best way to support and protect our youth is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and suicide by encouraging open, honest conversations during which students may speak about and share their feelings,” she wrote.

Walter Johnson’s principal, Jennifer Baker, sent out resources to families following Silva’s death. Her school also experienced the loss of former student Isaiah Moon, who attended Walter Johnson as a freshman during the 2011-2012 school year. Moon’s family moved to California, and he died by suicide Nov. 27, Baker wrote to the community, adding that there was no reason to believe his and Silva’s deaths were connected.

On Dec. 4, counselors and staff from Montgomery County Public Schools were at Walter Johnson to provide support, Baker wrote.

Hogan tells school board to move on from calendar issue

Gov. Larry Hogan issued a terse response to the Montgomery County school board’s request for greater flexibility in designing the academic calendar.

The board had asked Hogan to relax his mandate to end schools by June 15.

Hogan earlier this year shot down a similar request from the school board. In his letter this week, he made clear that nothing had changed.

“I am concerned that you may have overlooked my March 29, 2017 letter addressing the same topic,” he wrote. “I have enclosed another copy for your review.”

Hogan said the school board managed to create an academic calendar for the 2018-2019 school year around the parameters he’d established. In addition to the June 15 end date, Hogan has ordered schools to begin classes after Labor Day.

He closed his letter by asking Montgomery County school board members to move on.

“I am certain that the Montgomery County Board of Education has more important issues on which to focus than continuing to engage in this debate,” he wrote.

The Washington Post first reported on Hogan’s letter.

Montgomery County School Board Letter 12 14 17 by Bethany on Scribd

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