Hancock to become Community School, adds new position

by Geoff Fox

Hancock Middle-Senior High School is now a Community School. A Community School serves as a hub for resources and services that extend beyond traditional academic instruction, encompassing areas such as health and wellness, social-emotional support, family engagement, and enrichment activities.

Hancock Middle-Senior High School will have a little change come next year, as it becomes a Community School.

As of October 2023, according to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future website, there are 12 Community Schools in Washington County.

Baltimore City has the most with 152 Community Schools, followed by Prince George’s County with 109.

As a Community School, Hancock Middle-Senior High School will serve as a hub for resources and services that extend beyond traditional academic instruction, encompassing areas such as health and wellness, social-emotional support, family engagement, and enrichment activities.

Hancock Principal Jennifer Ruppenthal said the school was notified by the Washington County Public Schools Central Office that the school meets the qualification guidelines to be a Community School available to them.

Ruppenthal said the biggest change would be the addition of a Community School Manager, a position to be filled by Amanda Norris.

Norris will be focused on assessment and part of her responsibilities would be gathering stakeholders and completing a process which is still being learned.

Norris will be heading for more training later this month.

The position is a full-time person dedicated to making those school/community connections and planning events and extending opportunities to students.

Norris is transitioning from a paraprofessional to the Community Schools Manager, which she calls a huge change but in a sense “not really.”

“I was always doing the behind the scenes stuff with the community,” Norris said, noting her involvement with the Interact Club at the school, the food pantry, clothing closet, and other programs in the school. “I feel like it’s just going to be on a bigger scale.”

She also hopes to get more volunteers in the building, which is one of the bigger changes they want to see as part of becoming a Community School.

This would mean having more parents and community members, including stakeholders, in the building as volunteers.

Stakeholders, in terms of the school would be parents, staff, students, business leaders, organizations, and town officials.

Norris said the school already has the Leo Club, which is an offshoot of the Lions Club, but wants more volunteers from the Lions.

She also noted how town officials came up to the school late last school year when they had BACA In A Box and played Wiffle Ball with the students and will be cooking for Back to School Night on September 5.

“We trying to get them to see what’s going on the building,” Norris said. “We’re all a representation of our community so they can provide more to the town in-

formation if they know what’s going on in the school and we can support the students better if we know what’s going in town as well.”

Northern Middle School in Hagerstown is also a Community School and will have a new Community School Manager this coming school year as well.

Jennifer Scarberry is transferring from Hancock Elementary School principal to become the Community School Manager at Northern Middle. Scarberry confirmed the move to The Hancock News on Sunday.

Shauna Gore will be the new principal at Hancock Elementary.

Ruppenthal said while there won’t be any changes, there will be surveys from stakeholders trying to find out what students need to be successful academically, socially and emotionally, to meet those needs.

“It won’t be just what we think but it will actually, we’ ll be gathering, working with a variety of people so that we make sure that we’re using actual information to help guide decisions,” Ruppenthal said.

Norris said if a survey is done and it says they need more mental health services, then they would work towards getting more resources available to parents and students.

Ruppenthal added if there’s more interest in clubs or groups not offered at the school, they could facilitate getting one set up.

In talking to principals at the other Community Schools in the county, Ruppenthal said it’s been a great resource and great for the kids.

“They’ve had different after school programs they weren’t able to have before,” she said. “Some of them have even been able to utilize the funds for staffing.”

During the first year, it’ s more about the surveys and assessments, but Ruppenthal said there could be more staff members other than Norris down the road.

“But for right now, that’s not what it means for us,” she said.

One question that is sure to pop up is if being a Community School will help in keeping Hancock Middle-Senior High School open in the future.

Ruppenthal said she didn’t know the answer or that it has anything to do with whether or not the school stays open, but she did understand it was a concern.