The Town of Somerset gave a very generous donation in 2005 when the school was being re-built to help with landscaping maintenance. The Foundation was able to underwrite a multi-year landscaping contract that allowed for regular watering, weeding, mulching and pruning (school staff takes care of basic maintenance such as mowing and snow removal). On a few occasions, we have obtained supplemental services from a smaller landscaper. Over the years the Foundation has also purchased some landscaping features, such as small trees.
Since the fall of 2010 the Foundation and the PTA share the cost of the annual contract with the landscaping company. Landscaping services are provided by Wray Bros. Landscaping, a local company owned by Somerset E.S. alums who are also parents of current students. They donate some of the annual maintenance, resulting in a substantially discounted contract.
In December 2004, the Foundation agreed to fund a proposal to expand the fourth-grade poetry program to include Somerset second-graders and second-graders from Burnt Mills Elementary School. Adele Stein, Somerset’s Poet-in-Residence, met with second-graders from both schools, for a total of 14 classes. In April, second-graders from both schools presented their poetry at the fourth grade’s annual Poetry Cafe, followed by a mixed group of fourth-graders and second-graders, who wrote and presented poetry collaboratively. This project built community between the two schools, supported writing indicators, and involved almost 150 students.
From 2002-2005, the B-CC cluster operated an intensive academic program the first two weeks of August to help elementary school students who are not meeting grade level standards in reading and mathematics. During the summer of 2004, 277 students participated in the Summer Scholars program. Summer Scholars is modeled on the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO program) that is offered by MCPS in Title I schools and incorporates many of the beneficial elements of that program. Class size is small, the focus is on language and math, and in most cases the teachers and other students are from the students’ home school. In 2004, the cluster hired an administrator to keep track of data and to ensure that the program ran smoothly.
After the two-week Summer Scholars session, math scores on assessment tests rose appreciably. But the intangible benefits may be even more significant. Students who may not have otherwise picked up a book during the summer reported that they were enthusiastic about reading, excited about getting ready for school, and in many cases, had already formed a bond with their next year’s teacher.
Contributions from the nine schools in the cluster, along with a contribution from the MCPS Community Superintendent, pay for the teachers, the administrator, transportation, training and materials. For the summer of 2004, Somerset’s contribution was $3100, divided equally between the PTA and the Foundation. In 2005, we pledged a total of $5000.