There was nothing but praise for Board of Education member Joy Schaefer on Wednesday night.

The seven-year school board member received thanks, well wishes, and even a video message at her final meeting.

Schaefer will relinquish her duties on Jan. 15 and begin her new position as government affairs and public policy director in Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner’s office.

“It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to sit on this board,” Schaefer told school board colleagues and all those watching at the meeting. “It has been a pleasure to work with each of you, and I will look back on the work we did together, and I think I will be very proud.”

School Superintendent Terry Alban became visibly emotional when addressing Schaefer and said her commitment to students and her knowledge around policy and legislation has been “nothing short of exemplary.”

“I’ve kind of grown up as a superintendent working with Mrs. Schaefer,” Alban said. “The only thing that is keeping me from being completely distraught ... is that she is going to continue to serve not only the children but the families and all of the constituents in Frederick County.”

Board member Michael Bunitsky, who ran for election alongside Schaefer with the joint campaign slogan of “better schools for kids,” complimented her strong leadership skills.

“You are ... a great advocate not just for kids but for education, for Frederick County. You showed us and others around the state how it should be done,” Bunitsky said.

Liz Barrett, who has served with Schaefer on the board for five years, said that although they didn’t always agree, she has always valued Schaefer’s input.

Schaefer “has an incredible global viewpoint that I inspire to,” Barrett said. “I have valued your example of calm and patience. ... County Executive Gardner made an excellent decision, and we will miss you.”

In an email, Schaefer said what she’s most proud of during her time on the board is the strategic plan they implemented to strengthen their governing process, and of course, her work on the state-level Kirwan Commission, which Schaefer is known for.

“I will greatly miss the ability to focus solely on public education, working with my colleagues and the staff, and visiting schools and talking with students,” she said. “I’m proud to have served and feel I have accomplished a lot, both for our students, families and staff and in terms of process improvement for the Board.”

When asked if she had any parting words for the schoolwide community, Schaefer said, “only the inadequate words of thanks and gratitude for supporting me in the opportunity and honor to serve our students.”

In addition to bidding farewell to one of their members, the board unanimously passed two action items at the meeting. Board President Brad Young was not present.

Both items related to grants being awarded to the school system. The first was the fiscal 2020 McKinney-Vento grant from the Maryland State Department of Education for $93,627.

This grant will support the New Horizons Summer Program, which offers summer learning opportunities for high school students experiencing homelessness. Since its launch in 2016, the program has seen 125 student participants.

This year’s grant will fund various aspects of the program including pay for a bus driver to take students to the program and a social worker who would provide case management services to enrolled students.

The second grant passed by the board was the Hope Awesome Summer Program (HASP) grant from Mount Carmel United Methodist Church for $29,191. These funds will allow church to support a summer program in partnership with Spring Ridge Elementary School.

HASP would operate for six weeks this summer at Mount Carmel and serve 40 students, who would be identified by Spring Ridge Elementary staff based on certain factors such as participation in free and reduced-price meals.

The grant money will be used to fund a variety of needs such as the costs of FCPS teachers who would provide academic instruction and bus transportation for students.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

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