The Big Train

The Newsletter of the Walter Johnson PTSA - Fall 2018

Volume 49, Number 1

Walter Johnson PTSA

The Walter Johnson High School PTSA is a dedicated group of parents, teachers and students who work together in support of the school and community. We foster communication between staff, parents, and students, and we advocate on issues of importance and for funding to support our schools at the County Council and the state of Maryland.

PTSA President's Message

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year! This is my 10th year as a WJ parent. I have had children graduate from WJ in the Class of 2013 and the class of 2015, I have a senior this year in the Class of 2019, and my youngest will be here in the Class of 2024. I am starting my second year on the WJ PTSA Executive Committee and I am honored to be serving this year as your WJ PTSA President. Last year the WJ community maintained a high level of participation in our PTSA membership, and this year we hope to do even more! We will have membership tables at Back to School Night on Thursday, September 13th and at all the class-level meetings. You can also join online at Help us get to our goal of 1000 WJ PTSA Members!

Your membership helps sponsor the Counseling Advisory Committee’s events including class-level meetings and College Saturday, programming for parents in the evenings about topics including drug and alcohol abuse among teens, and programs for the students including Mock Act and SAT exams and Sources of Strength. The annual Prom Breakfast is an event sponsored by the PTSA to help keep our students safe on their big night. Your dues also support the WJ App for Android and iPhone for students, parents, and staff. The App includes school news (the morning announcements are posted every day), bell times, the school’s calendar, sports and club information, and the school’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. The PTSA also provides special programs for WJ staff, assists with the activity buses and provides funding for school requests, such as special translation equipment and additional technology. Also, this year, we are working with our sister parent organizations, the WJ All School Booster Club and the WJ Education Foundation, to share the cost of a set of Chromebooks and the charging cart for a social studies teacher in the new portables.

A special thank you to all of the PTSA Committee chairs who do so much for our school. We all have busy lives, and the Committee Chairs go above and beyond to plan events, attend meetings on our school’s behalf and make sure our students have the best school experience they possibly can. If you would like to help out with the PTSA or have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Debby Orsak, WJ PTSA President

Join the PTSA Today

The PTSA does not fundraise; your donations and membership dues are our only support. By joining the PTSA, you have an important opportunity to play a valuable role in the continuing success of Walter Johnson High School.

Principal's Message

On Tuesday, September 4th Walter Johnson High School will open our doors for the 62nd time to greet our students. Over 2,600 students will fill our halls once again to welcome the new school year. Anyone who has ever stood in the hallways of a school on the first day can attest to the fact that virtually everyone, staff, students and parents alike, are filled with an abundance of excitement, enthusiasm and just a hint of anxiety. Our students will be hunting for their classes and seeking the most expeditious routes through the vast hallways of WJ guided by staff along the way. Their eagerness, exuberance and joy will set the tone for the high expectations that come with the promise of a new beginning and the first day of the school year. School hallways are meant to be filled with students and we are thrilled to have our scholars back in the building.

The year always begins with a few great traditions and I hope everyone will join us to experience the positive vibes of our great school at Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 13th. We will start with a Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) meeting in our cafeteria at 6 p.m. and classroom visits will begin in Homeroom at 7 p.m. You will have the opportunity during the evening to hear from our PTSA officers, the Booster Club president, the Education Foundation president, meet teachers and explore our great facility. More information is coming home soon about this important and informative evening.

A special thank you goes out to our parent volunteers, staff volunteers, club members and the National Honor Society for hosting the New Family Picnic. The event was a relaxing and fun way for new families to begin to orient themselves to our wonderful school community. Additionally, a heartfelt thank you goes out to the senior class officers, class sponsors, staff and parents who helped with the Senior Picnic and traditional shed painting. I know the Class of 2019 will be excellent role models for our underclassmen!

I encourage all of our students and parents to get involved this school year. There are many opportunities throughout the year for parents to be involved. Please check out our website at to view the school master calendar of activities. In order to help keep you informed about school news and upcoming plays, concerts and athletic events the PTSA also has an informational listserv. Please join for free at: There is an additional discussion listserv for parents. Directions to join both may be found at the link above.

As always, Walter Johnson High School will continue to offer many curriculum choices for our students. We are proud of our students’ past accomplishments and will continue to strive for continued academic excellence. Walter Johnson is a special place for a variety of reasons and parent support is critical to our continued success. Without your support, ideas and encouragement we would not be able to provide the robust academic offerings and extensive co-curricular activities we currently offer our students. More importantly, we hope all of our students enjoy their high school experience and we will work hard to assure a positive experience for all!

I thank everyone for your assistance with a great beginning to this school year and I look forward to seeing you at our school events throughout the year. Welcome Back Wildcats!

Jennifer Baker


Subscribe to the PTSA Bulletin Board

All members of the WJ community are strongly encouraged to subscribe to this valuable communication resource! Click here for instructions on how to join.


Upcoming Events - Please see for the latest and for more details.

9/13/2018 - PTSA Meeting & Back to School Night

9/11/2018 - Senior Parent Meeting

9/17/2018 - Freshman Parent Meeting

9/22/2018 - College Saturday

9/24/2018 - Junior Parent Meeting

9/25/2018 - Private School Transition

10/1/2018 - Sophomore Parent Meeting

10/2/2018 - How to Write a Great College Essay

10/8/2018 - College Financial Aid

10/9/2018 - Admissions Testing Coffee

10/11/2018 - Time Management

10/13/2018 - Mock ACT

10/16/2018 - PTSA Meeting with Speaker

10/23/2018 - Understanding APs

11/17/2018 - Mock SAT

11/26/2018 - Mock ACT/SAT Results Meeting

12/4/2018 - Managing Stress

12/21/2018 - Alumni Luncheon for WJ Seniors

1/7/2019 - PSAT Results Interpretation Meeting

1/22 or 1/23/2019 - Safe Teen Driving

2/12/2019 - Admissions Testing Coffee

2/23/2019 - Mock SAT

Week of 2/25/19 - Colleges That Change Lives

3/5/2019 - Naviance Coffee

3/11/2019 - Naviance Meeting

3/16/2019 - Mock ACT

3/21/2019 - Mock Results Interpretation Meeting

3/25/2019 - Senior Parent Graduation Meeting

4/4/2019 - Paying for College by Finding the Right Fit Coffee

4/8/2019 - College Admissions Panel

4/24/2019 - How to Write a Great College Essay Meeting

TBD - Parent Connection for Spanish Speakers

Download the WJ Smartphone App

You'll have information at your fingertips when you download the WJ App from iTunes or Google Play.

Walter Johnson High School Education Foundation

Who and What is the WJ Education Foundation? We work with the other parent organizations to advocate for our school, support staff and students but have less restrictions than the other groups in raising funds and what we can spend money on. Originally we were created to fund enhancements to the modernization but now the WJ Ed Foundation now focuses on supplementing school system funding to take WJ’s programs from great to excellent and to provide opportunities for all students to use modern, professional quality equipment in courses taught by broadly trained staff. We work with the administration and staff to identify materials, equipment and technology that will benefit our students. We collaborate with the PTSA and Boosters to support the school with funding for the extracurricular activity buses.

One way to donate and a concrete example of your donations used to beautify the school is the Wildcat Walkway at the rear of the school near the gym entrance. It is an attractive enhancement to the area and will be a focus as alumni return to see the engraved bricks for years to come. We order after we have collected a minimum of 50 orders; please look for order information below.

We need you continued support to meet our goals; please give as generously as you can. Our website is and includes information on getting involved, purchasing bricks or auditorium seat plates, and any upcoming fundraisers. We meet each month on the first Wednesday night and welcome new parents or alumni to join us.

One of our community supporters is the Kensington 8K Race and we encourage you to race, cheer on WJ staff and students, or join us at the final water stop as we refresh the runners. The Kensington 8K is September 23rd and information about registration can be found at

Marney Jacobs

WJ ED Foundation President

Support WJ by giving generously. Please use the on-line to donate, order bricks or seats at or send the form to school or mail to:

WJHS Education Foundation, Inc., Walter Johnson High School, 6400 Rock Spring Drive, Bethesda, MD 20814

Counseling Advisory Committee (CAC)

The Counseling Advisory Committee (CAC) is a PTSA-sponsored committee that works with the Counseling Services Department to increase communication among parents, students and the school. Together with the Counseling Services Department, the CAC sponsors parent forums/meetings that provide information on academic and social issues to help students succeed at WJ. Watch the listserv for announcements of meetings throughout the year. Also, refer to the bright yellow postcard you received in the mail, which lists all of the meetings we offer this fall. These meetings include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Grade Level Meetings for parents - held during the first few weeks of school, with information relevant to each specific grade. Hear from Mrs. Baker and the corresponding grade administrators, as well as the counseling department.
  • College Financial Aid
  • Understanding AP Classes
  • College Admissions Testing
  • College Essay Writing
  • Meeting specifically for Spanish speakers (in addition, we will provide language translation services at any meeting for which anyone makes a request).
  • Mock SAT and Mock ACT - offered in the fall and spring with follow-up meetings to help parents interpret what the scores mean.

Check out the CAC on the WJ website or email us at

Lisa Moss and Kim Heffernan

CAC Co Chairs

Yearbook Senior Ads

Express friendship, love or congratulations to the special student in your life with a personal ad in the yearbook! Select the desired size and personalize the ad with your own message and photo(s). You will be creating, submitting and paying for your senior’s ad via the on-line Ad Creation website. The sizes and prices are listed below along with the instructions on accessing the website. Please plan on creating and submitting your senior’s ad no later than November 6. Space is limited!

In order to create and pay for your Senior Ad, please go to and enter job number 13650. Choose “Buy a Yearbook Ad” to begin the process. You will be asked to find your student from the school list or you can add your student’s information yourself. You will then be able to choose the ad design, upload your images and type your message. Once you have finished, you will have the opportunity to proof your ad before you pay and submit the ad for production.

Ad Pricing Information:

Full Page (color): $365

1/2 Page (color): $185

1/4 Page (color): $95

1/8 Page (color): $60

PHOTOS should be good quality and can be reduced or enlarged to fit the space. ARTWORK should be black or dark ink. Please note that many colored illustrations and newspaper clippings may lack adequate reproduction quality. These must be scanned uploaded to the website. COPYRIGHTED material cannot be reprinted in the yearbook.

If you have questions about your Senior Ad, please contact the yearbook adviser, Ms. Wendy Borrelli via email at Please be sure to include Senior Ad and the students name in the subject line.

Want to Raise Funds for WJ without Taking Any Money Out of Your Pocket?

You can do this by linking your store loyalty card to Walter Johnson. WJ earns money every time you shop at Giant or Harris Teeter if you designate WJ as your beneficiary school. You can also opt to support more than one school. But you can’t help if you don’t register. And remember, you may need to re‐register every year, so please check to make sure your cards are still registered. Please take a moment and follow the links below. Use the WJ ID numbers and sign up now to help WJ earn.

Did you know?

Walter Johnson, nicknamed "Big Train," was a major league baseball righthanded pitcher who played his entire 21-year career with the Washington Senators. One of the most celebrated players in baseball history, he was known for his gentle nature and good sportsmanship. He resided in a Bethesda house that still stands just a few miles away from the school on Old Georgetown Road. After retiring from baseball, Walter Johnson became a Montgomery County commissioner.

Submit an Item for The Big Train Newsletter

The Walter Johnson Big Train is the PTSA quarterly newsletter, posted online. The submission deadlines will be posted on the PTSA listserv prior to publishing in September, January, and April.

Articles, questions and comments may be submitted via email to with the article in the body of the message. The Big Train is posted on the WJ website, so please do not included information you would not want to see online. Please supply email addresses as well as phone numbers for contact information whenever possible. All persons associated with WJ are encouraged to submit news and information.

2018-19 PTSA Leadership

President: Debby Orsak

Vice President: Stacey Albert

Treasurer: Susan Anderson

Secretary: Sarah Kotlove

MCCPTA Delegates: Jennifer Cope and Molly Carr

Learn more about the PTSA at