The Big Train

The Newsletter of the Walter Johnson PTSA - MAY 2015

Volume 45, Number 9

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.

PTSA President's Message

May is upon us and the work of the PTSA's many committees with hundreds of volunteers is wrapping up for the year. What did we accomplish together?

  • The Prom Breakfast Committee threw a fabulous party for 547 seniors and their guests, keeping them safe after the prom;
  • The Guidance Advisory Committee held 11 evening meetings for students and parents, presided over four mock exams, and planned a dozen additional events during the year;
  • Our hospitality team thanked teachers with meals and and departmental baskets, as well as other events.
  • All of our students benefited by attending programs by Chad Hymas, Dr. David Jobes, and the first Health & Wellness Summit;
  • Our Awards Committee has put together our teacher awards to be given out May 18;
  • We published the school's directory;
  • The Minority Parent Council worked with WJ minority students as well as other groups near WJ to raise awareness of disparities and to provide tutoring and learning opportunities;
  • We communicated to parents through this beautiful newsletter, our email listserv, on Facebook and Twitter;
  • And we lobbied our elected representatives for better schools, better opportunities for all students, and more funding for important programs through our work as a Cluster and through MCCPTA.

What could we have done better?

  • Although we recruited a Student Involvement Committee for the first time, we didn't have enough parent volunteers to keep it moving forward. If you would like to see this committee be successful next year (and and if you are available during the school day to meet with the students) please let me know,
  • Despite a great deal of publicity and great leadership, we've had low turnout for our Parent-to-Parent meetings in the past couple of years, and will need to determine if we should continue this program.

Thanks to all our fabulous officers and committee chairs, whom I have listed below, along with next year's chairpersons. We could not have done it without you.

Barbara Ferry

PTSA President

Thanks to the 2014-15 officers and chairs


Barbara Ferry

Vice President

Karen Clarkson


Deepy Kohli


Doug Mader

MCCPTA Delegate

Joe Piff

Enlace Bilingüe Español

Magda Sobalvarro-Ochoa


Nancy Manning

Big Train / Publicity

Linda Parker and Stephanie Brown

Jonathan Salant - editor


Johanna Mills, Tanya Miller, Joe Piff

Guidance Advisory

Amy de Court, Cheryl Morris

Health & Safety

Lisa Strauss, Marc Emden

Health & Wellness Summit

Karen Clarkson

Hospitality / Staff Appreciation

Amy McClesky

Learning Differences

Jen Cope


Ann Sulzberg, Tracy Yaklyvich

Minority Parent Council

Erika Boone

Parent-to-Parent Conversations

Carol Alderson

Prom Breakfast

Debbie Teicher, Tonja Olson

Student Directory / The Lineup

Robin Feldman and Linda Parker

Student Involvement

Johannes Bang

Here are the incoming officers and chairs for 2015-16


Barbara Ferry

Vice President*

Shari Campbell


Deepy Kohli


Tracy Yaklyvich

MCCPTA Delegate

Joe Piff, Sharon Gross

Enlace Bilingüe Español

Magda Sobalvarro-Ochoa (translations only)


Chosen in June


Angie Melton

Big Train / Publicity

Stephanie Brown


Joe Piff (cluster coordinator)

Tanya Miller (cluster rep)

Guidance Advisory

Amy de Court, Cheryl Morris

Health & Safety

Lisa Strauss

Health & Wellness Summit

Won't be filled. Summit is every other year

Hospitality / Staff Appreciation

Amy McClesky

Learning Differences

Jen Cope

need a co-chair


Johanna Mills, Karen Clarkson, Laura Bonetta

Minority Parent Council

OPEN. Please help Erika fill this post.

Parent-to-Parent Conversations

Carol Alderson

Prom Breakfast

Tonja Olson

Student Directory / The Lineup

Veronica Walgamotte, Gretchen Gibney

Student Involvement

This committee needs a parent to foster in order for it to move forward.

*pending May vote

Final PTSA meeting. Please note new time

Tuesday, May 19th, 6:30pm

Media Center

Please join us for the final PTSA meeting of the year. We'll be voting on officers, as well as a provisional budget. Because the spring choral concert is taking place that night, the PTSA meeting will start promptly at 6:30 pm and end by 7:30. There will be healthy refreshments provided!

The Nominating Committee has recommended the following officers for 2015-16:

President: Barbara Ferry

Vice President: Shari Campbell

Treasurer: Tracy Yaklyvich

Secretary: Deepy Adkohli

News from the Principal's office

“I've always felt that life is a novel, and part of it is written for you, and part of it is written by you. It's up to you to write the ending, ultimately.” This quote by Canadian cartoonist Lynn Johnston mirrors a discussion we often have with our students and children. Although they may not have control over every aspect of their lives they are the masters of their ultimate destinies. High school is a wonderful time to explore interests and potential. Given the incredible talent that exists within the Walter Johnson student body, it is very exciting to imagine the countless possible pathways for our students.

Our seniors are currently the closest to stepping out into the world beyond high school. What path will they choose: College, work, the military, travel or a gap year? It is a difficult question for all as they navigate the long and winding road to adulthood, but anything is possible for this graduating class. Graduation will be held at 2:30 pm on Friday, May 29. The members of the Class of 2015 are an amazing group of young people who will surely go on to do many important things with their lives.

As we say goodbye to our seniors, I would like to congratulate each and every 12th grade student on a job well done. We will miss you, but are excited to see what pathways you will take as you continue your journey into adulthood. As you write your own endings make sure to follow your passions and be open to many different opportunities. The possibilities are endless and the Class of 2015 is sure to make us proud for many years to come.

The end of the year always brings changes to our school community. Our wonderful long-time athletic director Sue Amos is retiring after 42 years of service to MCPS, students, coaches and athletes. We salute her and her excellent commitment to education and quality athletics. It is our pleasure to announce that Mr. Tom Rogers will be our new athletic director. Mr. Rogers has been a science teacher, assistant athletic director and coach for many years at Walter Johnson. His dedication to our school community, athletes and coaches is well-established. I know our athletic program will be in great hands as Sue passes Tom the baton.

It was fabulous to see so many of you at Shrek the Musical, the Festival of the Arts and the Charity Fashion Show. I look forward to seeing everyone at our other events: The choral concert, instrumental concert, athletic awards, academic awards and graduation. If change is a constant, then so are WJ community events. As one of the cornerstones of the community we are proud to offer so many high quality opportunities for students, parents and community members to see our students in action. Go Wildcats!

Jennifer Baker


Exam Schedule

Seniors - Second Semester Exams (class period exams)

Seniors must obtain approval from Ms. Slough prior to scheduling make-up exams.

Monday, May 18 -- Senior Review Day - Delayed Opening

Tuesday, May 19-- Senior Review Day - Exam/Culminating Activity - Periods 6 & 7

Wednesday, May 20 -- Exam/Culminating Activity - Periods 4 & 5 – Delayed Opening

Thursday, May 21-- Exam/Culminating Activity - Periods 2 & 3

Friday, May 22 -- Exam/Culminating Activity - Period 1 & Make-Up Exams (as arranged)

Underclassmen – HSA

Monday, May 18 -- NSL Government HSA and class periods: 1, 6, 7

Tuesday, May 19 -- English 10 HSA (Select students only) - Regular Bell Schedule

Wednesday, May 20 -- Biology HSA and class periods: 2, 3, 4, 5

Thursday, May 21 -- Algebra HSA (Select students only) – Regular Bell Schedule

Friday, May 22 -- Regular Bell Schedule


Underclassmen – Second Semester Exams/Culminating Activity

Monday, June 8 -- Review Day

Tuesday, June 9 -- Exam/Culminating Activity – Periods 1 & 2

Wednesday, June 10 -- Exam/Culminating Activity – Periods 3 & 4

Thursday, June 11 -- Exam/Culminating Activity – Periods 5 & 6

Friday, June 12 -- Exam/Culminating Activity – Period 7 & Make-Up Exams (as arranged)

Monday, June 15 -- Make-up Exams (as arranged) – Early Release Day, Last Day for Students and End of the Fourth Quarter

Media Center Open Daily from 6:45 – 3:30 during exam week.

More information and all attachments can be found on the school website.

Noah Marks Fund

The school is still collecting for a special fund in memory of Noah Marks. The family is working out details of how the fund will be spent for the benefit of WJ. At its February meeting, the PTSA voted to support this fund and will be working with the Marks family on the amount needed. If you would like to contribute, please send the check to the school, made out to Walter Johnson High School with "Noah Marks Fund" in the notes field. Thank you.

May Booster Club Meeting

Wednesday, May 13th, 7pm

Media Center


Local and state officials, community leaders, parents, and educators gathered at Walter Johnson May 5 to urge Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Jr. to fully fund public education. At the event, a letter was signed and sent to Hogan asking him to restore a cut that would cost MCPS $17 million in funding.
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Local and state leaders, parents, community leaders and educators urge Gov. Larry Hogan to fully fund public education.

Sign up to help at the annual WJ Awards Ceremony reception

The annual WJ Awards Ceremony is on May 18. This is a wonderful night to honor student achievements and outstanding teachers. We need a few parents to help set up refreshments, serve and clean up after the ceremony. It is a short time commitment for a great cause!

Follow this link to sign up:

Contact Angie Melton at or Nancy Manning at with any questions.

Prom Breakfast was a huge hit

More than 500 seniors and their guests enjoyed a fantastical night at Prom Breakfast’s “WJ and the Chocolate Factory.” It would not have been possible without your donations and willingness to get on a ladder to decorate, stay up into the early hours of the morning to serve food and help at games, and of course come back and clean it all up. It was the best attended Prom Breakfast to date, with nearly 78 percent of our seniors attending and the majority leaving after the entertainment ended at 3:30 am. This event truly makes a difference in the lives of and safety of our kids.

A huge thanks to the best committee ever and especially to Decorations Chairs Dorothy Murdoch and Shelby Collier, Food Chair Chair Pam Howie, Entertainment Chair Robin Feldman, Fundraising Chair Jane Macedonia, Security Chair Howard Sherwood, Volunteer Chair Adrienne Davis-Leal, senior class officers Mr. Delello and Mr. Miller, dedicated building service worker Glenn, and Ms. Cosgrove, Ms. Grogg, Ms. Slough and Ms. Baker.

In addition, local PTSAs, citizens' associations and businesses really stepped up. Please show your Wildcat spirit by thanking these deserving local merchants:

Mamma Lucia

Suburban Hospital

Tycko and Zavareei, LLP

Salus Analytics, LLC

Jane Fairweather (Coldwell Banker)

Marie McCormack (W.C. & A.N. Miller)

Bethesda Magazine

International Collision

Douglas Construction

Classic Homes of Maryland

Elevation Burger

Harris Teeter

Geppetto Restaurant

Giant Market

Sugo Osteria

Ledos Pizza

These local organizations also made significant contributions:

Walter Johnson PTSA

Walter Johnson Booster Club

Luxmanor Citizens Association

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rotary Club

Kiwanis Club

North Bethesda PTSA

Ashburton PTA

Wyngate PTA

Luxmanor PTA

Kensington Parkwood PTA

Garrett Park PTA

Maplewood Citizens Association

Thanks to all who contributed in any way, whether by signing a check, providing a prize, or working hard (and late) to make Prom Breakfast a success.

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"Shrek the Musical" was an extrodinary production

WJ S*T*A*G*E's spring performance of "Shrek the Musical" was truly a magical experience.

The talent of our students in the Pit, crew and cast was amazing. Once again, Stage has outdone themselves and pulled out all stops for this fabulous, funny and freaky show.

There was laughter, love and happiness for all. The special effects, lighting, set design, acting, choreography, music and vocals delighted everyone who attended. Congratulations to the directors, pit, crew, actors, dancers, singers and the best freaks ever.

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Courtesy of Emily Jerison

Summer Math Courses Available

The Walter Johnson Math Department will offer one-week Math Prep classes for students entering Algebra 1, Geometry/Honors Geometry, Algebra 2/Honors Algebra 2, Precalculus/Honors Precalculus, or Calculus with Applications/AP Calculus AB in the 2015-2016 school year. The courses are designed to review prerequisite material and to introduce the first topics of the new course. The dates of each course are below.

Algebra 1 Prep

August 3rd-August 7th

Geometry/Honors Geometry Prep

August 3rd-August 7th

Algebra 2/Honors Algebra 2 Prep

July 27th-July 31st

Precalculus/Honors Precalculus Prep

July 20th-July 24th

Calculus with Applications/AP Calculus AB Prep

July 20th-July 24th

For more information or to register for one of the classes, please contact Erin O’Connell at The deadline for registration is Friday, May 22nd.

Paul and Celine Silver Memorial 5k

Sunday, June 7th, 9:30am

Tilden Woods Local Park, North Bethesda


This year, the Paul and Celine Silver Memorial 5k walk/run will take place on June 7 at 9:30 am. Please save the date and plan to participate as a walker, runner, part of the cheering squad or just by contributing to the fund at

Remember that this event is the only fundraiser for the Paul Silver and Celine Silver Memorial scholarships at Walter Johnson. More detail will follow closer to the date of the event. Thank you for your support.



MAY 4th - MAY 8th

*20% discount on all purchases for WJ teachers & staff



7-9 pm



7-9 pm



6:30-8:30 pm


The School Store is located in the hallway outside the cafeteria. We are open most school days from 10:45 am to 11:30 am. Credit cards, checks and cash accepted.


WJ Youth & Government Club had outstanding results at MD Youth & Government statewide legislative conference

The Youth & Government Club represented our school last month at the 70th annual Maryland Youth & Government youth state legislature ( at the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis. Nearly 200 students from 16 high schools across the state attended the three-day conference that included serving as members on the floor of the Maryland State Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates, in the court program at the Anne Arundel County Courthouse, in the lobbyist program in committee hearings, and in the press/media program throughout downtown Annapolis.

Two WJ students were elected to top positions for the next program. Gideon Epstein was elected the next Maryland youth governor and Shashank Narayan was elected the next Youth lieutenant governor. They will lead the Maryland Youth & Government program in the 2015-16 school year, including three events: fall training,, pre-legislative events in March, and the three-day youth legislature in April. This is the first time in several years that one school's delegation will hold both statewide offices. The youth governor-elect and the youth lieutenant governor-elect also had the opportunity to meet Maryland Governor Larry Hogan at his 100 days press conference while we were at the statehouse.

In addition to sweeping both statewide elected offices, the WJ club was awarded premier delegation status, one of only four premier delegations selected each year from among the 16 schools, a very prestigious honor among the program. Premier status gives our students priority seating at Y&G events, priority room choices at the hotel next conference, and bragging rights, among other perks.

If you see Gideon or Shashank, or other members of the WJ Youth & Government Club (see list below), please congratulate them on this outstanding accomplishment. I could not be more proud of them and what they achieved this year. They represented WJ and MCPS extremely well.

Tim Rodman

WJ Youth & Government Club Delegation


House of Delegates

Kasey Carroll, Kasey

Michael Gaba

Thomas McEvoy Zafiropulos

Shashank Narayan

Maryland Senate

Gideon Epstein

Sasha Kahn

Court Program

Pablo Cousino-Rodriguez

Erin Griffith

Lobbyist Program

Cami Lingenfelter

Press Program

Amir Kalantary


Mr. Tim Rodman

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Gideon Epstein and Shashank Narayan with Gov. Larry Hogan at press conference marking the governor's first 100 days in office.

FACS Child Development Preschool is still accepting applications for next fall

Family and Consumer Sciences empowers individuals and families across a life span to manage the challenges of living and working in a diverse global society. Our unique focus is on families, work, and their interrelationships. The knowledge, skills, and processes acquired through Family and Consumer Sciences are applicable to the management of personal and family lives as well as work responsibilities.

A couple of weeks ago, our Child Development classes took our preschoolers to the National Zoo and they had a wonderful day. The students had made the plans, filled out the paperwork, assigned tasks, arranged for the bus and designed and made special shirts for our trip. At the end of the afternoon, one high school student said to me, “I’m so tired and this is only 1/5 of what parents do every day.”

The Child Development Preschool is still accepting applications for next fall’s class. Please have any interested families contact Connie Pokress at or call 301-803-7207 for information. Children need to be 4 years old by Sept. 1 and toilet trained.

Connie Pokress

Family and Consumer Science (FACS) Department

Science Department News

It’s been a busy time for science students in science competitions.

Kathryn Van Artdalen was named a semifinalist in the 74th annual Intel Science Talent Search. She has been working with a mentor from NASA in “Characterizing Magnetospheric States.” She has been analyzing 40 years of data about the Sun’s solar wind and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field to create a statistical model to allow scientists to be able to predict how the Earth’s magnetosphere responds to solar wind and IMF variables.

Emma Walter won multiple awards for her project titled “Effects of Exergaming in Energy Expenditure and Cognitive Function” in the Montgomery County Science Fair. In addition to winning monetary prizes, she received many complements on her work and she plans on using it as a spring board for future research.

The Science Olympiad Team won second place in regionals as well as second place in the State. What an accomplishment for the approximately 50 students on the team, For seven of the past eight years, WJ’s Science Olympiad team has either placed first or second in the state. Thank you to the team sponsors, Mr. Brock Eastman and Dr. Joan McDermott, for supporting the students as they prepared for the myriad of events.

Every yea,r Walter Johnson competes at the University of Maryland in a competition called Chemathon. The events probably sound familiar to anyone who has taken chemistry: titration, growing crystals, balancing equations, electrolysis. Students spend their Saturday morning doing four labs and four paper events at the Honors and AP level. If it sounds like work, it is. But it is fun work. Two of the AP level students from WJ have been competing for four years. This year, Mr. Safford’s Level 1 team consistently had less than 1 percent error in “Weighing by Redox” and came in second place. It is empowering to be able to do something that is academically challenging so quickly and competently. This year, the Level 1 team placed in the four of the 19 events. The Level 2 team placed in fewer events but took home the fifth-place overall score. Julia Roh grew crystals that received an award for the fourth year in a row . Members of the Chemathon were: Level 1 -- Emery Grahill-Bland, Anisha Sullivan, Gabe Woolls, Jacob Shekter, Howard Tripp, Adam Tyrlik. Level 2 -- Tian Lee, Julia Roh, Gerrald Ting, Ho-Jung Yang, Michal Tyrlik, Danielle Sidelnikov.

Seven chemistry students also participated in the 2015 National Chemistry Olympiad Local Competition. This paper and pencil test was used to select students to sit for the national exam from which the National Chemistry Olympiad team will be created. Ho-Jung Yang was selected to sit for the national exam! In addition, Ho-Jung was selected to attend the Women’s Technology Program at MIT this summer. Way to go, Ho-Jun.

Nathalie Kirsch and Alex Laurenson presented their work at the Molecular Biology Genome Research poster session held at Johns Hopkins on Saturday, April 25. Dr. McDermott’s students are working with Rutgers and Johns Hopkins Universities in the DNA sequence analysis of genes from the duckweed plant Landoltia punctata, and how these genes compare to those found in other species. Her students are hopeful that they will join the other 54 WJ students who have had their sequences published.

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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.


You can do this by linking your store loyalty card to Walter Johnson. WJ earns money every time you shop at Giant, Target, Safeway, Food Lion and Harris Teeter, as long as 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 many stores require you to re‐register every year. Please take a moment and follow the links below. Use the following ID numbers and sign up now to help WJ earn.

Target Red Card Visa - School ID: 58206

Harris Teeter - School ID: 7371

Safeway - WJ Group ID: 6679161

Giant - School ID: 00646

Food Lion (including the former Bloom stores) - School ID: 219715

Submit an Item for The Big Train Newsletter

The Big Train is the PTSA monthly newsletter, posted online. This is the final issue for the 2014-2015 school year. We will be back in August! Have a great summer.

Articles, questions and comments may be submitted via email to with the article in the body of the message or as an attachment (please indicate file type). The Big Train is posted on the WJ website, so please do not include 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.

Please also include photos if you have them. In addition to the newsletter, we will post them on the PTSA Facebook page.

The Big Train is compiled, laid out, and edited by Linda Parker, Stephanie Brown and Jonathan Salant.

It's never too late to join the PTSA

The PTSA does not fundraise. your donations and membership dues are our only means of support.