The Big Train

The Newsletter of the Walter Johnson PTSA - Fall 2015

Volume 46, 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.

Welcome to Walter Johnson High School

By now Walter Johnson’s academic year, clubs, athletics and other activities are underway, and families are back into the familiar rhythm of our busy schedules.

As our days fill up, it becomes easy to take for granted all that we live in a district with one of the best high schools in Maryland and the U.S.: top-notch teachers and administration, many AP and other elective courses, dozens of clubs and sports options -- and the faculty willing to sponsor them -- and active parent groups providing important programs to support communications, clubs, sports, and academics in our school. A comparable private school education would be $10,000-$20,000 per year.

All this we can take for granted until it is gone:

The Montgomery County Planning Board is now considering several proposals to support unprecedented development in our area. We can expect another 900 students at WJ within the next five years, or we can ask the county to build another school. What’s the right answer? I can’t tell you, but as parents and citizens of this county (and property owners even after the kids have gone to college), we should be finding a solution that is best for everyone: students, families, businesses, and the county. Decisions that will affect our area and schools for decades are being made now. You can have your voice heard by attending meetings as they are posted on the PTSA listserv and filling out surveys that are sent to you.

All this we can take for granted until it is gone:

You could choose not to join and donate a little extra to the PTSA, or to support the Boosters and the Education Foundation. Only about one-third of the Walter Johnson parents do. As of this writing, the PTSA is $10,000 short from our goal: that’s less than one-half of the tuition of ONE student at some local private high schools. When the money starts to run out, which we are in danger of this year, then there will be fewer academic-support equipment purchases, fewer activity buses, less support for our sports and clubs, and for our terrific teachers and counselors. Please join now so that we can keep our budget on track and our school needs fulfilled. Thank you to all of you generous people who have already stepped up!

We know our community is special. Let’s work together to keep it that way and continue that legacy for our own kids and for the next generation of students at WJ.

If we take it for granted, it will be gone.

Barbara Ferry

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.

2015-16 PTSA Meeting Schedule

  • Sept. 15th
  • Oct. 20th
  • Nov. 17th
  • March 15th
  • April 19th
  • May 17th

  • All PTSA business meetings are held in the Media Center from 7-8pm and are open to all parents, students and teachers.
  • Minutes and agendas will be linked to the meeting dates as they become available.
  • PTSA meetings include an update from the principal and committee chairs and a discussion of ongoing business.
  • Agenda items for meetings should be sent to the PTSA president a week prior to the meeting so that enough time can be allocated for discussion.
  • Speakers sponsored by the PTSA are held at various times during the year and are organized by the Counseling Advisory Committee or the Health and Safety Committee.

Principal's Message

We eagerly opened our doors the first day of school on August 31st to 2,293 very enthusiastic students. As always, one could feel the energy and excitement as the kids passed through the hallways greeting friends and staff while they hunted for their classrooms. The anticipation and promise of a new beginning was ever present as they navigated that first day. Although some of our new students may have been a bit nervous as they searched the vast expanse of WJ, staff and older students were always ready to help them find their way. Now that we are a few weeks into the school year it seems as if everyone has settled into their daily routine nicely. Schools are meant to be filled with children and we are thrilled to have ours back in the building.

Many who are new to WJ had the opportunity to attend the New Student Orientation and picnic. A special thank you goes out to our parent volunteers, staff volunteers, club members and the National Honor Society for hosting the picnic. The event was a relaxing way for new families to begin to orient themselves to our wonderful school community. The weather was spectacular and the evening helped highlight some of the ways students can be involved at WJ. I encourage all of our students to try as many school activities as possible. One of the extraordinary things about Walter Johnson is we really do have something of interest to offer all students both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether they try out for the fall play, Rumors, join an athletic team, participate in one of our many clubs, cheer at our sporting events, play in Drumline or Pep Band or engage in all of the above; we know that students who are involved in school have a much richer experience.

The class of 2016 also celebrated the beginning of their senior year with a fabulous picnic, shed painting and games for all. Thank you to the senior class officers, sponsors, staff and parents who helped with the event. The seniors are now planning for a fantastic Homecoming week beginning Monday, October 12th and finishing with the dance on Saturday, October 17th. Please join us for the game on Friday, October 16th. Graduation in on Friday, June 3rd so mark your calendars! The 12th grade students will soon be applying to college, planning a gap year and\or searching for jobs. With life beyond WJ just around the corner our staff is ready to partner with parents and seniors to help make that inevitable transition smooth.

I hope you had the opportunity to join us at our Back-to-School Night. If you missed the event you will have another chance to come to our school on Monday, October 12th from 7:45 AM until 11:00 AM. Visit morning classes to see your child and their teacher in action. Additionally, we will also have a program the same day for interested parents at 7:45 in our Student Commons area. This is a parent coffee to discuss the different testing associated with college admissions.

There will be many opportunities throughout the year for parents to be involved. Please join the PTSA and consider donating to our Booster Club and Education Foundation. The purpose of each of these groups is to support our school and students. This year we are fundraising for more Chromebooks. This technology is greatly needed in our classrooms. Additionally, please check out our website at: to view the school master calendar of activities, find valuable information and resources for parents. You may also want to download our new school APP to receive push notifications and have bell schedules and the latest information at your fingertips. Just go to the APP store and type in, “Walter Johnson High School”.

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.

I thank everyone for 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


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Join us TONIGHT for Community Night at WJ

Friday, Sep. 25th, 6:30pm

Walter Johnson High School




Admission is by cash only -- please bring small bills and if you have exact change, there will be an exact change line which will get you through the gates faster!
$5.00 - Adults
$3.00 - Student (12 years and older through high school with photo ID)

$1.00 - Child (7 to 11 years old)
No Charge - Children ages 6 and under
No Charge - Senior citizens with appropriate identification

**It's an ORANGE-out -- please wear ORANGE clothing/accessories to support Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

** Face painting, courtesy of the WJ Leadership Class and SGA

**The first 250 middle and elementary school students will receive a special edition WJ Stadium Cup.

**Food and drinks will be sold at the concession stand. Plan to have dinner with the Wildcats

**Buy WJ Wildcat Spirit Wear at the school store. We have hats, T-shirts, pajama pants, hoodies, sweatpants, and much more!

No backpacks, footballs or soccer balls allowed in the stadium.

We look forward to seeing you there!

North Bethesda and Tilden Middle Schools * Ashburton, Kensington-Parkwood, Wyngate, Farmland, Garrett Park, and Luxmanor Elementary Schools


Counseling Advisory Committee

The Counseling Advisory Committee (CAC) is a PTSA-sponsored committee that works with the Counseling Department to increase communication among parents, students and the school. The CAC is composed of the WJ administrators, WJ counselors, parents of current students and student representatives from each grade.

If there is a topic or issue that you believe should be raised, or if you are interested in serving on this committee please contact the co-chairpersons by clicking on the CAC email above.

The CAC sponsors several forums each year for the Counseling Department: the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior class parent meetings; college forums addressing the college application/admission process; and a College Rap Session in late December, at which former Walter Johnson graduates return to talk with juniors and seniors. Additionally the CAC sponsors forums specific to the Academic and Social Issues of High School.

CAC Sponsored Mock ACT & SAT Testing

2015 - 2016 Mock ACT October 24 and TBA in spring, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Registration deadline TBA.

2015 - 2016 Mock SAT October 31 and TBA in spring, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Registration deadline TBA.

Visit the website for a full calendar of events.


9/26 - College Saturday for Juniors, Seniors and Parents - 8:30 a.m. - Cafeteria
9/28 - Sophomore Parent Meeting, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria
10/1 - Parent Connection for Students Who Learn Differently - 7:00 p.m. - Commons

10/5 - Private School Transition, 7:00 p.m. - Commons

10/8 - Parent Connection for Spanish Speakers, 7:00 p.m. - Commons

10/12 - Parent Coffee: College Admissions Testing - 7:45 a.m. - Commons
10/26 - College Financial Aid Meeting, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

11/9 - Mock ACT/SAT Results Interpretation, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

11/16 - Understanding AP Classes - 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

11/19 - Parent Connection for Students Who Learn Differently - 7:00 p.m. - Commons

Alumni College Lunch for Seniors - Monday December 21, during lunch.
This annual event sponsored by WJ Counseling Services invites recent WJ graduates to chat about their college experiences with current seniors. Alumni interested in speaking to WJ seniors should contact Counseling Services.

WJ S*T*A*G*E presents Neil Simon's Rumors

WJ Stage is presenting Rumors, by Neil Simon, on November 13, 14, 20, & 21 as our fall play this year. Tickets will be on sale through our website,, or in school the week before the show opens. Please join us for this hilarious slapstick comedy!
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.


The Line Up (PTSA student directory) is being worked on as you read this! In mid-October please be on the lookout for an email from the directory team asking you to verify your student's contact information. To reserve your copy, all you need to do is join the PTSA! Questions? Please contact Veronica Walgamotte or Gretchen Gibney at

Walter Johnson High School Education Foundation

The Walter Johnson Education Foundation, Inc. Board is made up of parents, former parents, and alumni. We are former PTSA presidents, former cluster coordinators, former and current Booster and PTSA committee chairs, alumni, a former SGA president and proud parents of scholars, artists, athletes and regular good kids, who are currently or were recently successful students. We’ve been advocates for the school through the PTSA or raised funds for teams with the Booster Club and continue to stay involved in order to give back to WJ through our efforts at raising funds to be spent on the school and students.

We invite you to come to our meetings- held the first Wednesday of each month in the Media Center at 7 p.m.; we are always open to new ideas and energy for increasing our donations.

We’re excited to offer parents and the community a fun way to get involved and support the school with our “Lights! Camera! Auction!” movie night on October 22nd. See the information below about the event (movie title to be determined soon), to donate or purchase tickets.

We greet alumni at the Homecoming Game and often have the names of the alums announced at half-time. We also have our on-going engraved brick fundraiser. Make sure to visit the Wildcat Walkway near the gym at the back drop-off loop. Thanks again to Mio Miljanic and his crew for installing and cleaning up the walkway.

We need you continued support to meet our goals so please give as generously as you can. You can make an online donation or print out a cash donation form. The website 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.

Marney Jacobs

WJ Education Foundation President

Lights, Camera, Auction!

Thursday, Oct. 22nd, 6pm

7101 Democracy Boulevard

Bethesda, MD

6:00 p.m. Appetizers and Auction Bidding

7:00 p.m. Movie (to be determined by what’s playing)

Join the WJ Education Foundation for an evening of fun and fundraising! Enjoy time with WJ parents, alumni and staff as the WJ Ed Foundation raises funds for a Chromebook cart (fully loaded with 34 Chromebooks) and extracurricular activity buses. Light fare will be provided. Bar drinks are available at the theater. There are limited seats available. Tickets at $50 each.

Donations of auctions items are welcome from parents and the community. Donors are acknowledged in our program, on our website and in the Big Train. It’s a great opportunity to help WJ and get some exposure for your business or give a weekend at a vacation home, tickets to sports events, or a basket of goodies. We already have a plane ride, handcrafted Wildcat quilt, an autographed Caps puck and Nats baseball, and movie passes.

The WJ Education Foundation raises funds for students and staff at WJ. We have recently supported the school with the purchase of a Chromebook cart, collaborated with the PTSA and Booster Club for the new WJ App and funded a several staff development grants that had teachers in courses, conferences, and travel this summer. This year we are fundraising to pay for an activity bus for students who stay for extracurricular clubs and another set of Chromebooks for English classes. MCPS planned for additional Chromebooks for students but deferred purchase due to budget cuts. Our teachers and students will use as many carts as we can provide- they are about $10,000 for an equipped cart that includes 34 units.

Tickets can be purchased using the attached form or on our website. Tickets will be available for pickup at the door.

To volunteer or donate an item to the silent auction,

please email

Walter Johnson Booster Club

What is Booster Club?

The WJ Booster Club is comprised of parents, staff, and students who support the notion that extra-curricular activities are an integral part of the educational experience. Our Booster Club at WJ is unique, however, because we are one of the first in Montgomery County that supports all extra-curricular activities, not just sports. Please visit our website for more information about Booster activities and membership,

How Does the Booster Club Raise the Funds?

There are two main sources of support for the Booster Club. The first is through our membership. It is essential that families in the WJ community join the Booster Club to provide the funds necessary to support our students in their activities. The second source of support is our fundraising events. Long-standing favorites include the mulch sale, used book fair, school store and our online store. Stay tuned for details on these fundraisers and more.

Why Should I Get Involved in the Booster Club?

In this time of cutbacks and economic hardship, it is more important than ever to get community support and provide our students with a well-rounded education. Volunteering your time in the Booster Club will help ensure that this goal is met. In addition, the Booster Club is comprised of dedicated people who not only work hard, but know how to have fun while doing it.

When are Booster Club Meetings?

Booster Club Meetings are held the second Wednesday of the month at 7PM in the Media Center, we encourage everyone to come to our meetings. We discuss funding requests, hear from various clubs and sports, plan for events and generally have a good time.

Join us on these dates:

October 14th

November 11th

December, Holiday Gathering, date TBD

January 13th

February 10th

March 9th

April 13th

May 11th

June, End of Year Celebration, date TBD

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Two Members of the Martial Arts Club sparring during the club meet.

The Martial Arts Club meets on Tuesday and Friday after school between Rooms 122 and 123. We practice Martial Arts for physical health and fitness as well as mental and physical development. We are open for new members.

SGA News

Despite only being a few weeks into school, the festivities have already started. The SGA and the Leadership class have been working nonstop to get the 2015-2016 school on its way to the most spirited year yet.

September is Leukemia and Lymphoma awareness month, a very important month to the WJ community. As many of you may or may not know, this illness has struck several of our very own. Friday September 25th, we ask that everyone comes to school wearing orange to show their support and raise awareness.

The support doesn’t stop there. Around the corner is October, breast cancer awareness month. The leadership class has designed a T-shirt that will be sold, starting September 21st, during lunch. All proceeds will be donated towards breast cancer research.

Also coming up, is one of the most treasured events at WJ, and this year, IT’S FREE! Sign up and participate in WJ’s very own ninja tag. The winner will not only be titled “Greatest Ninja Warrior”, but will also be given a very special prize.

Ready for something even more entertaining? Starting this year, there will be a teacher’s ninja tag. Teachers will compete against each other and results will be posted daily.

Last year’s food drive was such a success, expectations are set high for this year. Last year, we received well over a thousand pounds worth of cans and other food donations. We want to surpass the amount so make sure you’re bringing cans every day during the month of October.

The Leadership class and the SGA are looking forward to a very successful year full of fun events and thrilling activities. Make sure to stay involved Wildcats, there is always more to come.

--WJ Student Government

The School Store is Open Every Day During Lunch!

The WJ School Store is located in the hallway near the cafeteria. Stop by and see our complete line of WJ spirit wear, including T-shirts, hoodies, flannel PJs, caps, bags, stickers, magnets and much more.

We'll also be open during the Homecoming Game on Friday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 pm. We will be set up across from concessions.

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Our most popular hoodie - $35

Click here to see more of our current inventory!

All proceeds benefit the All School Booster Club


The Walter Johnson cluster of schools, those elementary and middle schools whose students attend Walter Johnson High School, are experiencing significant student population growth. Many of our schools are already overcrowded and the combination of housing turnover from empty nesters to families with school-age children plus additional housing development within the neighborhood boundaries that attend our cluster schools will exacerbate this condition.

Classroom additions are in process or being planned for Ashburton and Kensington-Parkwood elementary schools, North Bethesda Middle School, and Walter Johnson High School. Tilden Middle School will be moved back to its former site on Tilden Lane after a major renovation that includes the incorporation of Rock Terrace School, a special education school. Luxmanor ES is also scheduled for revitalization and expansion. Tilden and North Bethesda will both be built for a capacity of 1200 students each.

The addition to Walter Johnson is still in the very early stages of planning, but one option being discussed is to raise the capacity of the building to 3200 students. Another option being talked about is reopening the Woodward building, after Tilden moves out, as an additional high school. This would involve cluster redistricting. Stay tuned for more information and a possible survey on this question.

Finally, most of our schools will need “portable classrooms” (trailers) within the next six years, if they don’t already have them.

Why are we publishing this in Big Train? Well, there is a lot that parents and students can do.

  • Please participate in the testimony and comments involved. Montgomery County has a well-defined stakeholder input process that involves multiple community meetings. We need your attendance at these meetings, participation in the discussions, and oral and written comments.
  • Join your PT(S)As!!! Our membership numbers help us when we testify on these issues before the Board of Education and County Council, and help the County PTA when they advocate with these groups, the Montgomery County Executive, our representatives in Annapolis, and Governor Hogan.
  • Attend your local PT(S)A meetings for continuing discussion of these issues.

Additionally, last year we started a process with Councilmember Roger Berliner to identify the “disconnects” between the County’s development planning process and the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) school construction, renovation and addition process. We are into the “next steps” portion of this cycle wherein we are providing community input to Mr. Berliner and other county officials so they can help guide the County as it improves the overall process.

Your Cluster Coordinators this year are Liz King, Howie Philips and Joe Piff. We volunteered to address these issues and, when you provide us your opinion on these topics, we have a better

Students shop for the Media Center

The annual student shopping trip to Barnes and Noble was September 24th 2015. Students chose over $1500 worth of books to be added to the media center collection. They can’t wait for other WJ Wildcats to have the opportunity to check out the books they selected.

A full list of purchased books will be emailed out in the new book emails from the Media Center.

Naomi Gelfand

Media Specialist

Volunteer at WJ

There are many opportunities to enrich your experience at WJ through volunteering. Possibilities range from something as simple as providing cupcakes for a meeting to chaperoning an event or working on a PTSA committee.


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 remember, many stores require you 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.

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

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 October, January and April.

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 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.

Click here for "Quick Notes"

News and Information for the MCPS community