The Big Train

The Newsletter of the Walter Johnson PTSA - WINTER 2016

Volume 46, Number 2

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

Welcome to the PTSA's Winter Big Train Newsletter!

Thank you for all the parents and teachers who have joined the PTSA -- we have more than 800 members and have reached our budget goals. However, there is still time to join and count yourself among parents who want to support their children's education through advocacy and programs. This spring the PTSA is working with the county to discuss the future of our cluster schools. We could not have accomplished this dialog without our large showing of PTSA members in this district. Join the PTSA now online.

I hope you will take time to review all the events and opportunities available for parents and students this winter and spring. The Counseling Advisory Committee is offering several programs, including a Parent Coffee on College Admissions Testing, a Parent Connection for Students Who Learn Differently, and Colleges that Change Lives at 7pm on March 7thin the cafeteria. Check the CAC calendar for all their events.

We will have three PTSA meetings this spring: March 15th, April 19th, and May 17th and we will feature speakers from WJ's Sources of Strength program and more on the county's new policy to eliminate final exams.

At our April meeting we need to nominate our new PTSA officers for next year. Our entire board (President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary) must be replaced because either the parents are aging out or they are ineligible, having held positions for two years in a row. Due to our strong network of committee chairs and volunteers, the time commitment for an officer is much less than at the elementary or middle school level. Please consider contributing to Walter Johnson by becoming a PTSA officer next year. You can email me at with any questions.

Remember to download the PTSA and Foundation-funded Walter Johnson APP and keep up with WJ events and announcements! So far this year, the APP has been downloaded 1,222 times on iTunes and Google Play. It's free and easy to use.

Click here to download from ITunes

Click here to download from Google Play

Happiest of 2016 to everyone!

Upcoming PTSA meetings

March 15

April 19

May 17

  • PTSA business meetings are normally held on the third Tuesday of the month at 7 pm in the Media Center and are open to all parents, students and teachers.
  • 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 Guidance Advisory Committee or the Health and Safety Committee.

Registration Night is TONIGHT

Monday, Jan. 11th, 7-9pm

6400 Rock Spring Drive

Bethesda, MD

The annual Parent Registration Information Night will be held at WJ on January 11th at 7:00 p.m. in the WJ Auditorium. Click here to read more about the evening activities.

Registration materials will be distributed to N. Bethesda 8th graders on January 27th and to Tilden 8th graders on January 28th. Materials will be distributed to WJ students on February 3rd.

The School Store will also be open before, during and after. Stop by and pick up your WJ Swag!

News From the Principal's Office

Happy New Year to all! I hope everyone enjoyed the winter holiday season and that your celebrations included rest, rejuvenation and precious time with family and friends. As our students head rapidly towards the end of the semester, final exams and other intellectual pursuits, I have also been considering a different aspect of education and student growth: character and social emotional development. Albert Einstein once said, “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” Our students are just now discovering who they are as people and what direction they would like to take after they graduate. High school is certainly a time for exploration and at times the journey can be rocky as our teens navigate the road to adulthood. In many ways, the social emotional growth students undergo during high school coupled with their peer interactions largely determines how positively teens view their experience in school.

One important aspect that may have great influence on the quality of their life in high school is how students use social media. In today’s teenage world and interactions “Cybercivility” plays a key role. Much too often our students fire off something regrettable via social media forgetting who can see their posts, everyone! Ironically, it feels very private to use one’s mobile device to create a Snapchat, Instagram, Tweet, Facebook posting, Blog, etc…However, one’s social media profile is very public to all and can, at times, be extremely hurtful to others. Unfortunately, and all too often, our administrators, counselors and teachers spend time dealing with hurtful postings and the emotional fallout. At the beginning of the school year we met with all of our students and asked them to make sure their electronic communications were:




Necessary &


In other words, they should simply THINK before sending out their electronic communications. Your support at home to remind students of the potential ramifications and importance of their cyber interactions is much appreciated. And, practicing “Cybercivility”, helpfulness, kindness and truthfulness are a great for building one’s character.

On the academic front, midyear exams and the beginning of second semester are almost here. Thursday, January 14th will be the exam review day for students. Our final exams begin on Friday, January 15th. The full exam schedule is available on our website at: Remember, during our exam week students only attend school on days that they have an exam. Our busses will still run on the regular schedule. The Media Center and/or the cafeteria will be open each day from 7:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. for quiet study. Please note that there is no school on January 18th for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and on January 25th due to the professional day for teachers to complete their grades. Our second semester classes begin on Tuesday, January 26th. Students will receive their second semester schedules at the beginning of the day in homeroom on the 26th.

This year, in lieu of a second semester Back-to-School night, parents will have the opportunity to visit their child’s classes during the day on Friday, February 26th. This will be a great way to see your children and their teachers in action. The 26th is a half-day schedule for students and the classes will run from 7:45 until 11:35. More information about this Open House opportunity will come out to parents shortly.

The onset of second semester is also when the registration process begins for the 2016 – 2017 school year. If your child is seeking a new challenge, then course selection for the upcoming school year is a great place to begin. We have a wide variety of offerings in the arts, physical education and technology if they are looking to try out a new elective or unearth a hidden talent. Our core content areas always offer plenty of opportunity to explore a favorite subject deeply. Please take the time to look at our course bulletin which is available online at: . We also have information regarding the approximate weekly homework load for each course. I encourage you to help your child strive for balance in their schedules. This tool may help them with that task. Please urge your child to meet with their counselor to discuss the many choices we offer at WJ. They are a very valuable resource. Hopefully, our students will unlock a new passion as they build their future schedule for the 2016 - 2017 school year.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” I love the promise of the New Year and all the possibilities for positive change that exist for our students in 2016 and beyond.


Jennifer Baker



First Semester Final Examination Schedule 2015-2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016 - Final Exam Review Day

Friday, January 15, 2016 - Exams - Periods 7 & 6

Monday, January 18, 2016 - M.L. King, Jr. Holiday - Schools & Offices Closed

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 Exams - Periods 5 & 4

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 Exams - Periods 3 & 2

Thursday, January 21, 2016 Exams - Periods 1 & Make-ups (as arranged)

Friday, January 22, 2016 Final Exam Make-ups (as arranged) - Semester One Ends

Monday, January 25, 2016 - Teacher Professional Day (No School for Students)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - Semester Two Begins

Media Center open daily from 7:15 a.m.until 3:45 p.m. except on Friday January 22nd until 2:30 p.m.

Dismissal for students using MCPS transportation is 2:30 p.m. Students who do not ride MCPS buses may leave school when dismissed from their exams/culminating activities.

WJ Thrift

The annual Pennies for Patients fundraiser starts in less than a month. We are super excited to bring back WJ Thrift after its great success last year! However, we need your help. The proceeds of WJ Thrift depend on the amount of clothes donated by the community. This profit will go to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, a wonderful organization that helps children with cancer.

To donate, bring some used clothing to the WJ Main Office and put them in the box labeled “WJ Thrift.” Donations close on January 29th. Help us make a difference!

What is WJ Thrift?

WJ Thrift is a used clothes sale and it involves donated clothes within the community as well as clothing from shops. It is a two-day event on February 9th and 10th during lunch and after school until 6:30PM. Families are welcome to come after school because we will have clothes for all ages. This is a wonderful community event where you can benefit LLS and find cute clothes!

Thank you,

The Leadership Class


The third planning meeting for the Prom Breakfast Committee will be held on Monday, January 11th, 2016 at 7:30 pm in room 145.

Prom Breakfast is a great opportunity for parents to get involved at WJ, meet other parents, and help put on a fantastic party that is designed to keep our kids safe on promnight.

It takes over 100 volunteers to make the night happen, but before that, we need a Committee of dedicated parents to help plan fundraising, food, decorations, entertainment, prizes and volunteer coordinating. This committee is open to parents of all grade levels.

ALL committee positions are open. In other words, there is no committee yet.

Hope to see you there! If you cannot make the meeting but are interested in being on the committee, or have any questions, please email me.

Tonja Olson
Prom Breakfast Committee Chair


It is hard to believe the first semester of school is almost over! The first semester of this school year has been a successful one for the WJ Booster Club. With our increased membership we have been able to grant funding requests for the following groups: The Pitch, WJ Crew, Forensics, Mock Trial, Model UN, Baseball and Softball, WJ Ice Hockey and Athletics (football helmet reconditioning). And our volunteers have been hard at work making sure the concession stand is stocked and ready for all home sporting events, hanging banners in our stadium, making sure you and your child have the very coolest WJ gear to wear, keeping you up to date with home sporting events and updating you with info on our Facebook page. We are a busy group!

Please take the time to check out our website, it has information about membership, meetings, fundraising, our online store and how to reach board and committee members. WWW.WJBOOSTERCLUB.COM.

You will soon be hearing lots of information about our Used Book Sale, coming up March 5th and 6th. We need lots of volunteers to not only donate books but help to sort and sell them. Please look out on the list serve for ways you can volunteer. And mark your calendar for the Mulch Sale on Saturday, April 13th—more to come about that later this winter.

Please join us at our next meeting on Wednesday, January13th at 7:00PM where we will go over several funding requests and talk about the Sue Amos Scholarship fund that was started last year. Come share your thoughts and ideas.

And remember….It is NEVER too late to join Boosters!!

Melissa Keller

WJ All School Booster Club President


Wednesday, Jan. 13th, 7pm

Walter Johnson Media Center

The Booster Club meets in the media center the second Wednesday of every month. We welcome new parents and hope that you'll consider joining this dynamic group!

Time to send in your donations for the WJ Used Book Sale

The Booster Club Walter Johnson Used Book Sale is now accepting donations! You can drop off your books, vinyl records, CDs and DVDs at the loading dock behind the school ( 6400 Rock Spring Dr, Bethesda, MD) during school hours. We are also accepting donations at the cafeteria entrance from 9-11am on the following Saturdays: Jan. 9th and Feb. 6th and 20th. We still need some parents to help supervise our great student volunteers. Sign up here.

The sale will be Saturday, March 5th from 9-4 and Sunday March 6th from 9-3. Our buy a bag/box sale will be on Sunday (bag: $10 and box $15).

See you there!

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Wildcat Wrestling team wins the Big Train Tournament!

Counseling Advisory Committee

The Counseling Advisory Committee -- comprised of parents, students, counseling services staff, and administrators -- assists the Counseling Services Department and fosters communication among parents, students, and the department. The advisory committee sponsors parents' forums that provide information on academic and social issues to help WJ students succeed.

If you have missed any of the GAC events, you can obtain handouts from those meetings here on the Walter Johnson website.

Winter/Spring Meetings

2/1 - PSAT Testing Results Interpretation - 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

2/8 - Senior Class Parent Meeting - Graduation, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria
2/10 – Parent Coffee: College Admissions Testing – 7:45 a.m. - Commons

2/22 - Mock SAT Results Interpretation, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria
2/29 - College Planning and Prep for Students who Learn Differently, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

3/3 - Parent Connection for Students Who Learn Differently - 7:00 p.m. - Commons

3/7 - Colleges that Change Lives - 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

3/9 - "Naviance/Family Connections" Parent Coffee, 7:45 a.m. - Cafeteria

3/21 - "Naviance/Family Connections" Parent Meeting , 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

3/22 - Mock ACT Results Interpretation, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

4/18 – College Admissions Panel Night, 7:00 p.m. - Cafeteria

4/21 – Ten Things Professors Wish Every Freshman Knew, during lunch - Commons

Are you in crisis?

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide please reach out for 24/7 Crisis Support Crisis Text Line – Text "Start" to 741-741 Montgomery County 24 Hour Crisis Center: 240-777-4000 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255


WJ Crew will be holding their annual "Float our Boat" auction on March 19, 2016.

We are in need of auction donations! Auction donor benefits include:

  • Donations valued at $30 or more: Auction Catalog & WJ Crew Website
  • Donations valued at $200 or more: Auction Catalog, WJ Crew Website + Logo Hyperlink.

Catalog Deadline - February 20, 2016.

Please contact if you would like to donate.

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The Walter Johnson High Education Foundation, Inc.

The WJ Education Foundation had a successful fundraiser this fall, “Lights! Camera! Auction!” where parents and the community saw the movie, The Martian, bid on numerous silent auction items and enjoyed an evening out. We understand the Thursday night timing wasn’t great for some families and will continue to look for ways to make an event easier to attend. Our goal was to raise enough funds to purchase a Chromebook cart for use by the English Department, the event and an anonymous donation from a WJ parent exceeded our modest expectations. In addition, our late fall fundraising letter raised additional money. We also received over $4000 for our share of the proceeds from the Kensington 8K. All of these donations make a direct impact on students as the funds will go to fulfill requests that Mrs. Baker has for the school and individual departments. The WJ Ed Foundation thanks our donors, both those who can donate a lot from family foundations and those who do what they can with smaller donations.

The Engraved Brick Challenge Continues for the Class of 2016

The WJ Education Foundation has challenged the Class of 2016 to purchase more bricks in the Wildcat Walkway than any class before or after. There are over 530 seniors so we know that the goal to have at least 100 bricks purchased can easily be attained—the total purchased continues to climb. If the students and families of the Class of 2016 donate 100 engraved bricks, the Education Foundation will place a special brick in the walkway in honor of their achievement.

The bricks will be a permanent part of the WJ campus and a constant reminder of the greatness of the Class of 2016. We sell the engraved bricks throughout the year and install new bricks each summer. The proceeds from the brick sales go to support programs at the school for students and materials. If you’ve already purchased a brick for your family, please consider making a donation for a brick to thank a coach or staff member or to honor a club or team.

To contribute, go to the Education Foundation website at, or if you have questions, please write to Thank you!

You can find more information about the Foundation or access donation forms on our website,

Marney Jacobs

President, WJ ED Foundation


  • The School Store will be open at the 2016/17 Parent Information Night - Monday, Jan 11th 7-9pm.


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.


Check for more information and to see a sampling of our current inventory.
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.

Submit an Item for The Big Train Newsletter

The Big Train is the PTSA newsletter, posted online in September, January, and April. Deadlines are posted on the PTSA listserv.

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.


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

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.