Ashburton Principal Wins Mark Mann Award
Greg Mullenholz, principal at Ashburton Elementary School in Bethesda, is this year’s winner of the Mark Mann Excellence and Harmony Award.
The Mark Mann award is presented annually to an MCPS administrator who has shown exceptional performance in promoting academic excellence, positive human relations and community outreach.
Mullenholz has been principal at Ashburton since July 2015. He has been called a thoughtful, transparent and approachable leader for the largest elementary school in MCPS.
He knows that the key to academic excellence is supporting teachers to be the best they can be. Mullenholz builds in time for teachers in the same grade to meet for 75 minutes a week to plan lessons. He allocated funds for teams to have half-day substitutes so they could plan and participate in professional development together. He works with teachers to analyze student data, problem solve and provide strategies when they are unsure how to approach a particular situation.
You might find Mullenholz donning an apron and chef hat while cooking up pancakes for a staff appreciation breakfast or on his knees fixing a copier. He takes song requests for the beginning of staff meetings. His door is always open and he’s always ready for feedback. He cultivates an environment that values all children and is unwavering in its dedication to students reaching their full potential.
Ashburton has a strong special education team in part due to Mullenholz’s guidance. He connected with anxious parents; supported staff when they were learning additional requirements that went along with IEPs during virtual learning; and developed a Student Well-Being Team to work toward success for all students.
He recognizes that non-traditional learning opportunities contribute to academic success. He supports several for Ashburton—an after-school needs-based homework club, an enclosed outdoor garden and a partnership with the KID Museum that has brought Maker learning into classrooms.
His “trust in staff and support for teachers to create unique programs has been especially beneficial to students and the school,” wrote teacher Erin Burrell. “He thinks first about what would benefit the school and then figures out the logistics to make it work.”
He also has a strong commitment to anti-racism work. He received special permission from the school district to bring “This Book Is Anti-Racist” to students, and held monthly anti-racism Professional Learning Community meetings during virtual learning that all building staff could attend.
At the beginning of each school year, he shows dedication to his community with a simple but important step: learning the names of up to 200 new students, and is a regular at dropoff and pickup to greet families. He participates in the dunk tank at the PTA’s annual Spring Fling; engages in science experiments during STEM Night; reads stories at the book fair; and runs in the annual Girls on the Run 5K.
Throughout the pandemic, he went above and beyond to keep the community informed, sending out weekly newsletters to families; holding frequent virtual town halls to review news and answer questions; and made time for one-on-one phonecalls with parents. When recent labor and supply-chain shortages caused havoc with the school’s buses and lunches, he developed online bus and lunch dashboards where parents could find the most current information.
Remote and hybrid learning were an opportunity for him to showcase his ability to bring staff and students together. He ran staff meetings that were purposeful, efficient and fun. He popped into classrooms with a snack cart for teachers. He covered math classes so teachers could get necessary planning time. He martialed a core staff team that worked to address any teacher concern about availability of materials, student well-being or technical issues. When he realized his students were experiencing Zoom fatigue, he Zoomed into classes from the school’s roof. Along with staff, he produced a TV show three times a week that had him going out in the rain to present the weather and eating doughnuts with his own children for National Eat a Doughnut Day.
“What sets him apart is his unique constellation of many special traits that he uses, in ways big and small, to help the many people whose lives he touches,” wrote parent Carolyn Weiss.
Before joining Ashburton, Mullenholz was the assistant principal and principal intern at Maryvale Elementary School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision, and is an adjunct professor at Mount St. Mary’s University School of Education.