Whetstone Principal Wins Mark Mann Award
Loretta Woods, principal at Whetstone Elementary School in Gaithersburg, 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.
Woods is in her third year as principal at Whetstone. Born in Ghana, West Africa, Woods moved to the U.S. in her elementary years, and graduated from Paint Branch High School. She has been a teacher and staff development teacher, on a skillful teaching team and served as an assistant principal in MCPS.
She works with her staff to analyze data to determine strengths and needs of students. She gives effective feedback to improve instruction and facilitates conversations with staff about student performance. She has increased the numbers of Black and Hispanic students enrolled in enriched literacy curriculum, math 4/5 and math 5/6. Whetstone has received iPads for English Language Learners, and implemented DreamBox Learning to help all students with math.
She has a strong commitment to restorative justice and anti-racism. She has led the core and leadership teams in book studies, reading How To Be An Antiracist and Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain. Under her leadership, more than 30 staff members are formally trained in restorative justice and facilitating community circles.
She is committed to leading a school with a healthy climate. She appreciates staff with handwritten, individualized notes, food trucks and phone calls. She provides opportunities for teachers to lead meetings, professional development sessions and trainings. She supports student leadership by offering fifth graders the opportunity to apply for a job within the school; she even continued it in the virtual environment.
Woods has led several building improvement projects, including bathroom renovations (adding electronic hand dryers and ADA-compliant entrances); the replacement of ceiling and floor tiles; an upgrade to the staff lounge; and the installation of a secured fence around the perimeter of the school’s fields so that students can play safely at recess.
She advocated for Whetstone to receive Title I status, which allowed the school to offer community events, such as parent coffees, and literacy, math and STEM nights to bring families together. She partnered with local churches that donate clothing, backpacks and school supplies. Woods also worked with other community partners, including Walter Reed Medical Center to present information to families of children newly diagnosed with autism; Identity, which supports literacy growth for Hispanic students; and Excel Beyond the Bell, which provides after-school academic and enrichment support to students.
During her first year as principal, Woods organized a Back-to-School Bash instead of a traditional open house, allowing an opportunity for staff and families to connect on a more personal level. She organized a fifth grade virtual promotion ceremony, and spearheaded two of the PTA’s largest fundraisers—Bingo Night and the annual coin drive.