Author Archives: Taylor

Get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations!

Is there something you’d love to chat about? “Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Conversations” is the Equity Committee’s monthly opportunity for us to gather, chat and learn about a predetermined topic. Virtual conversations are held the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30, beginning this Tuesday, October 5! 

Think you’d like to lead a group? Let us know! We love diverse perspectives and believe that it’s not really a conversation if everyone already agrees with each other.

Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Conversations

Oct 5: Religion at HES
Nov 2: Navigating School with a Special Needs Child
Dec 7: Identity-First vs. People-First Language
Jan 11: The LGBTQIA+ Environment at Hillcrest
Feb 1: Topic TBD
Mar 1: Why Intersectionality Matters
Apr 5: Topic TBD
May 3: Topic TBD

Thank You, Hillcrest!

It’s not even a week into the new school year, and we’ve already accomplished so much. Thanks to the organizational finesse of a few parents and the generosity of the entire Hillcrest community, we have managed to secure a HEPA filtration unit for each grade-level and special-area classroom in the building. While not every filter is in place yet, by next week they should all be installed and functioning.

The decision to undertake this effort was driven in part by anxiety, yes — sending our kids back to school before most of them are old enough to be vaccinated is not a decision made lightly, no matter how badly they need to be with their peers — but mostly by science. Effective COVID-19 mitigation protocols like face masks and hand sanitizer have been in place at Hillcrest since last spring, but a recent study by Johns Hopkins concluded that the addition of HEPA filtration in individual classrooms was effective and recommended.

While we have succeeded in purchasing all of the required units for the school, there will still be necessary maintenance ahead. In six month, every unit will need to have its internal filter replaced to continue functioning optimally.

If you have already donated to this incredibly important initiative, thank you! If you have not, but would like to, you can donate through the usual Invest in Hillcrest channels: Venmo (@hillcrest-PTA), PayPal, or personal check (mail to Hillcrest PTA / 1500 Frederick Road / Catonsville MD 21228). If you use Venmo, please include your name, email address, and a note specifying that the donation is for HEPA filters; if you use PayPal, please put “HEPA filter” in the note; and if you send a check, please email us to let us know to earmark the funds.

This is an exceptional start to what promises to be an unpredictable, wonderful year. Again, thank you!

Congratulations to Our Hedgie Gear Design Contest Winners!

We received so many wonderful entries: there’s obviously a lot of Hedgie love out there. Though the judges had a difficult time choosing which entries most stood out, choose they did. The votes have been counted and we are thrilled to announce the winners of our first (but hopefully not last) Hedgie Gear design contest!

Sam Parezo (Kindergarten, Ms. Beard)
Michelle Portillo (Second Grade, Ms. Meyers)
Quinn Weber (Fourth Grade, Ms. Cameron)
Josie Fenzel (First Grade, Ms. Engler)
Delaney Robey (Third Grade, Ms. Neal)
Mia Wilde (Fifth Grade, Mr. Donovan)

Thank you to everyone who submitted a design. We can wait to see what you come up with for next year’s contest! Winners, please email with your t-shirt size. These designs will be available in our shop in mid-June.

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Us

When “Asian Cast Member” Bowen Yang took a seat at the Weekend Update desk on Saturday Night Live and implored people to “do more” in the face of anti-Asian hate crimes, he didn’t just mean donate money to the Asian Community Assistance Association gofundme campaign. (Though do so by all means, if you’re able to and feel so inclined.)

There are a lot of ways to “do more,” and in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’ve compiled some suggestions here. 

You can learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history. Time Magazine has compiled a collection of milestones; and has curated a wealth of resources from collections at The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and more. 

If you’re looking to tackle the subject of the AAPI experience with children, there’s a lesson plan for that.

If you like your education to be less formal, you can check out the StoryCorps collection of AAPI voices, or Vanity Fair’s list of podcasts by AAPI creators.

Would you rather just immerse yourself in tales spun by AAPI authors? The LA Times has a list for you; so does Mental Floss. Strictly a sci-fi fan? There’s a list for you, too!

Looking to do something in our local community? Baltimore Magazine has some ideas (some events have already passed, but the list of AAPI-owned restaurants is worth a look). You could check out Baltimore’s own Asian Pasifika Arts Collective; tour the Walters’ Asian Art collection; learn about the Jhu Yong Han Lion Dance troupe at JHU; or check out Towson University’s Asian Arts & Culture Center.

And make sure to keep an eye on the Chinatown Collective!

However you want to do it, it’s important to acknowledge the history and contributions of AAPI communities this month, especially considering the current social climate.

Meet with Ms. Ramos!

Ms. Ramos, Hillcrest’s Acting Principal, is hosting two meetings on Wednesday, May 19. The first meeting will take place from 9:00-9:30 a.m. and the second from 6:00-6:30 p.m., via Google Meet.

These will be informal question-and-answer sessions for families. Anyone interested in joining should log in with the Meet code Ramoschat2021.

What Is “Work to Rule” Anyway?

Beginning today, April 22, BCPS teachers have agreed to participate in a Work to Rule initiative. This means that teachers will only work according to the stated rules of their contract. Instead of coming early and staying late as they usually do, teachers will walk into the building at 8:30 and leave at 3:45. There will be no return emails, Talking Points or phone calls outside of school hours. The goal is to send a message to the Board of Education and Central Office of BCPS that teachers deserve better, and our families deserve better, than the constant “pivoting” without consideration for what that means to staff and students.

The PTA does not have an official stance on the Work to Rule action, but we do support our teachers and staff. We trust that they act in the best interest of the students and families they serve. If you feel the same, now might be a good time to share those feelings. You can also support our teachers by understanding that the constant communication that most of us have become accustomed to is yet another “above and beyond” task that our teachers voluntarily take on in order to support their students.

Here’s a little more about what the BCPS teachers union is looking for:

  • The union wants internet issues resolved.
  • Teachers want to be reimbursed for 100 minutes of planning time lost during two days of no internet access.
  • The union wants more information regarding the January data breach.
  • Teachers said that when school opens to four days a week, they are seeking an option of one teacher dedicated to virtual learning and another for in-person instruction.
  • The teachers want clarity regarding 122 teaching positions lost during the pandemic.

It is important to note that Hillcrest teachers are participating in this action in solidarity with the entire BCPS school district. This is not necessarily a statement directed at Hillcrest.

I think we can all agree that teachers have been nothing short of heroic over the past 13 months. Now more than ever, teachers are in need of our support. In addition to respecting the teachers’ work to rule schedules right now, here are some other ways to show appreciation:  

  • ask your child to write a thank you note to their teacher
  • send a virtual gift card for coffee or lunch
  • send a simple email telling them why you are thankful for them (and copy Ms. Ramos & Ms. Shortt)
  • ask if they need any books or supplies for the classroom
  • HERE is a list of the teacher favorites collected by our amazing Hillcrest Front Office Staff

You can also submit something for our Staff Appreciation video:

  • a picture of your child holding hand-drawn poster with a message for entire staff or a specific teacher
  • a picture of your child wearing Hedgie Gear
  • a short video of your child singing a song of thanks or reading a poem they made (roughly 10-60 seconds)
  • a picture of a notecard with a message to teacher or the entire staff

Remember, this video is for the entire Hillcrest staff in addition to classroom teachers. All submissions must be submitted by April 30, 2021.

And finally, if you’d like to share your support for the teachers beyond the halls of Hillcrest, here is some additional contact information for the district and state:

Keep Hillcrest Green!

Earth Day is this Thursday, April 22nd, and BCPS has organized a Virtual Earth Day event for schools to get involved. The Green 60 is a contest where students to submit videos or pictures of activities they participated in that promote caring for the Earth, and their school will be awarded points based on those submissions.

To participate, use your BCPS account to upload photos, videos, and/or artwork to the Google Drive here. Don’t forget to Tweet a picture of your Earth Day activity with the hashtag #BCPSGreen60 to @BCPSOutdoorSci, and most especially to @HESCourtard. Hillcrest’s Green School certification is up for renewal next year and participation in BCPSGreen60 is a great way to show our commitment to a green school!

In honor of Earth Day, the PTA Environmental Committee is also encouraging those interested to help the environment and our community by cleaning up litter in neighborhoods, parks, and other areas throughout the rest of April. Trash bags and gloves are available for porch pick-up at 744 Edmondson Ave. and 406 Montrose Ave. If you need supplies and are unable to pick them up, please email and we will get them safely to you! 

Please remember to stay safe when cleaning up. Wear your masks and maintain social distancing, wear gloves and wash you hands when you are done, wear high-visibility clothing if you will be near traffic, and never touch anything that may be dangerous (sharp objects, chemicals, etc.).

Don’t forget, when we’re talking about protecting our planet, every little bit helps. There is no Planet B!

The Equity Committee Has a Diversity Problem

As many of you know, the Hillcrest Elementary PTA has an active Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Not quite two years old, we’ve focused much of our energy and activity on the Equity piece of our work. We host a monthly discussion group to tackle issues like systemic racism and cultural appropriation; have formed a student advisory board to develop student leadership skills and to help identify equity issues in our school and community; and we work to provide the Hillcrest community with relevant training opportunities (Bystander Intervention, Leveraging Privilege, etc.). 

We’re proud of what we’ve done so far, but it’s time to explore the Diversity and Inclusion mantles of our group more deeply. This is a problem, because our committee doesn’t include enough diversity. With a handful of exceptions, the work we do is driven by white women. A quick glance at our student population will tell you that is not a representative sample. We are committed to ensuring an equitable experience for our entire school community, but we need more windows into that community.

What issues are important to our students and families? What languages are spoken in Hillcrest’s hallways? What cultural traditions or holidays should we be aware of? What can we do to better serve our school?

We are always happy to welcome any new members to our committee. As we begin to prepare for the next school year, we’d especially love to become a committee whose active members are more reflective of the school we serve, and more in touch with its entire community.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, joining our team, or offering feedback or insight, please email