Northwood High will reopen with decades-old donation
May 26, 2004
Erin Uy
Staff Writer

Funds were raised in the '80s to keep school from closing

It was about 20 years ago when Stanley Ehrlich of Silver Spring lost his fight to keep Northwood High School open.

Ehrlich, then president of the Northwood High PTA and father of two children who attended the school, was part of Northwood Community Solidarity, an organization dedicated to keeping the school open. The organization fought relentlessly through lobbying and fund raising projects to convince the county and state boards of education that closing Northwood in 1985 due to low enrollment was a mistake based on inaccurate projections.

Defeated, Ehrlich and those in the organization shelved their ideas and, along with them, thousands of dollars they raised to keep the school open.

Last week, Ehrlich returned to Northwood to welcome its reopening this fall with a donation of $8,500 -- the money raised and saved by Northwood Community Solidarity nearly 20 years ago.

"We wanted to keep it for a few years until we found a suitable place to donate it to, and lo and behold, before we could think of anything else, they [re]opened it," Ehrlich said.

Silver Spring resident Henry Johnson, principal for new Northwood High School on University Boulevard, said the money will be invested in the school's media center and dedicated to the late Bobby J. Mullis, the last principal at Northwood. Remaining money will be spent under the advisory of Northwood Community Solidarity.

"I'm glad they were able to now use that money to preserve at least part of the history of the school," Johnson said.

A portion of the media center will include artifacts that showcase the history of Northwood, which first opened in 1956. Books and other commemorative materials will be dedicated in Mullis' name.

After it closed, Northwood was eventually used as a holding school for small organizations and county schools that were undergoing renovations.

When the school reopens in the fall as part of a new grouping of high schools, the Downcounty Consortium, it will have a freshman class of about 300 students. Johnson said he hopes to generate interest in the school's history.

Johnson said he is impressed with the dedication of the former Northwood parents, students and teachers who have kept the school in their minds all these years. He said he has never encountered such a strong school community.

Silver Spring resident Dan Kulpinski, a member of the last graduating class at Northwood, remembers lobbying at Board of Education meetings for the school, and covering rallies and fund-raisers for the school newspaper. The community was convinced that, despite projections by the Board of Education, population in the area would shoot up and Northwood would be needed again by the late 1990s or soon after.

"And that's what is happening now," he said.

Northwood was one of the smaller schools in the region and Kulpinski said the community developed an "underdog" mentality that brought them closer together, especially when the threat of closure loomed.

"It was our community school," Kulpinski said. "There was a big tradition of the community of going to Northwood and going to support activities, sports [and] drama."

The closing was a disappointing loss, said Margaret Kerr of Silver Spring, who was an active PTA member when her son attended Northwood. Her son attended the school until his junior year and then transferred to Springbrook High School when Northwood closed.

"We were very impressed with the school during the time there," said Kerr about the camaraderie of the students and quality of the staff. "We didn't want to see it go."

While Kerr is not sure how Northwood will now develop, she said she is happy to see the money used to resurrect it. "Years passed and we just kept the funds, and now we can give it back to the school where it came from," Kerr said.

Ehrlich said he feels some satisfaction that the school is reopening, a likely indication that they won the fight after all.

"We came up with statistics that supported keeping it opened, and it looks like we may have been right," he said.

The late nights at board meetings and letter campaigns are all in the past, and Ehrlich is now working to see what positive outcomes can be made from all their efforts.

"We are ecstatic," he said. "We are sure the community will react in the same way."