School leaders who tout community partnerships sometimes find that their would-be helpers are long on talk and short on action.

But Sharif Salim, a principal entering his second year at Samuel P. Massie Elementary School in Forestville, has tangible proof that business and property owners in his neighborhood want his school to succeed.

First, there was a path-breaking deal brokered by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) to get five Massie teachers free rent at Forest Creek Apartments in exchange for a commitment to mentor children there at an after-school homework center.

Then there were all the donations: school uniforms, basketball uniforms, school supplies, gift certificates, breakfast, dinners, coffee and tea, concert and Wizards tickets and tutorial help. Among many sponsors, Salim said, were Target, Starbucks, Golden Skillet, Giant, McDonald's and IHOP franchises, and the local Rotary Club.

Salim estimated the value of the donations in the 2004-05 school year at $22,000 to $25,000. But the school, which will start its third year in August, got a morale boost worth even more, Salim said.

"I just asked, and they came forward," Salim said of his sponsors, many of which are in nearby shopping centers along Pennsylvania Avenue. "There's been an overwhelming outpouring. It allows me to reach out to the children without always dipping into my pocket or school funds."

Now he wants to lift student achievement. Test scores climbed at the school this year, but the state says it still needs improvement.

Pressing Ahead on Gym Funding

Last week, the Prince George's County Board of Education unanimously approved the latest plan to find funding for a controversial 5,000-seat gymnasium at a high school under construction in Upper Marlboro.

The county government has refused to provide about $6.5 million needed for the high-capacity gym. Critics said it was an extravagance amid other pressing needs. But the school system has forged ahead, and the school and its gym are now more than half-built.

Now the school board proposes to borrow the $6.5 million from a lending institution and repay it over time through county appropriations, said Jim Beall, the system's management and operations officer.

The first installment requested by the board would be for $1.46 million.

It remains to be seen whether the County Council will agree to the plan.

One of the critics, school activist Donna Hathaway Beck, called the gym project irresponsible.

New Assistant Superintendent

It's still unknown who will replace departed schools chief Andre J. Hornsby. As of Tuesday, the school board had not spelled out a search process. But other elements of the senior leadership are falling into place.

Janice Briscoe, a 19-year school system veteran who began as a special-education teacher, is the new regional assistant superintendent in the county's southwestern sector. She will oversee Crossland, Friendly, Oxon Hill and Potomac high schools. Her middle schools will be Benjamin Stoddert, G. Gardner Shugart, Oxon Hill, Thurgood Marshall, John Hanson French Immersion and Montessori, and Isaac J. Gourdine. Briscoe replaces Joan Brown, who retired.