Educators often say there is no silver bullet for school reform. But most school officials would agree that finding, nurturing and keeping high-quality teachers is a top goal -- maybe the top goal -- as they seek to answer the federal call to leave no children behind.

To that end, the Prince George's County public schools last month made some advances. Twenty, to be precise. That's the number of teachers who joined an elite club, earning certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The certification process, administered by the Arlington-based board, is intensive. Teachers are required to assemble a portfolio of classroom videotapes, student work and other information demonstrating the vitality and effectiveness of their instruction. They are also required to take tests to show mastery of subjects and teaching methods.

Prince George's teachers who cleared the high bar include Cynthia Ballard Peil of John Hanson Montessori and French Immersion School, Michael Slott of Oxon Hill High School, Sharan Blohm of the county's Office of Library Media Services, Freda Perry of G. James Gholson Middle School, Leanne Marie Jennings of William Paca Elementary School, Elaine Frances Oakes of Bond Mill Elementary School, Ruth Rhone of Suitland High School, Talitha Simeona-Moon of Beltsville Elementary School, Amy Evans of Rockledge Elementary School, Sheri Lyn Inman of Surrattsville High School, William Moulden of Samuel Ogle Middle School, Melissa Lyn Alfano of Margaret Brent School, Barbara Hughes of High Point High School and Stacye Tysarczyk of Montpelier Elementary School.

Two are from Parkdale High School: Ayana English-Brown and Bianca Johnson. Four are from Eleanor Roosevelt High School: Ninette Beheler, Kenneth Bernstein, Yau-Jong Twu and Maya Yamada.

Prince George's now has 54 teachers certified by the national board. By comparison, Montgomery County has 224 and Maryland 660 overall.

The teachers are expected to be recognized tonight in Upper Marlboro at a Board of Education awards program.

Awards, Continued

More honors from the school board: The runners-up to Charles H. Flowers High School Principal Helena Nobles-Jones for the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award (whose recipient is chosen by the county system, not the newspaper) were principals Judy Dent of Patuxent Elementary School, Lisa Farabaugh of Port Towns Elementary School, Debra Hatton of Carmody Hills Elementary School, Saundra Carr of Tayac Academy, Cynthia Rodgers of Princeton Elementary School, David Scuccimarra of Tulip Grove Elementary School and Linda Sherwood of Springhill Lake Elementary School. . . . Frances Joy, a volunteer at Brandywine Elementary School, received a 30-year Volunteer Service Award. . . . Student Katrina Bello of Eleanor Roosevelt High got a Washington Post Music and Dance Scholarship Award. . . . Roosevelt High students Allison Bailey, Imogen Davidson White, Sudesna Lakshman, Michael Murchison, Susannah Reed and Thomas Schwenn are National Merit Scholar semifinalists.

Later Date for Boundaries Vote

Last week, school board Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro) announced a probable date of Jan. 19 for voting on new elementary school boundaries in the county's northwestern corridor and on new high school boundaries in the southern and central sectors. That's a month later than originally planned, an acknowledgment of the public rumbling in some quarters over proposed school attendance boundaries. Parents in the University Park Elementary School zone oppose a proposal to reshape their school population; others in the Lake Arbor neighborhood oppose a plan to move their children from Flowers High to Largo High.

Want to Run? Here's Training

Calling all candidates: A group called Citizens for an Elected Board is planning a candidate training symposium Jan. 6 and 7 at the University of Maryland in College Park for prospective school board candidates as the county prepares for elections next year. Information: electedboard@aol.com or 301-464-5168.

School Plan Draws Criticism

Last week, some school board members complained that they were shut out of the County Council's sudden decision to make a new high school in south Bowie a high priority.

Before the council action Nov. 29, the site of the potential 1,800-student school on Mitchellville Road had not been listed recently as a possibility for relieving high school crowding in the county's northern half.

Board member John R. Bailer (Camp Springs), not known for verbal outbursts, said the construction plan approved by the county was "sort of a take-it-or-leave-it, gun-to-our-head proposal, and I'm not happy with it." He voted against an emergency board measure to ratify the plan. Board members Abby L.W. Crowley (Greenbelt) and Judy Mickens-Murray (Upper Marlboro) abstained. "There is no equity here," Mickens-Murray said, questioning why Bowie won the prize.

The rest of the board, led by Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro), voted for the plan.

"The reality is, it's the county government that funds these schools," said board member Robert O. Duncan (Laurel).