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Sikh Community honors the top Leaders of Education and Law in Montgomery County, Maryland, USA

December 3, 2013 | By

Washington, USA (December 3, 2013): Dr. Joshua P. Starr, Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools and J. Thomas Manger, Chief of Police of the Montgomery County, one of the large counties of the Washington metro area, became the first recipients of ‘Guru Nanak Community Service Award’.

Dr. Joshua Starr being honored by members of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation. From left to right: Chattar Singh Saini, Inderjit Singh, Inderpaul Singh Gadh, Ravi Singh, Dr. Starr, Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, Dr. Sukhminder Kaur, Rani Kaur Sawhney, Harminder Singh Jassal, Dr. Harminder Kaur, Dr. Harvinder Singh and Dr. Sarabjit Kaur

Dr. Joshua Starr being honored by members of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation. From left to right: Chattar Singh Saini, Inderjit Singh, Inderpaul Singh Gadh, Ravi Singh, Dr. Starr, Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, Dr. Sukhminder Kaur, Rani Kaur Sawhney, Harminder Singh Jassal, Dr. Harminder Kaur, Dr. Harvinder Singh and Dr. Sarabjit Kaur

The award was launched by Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, an active Sikh Gurdwara institution in Washington area, in the name of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, at his birth Anniversary. Montgomery County houses a large contingent of federal employees but also has a sizable Indian and Sikh population. It is now home for four Sikh Gurdwaras and almost one third of 25000 Sikhs residing in Maryland live in this County.

Inderpaul Singh, Chairman of GGSF said, “Keeping in mind that Guru Nanak laid down the foundation of Sikhism based on service to community and sharing ones gifts with others, GGSF decided to recognize these two individuals for their contributions benefiting the Montgomery County community and we are delighted that they are the first recipients of the Guru Nanak Community Service Award “

The plaque given to Dr. Starr read: “Developing strategic plans and focusing on issues that align with community needs in the 21st century and creating opportunities for success of students and staff of the Montgomery County Public Schools”.

Thomas Manger’s plaque read:” Dedication and Commitment to the highest ethical standards in policing and your contributions towards civil right issues and accountability in the Police department.”

Joshua P. Starr began his tenure as Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) on July 1, 2011 catering the needs of over 150,000 students in the county. Dr. Starr has worked collaboratively with staff, students, and the community to develop academic excellence, creative problem solving, and social emotional learning. This resulted in the Board of Education of Montgomery County passing in June this year a new Strategic Planning Framework that aligned with these focus points. Dr. Starr has also worked hard to engage staff, students, parents, and community members in conversations about education in a variety of ways, including student and parent town hall meetings, book clubs, podcasts, television, and the use of social media. The passing number of students is over 87 % and attendance is over 95% in the County.

J. Thomas Manger has been Chief of Police, Montgomery County, MD since February 2004. Chief Manger is credited with reorganizing and expanding the Police Department’s Community Policing efforts. His commitment to the highest ethical standards for policing and his enactment of new policies to increase departmental accountability earned significant recognition from the community, including the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission Award for outstanding contributions, and the N.A.A.C.P.’s Community Service Leadership Award. In 2012, Chief Manger was inducted into the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame.

In Tom’s absence, Commander Fenner received this award on his behalf. Chief Tom Manger noted “Thank you very much for the Community Service Award. I am sorry that I was unable to attend the service, but please know that your recognition means a great deal to me. I appreciate all the wonderful work that the GGSF does every day. I look forward to our continued partnership.” His representative Commander Fenner even offered that Police Department is open for any employment opportunities for South Asians and Sikhs.

On the morning of Guru Nanak’s birthday celebration started with Nagar Kirtan (community chanting religious hymns while moving from parking lot to the front of GGSF Gurdwara), and followed by Gatka (Sikh martial arts) performance. The main service then began inside the Gurdwara with youth performing the kirtan and speeches celebrating the life of Guru Nanak. This was followed by kirtan and sermon by Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, the head Grathi of GGSF, and a special classical kirtan by visiting raagi Bhai Manpreet Singh from New Jersey.

Dr. Joshua Starr and Commander Fenner joined the congregation in the celebration and listened to the melodious kirtan sitting alongside everyone. This was Dr. Starr’s first visit to a Sikh gurdwara while Commander Fenner now feels quite at home, having visited GGSF a few times and having joined the community in the langar (community kitchen) as well.

Ravi Singh, coordinator of Outreach committee of GGSF, said, “As we look to our future, we felt that it was important to recognize the leaders in our community who are working to create an environment that will prepare our next generations to be caring, compassionate and productive citizens of our society. Dr. Starr and Chief Manger are those leaders who through their leadership, position and their office are creating that environment for our society and are well deserving for the first Guru Nanak Community Award.”

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Secretary of GGSF, requested Dr. Starr to institute an effective program to teach about various faiths and their practices in the County school system. He said, “We are truly proud of the school systems where our kids feel supported by various mechanisms and we also feel secure in the County due to effective policing system which is for the most part just. By giving a safe and loving environment to our kids and families, we are creating a better future for our coming generations and for the entire nation. So we are thankful to Dr. Starr and also to Chief Manger for these basic and essential services that they are providing to all.”

Sikh community for the most part is doing well in the County and majority of the members are professionals and business owners. GGSF has been working with various administrations of the County for number of years. Ike Legget, the County Executive has visited various Sikh gatherings to express support to the community.

Hana Kaur Mangat, an 8th grader at Hoover Middle School in the County, said, “We, the kids would love to work with him in order to further diversity teaching in our schools. I think that Dr. Starr is doing a good job of making diversity teaching apart of the curriculum, but further actions need to be taken in order to make sure it is taught thoroughly and effectively. Also, I think that diversity teaching would be more effective if a kid’s perspective and opinion was taken in consideration.”

Dr. Harminder Kaur, working with the Sikh kids at GGSF, said, “I think that just simply by coming to our Gurdwara, Dr. Starr demonstrated that he is committed to ensuring that the Sikh community is fully included in Montgomery County. We too are committed to assist the school systems in any way possible to make it a safe and loving environment for our kids to learn.”

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