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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Responses to Questions from the Board's Meeting with Student Leaders

Below are memoranda forwarded on behalf of the superintendent of schools regarding questions submitted by students at the Board of Education's recent meeting with student leaders.

The questions discuss: Portable Communication Devices, bullying, ESOL, Middle School Reform, and school lunch prices.

11.04.06 Port Comm Dev

11.04.06 Bullying Question

11.04.06 ESOL Program Question

11.04.06 MS Reform Plans

11.04.06 School Lunch Prices

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gazette: SMOB Voting Rights

Student board member voting bill running short on time
Measure running into Senate opposition again
by Alan Brody | Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation that would grant full voting rights to the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education passed the House of Delegates on Monday afternoon, but still faces resistance in the Senate.
The county's Senate delegation was considering taking up the bill Monday night, after The Gazette newsletter's deadline.
Several student government leaders appealed to the Senate delegation last week to pass the bill so it can be considered by the full chamber, but a vote on the measure was delayed. The House vote in favor of the measure was 92-39.
Student advocates have lobbied state lawmakers for two years to grant the student member of the board, who is elected to a one-year term by county middle and high school students, the right to vote on collective bargaining, budget actions, school closings and boundary decisions. Currently, they can register an opinion on those issues, but it does not count toward the overall vote.
Under the proposal, the student member would still be barred from weighing in on disciplinary matters involving teachers.
Montgomery County delegates overwhelmingly approved the legislation in early February, but several senators are hesitant to allow students the same voting privileges as members elected by countywide voters.
"These are great kids and they're really sincere and really competent, but this is undemocratic," said state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda.
The student member is largely elected by nonvoting residents who do not pay county taxes and therefore do not have the same perspective as adult members, he said. Students also should not have to endure contentious debates on redistricting that can even be difficult for adult members, Frosh added.
"The hardest part of our job here is to say no and you don't learn that before you graduate high school," he explained.
State Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville also is uncomfortable granting student members full voting rights, but said she would be amenable to extending their privileges to one or two categories.
The current student school board member, Alan Xie, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School, told senators last week that it's important for the student representative to have voting rights on all board decisions because they directly impact the student body.
"The presence of an informed and franchised student member strengthens board decisions," echoed Michael Hagan, a Damascus High School senior who is president of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, the statewide student government association.
Anne Arundel County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that grants full voting rights to its student school board member. Several other counties allow partial voting rights.
Staff writer Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.

SMOB Voting Rights Passes the House!

On March 26th, the House voted to pass HB 539 by a vote of 92 to 39. Congratulations to everyone who's worked so hard to lobby for this bill, and thanks so much to all of the Delegates who voted in favor of passing it! You are truly doing a service to the educational system in Montgomery County.

Now, we are waiting on Senate action. The bill underwent First Reading in the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 25th, and a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 5th at 1 PM.

The hearing will be located at 2 West Miller Senate Building, 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401-1991.  See this list for the complete schedule; it's important to note that the bills are listed may not be the order in which they're heard. Anyone wishing to testify should arrive in Annapolis and sign the witness register by 12 PM Noon. If you have written testimony, please submit 25 copies to committee staff by 12 PM Noon for distribution prior to the hearing. After 12 PM Noon, please submit testimony at the time that you testify. The Committee will receive testimony from its sponsors (Delegates Kaiser and Hucker), department, and limited proponents and opponents.

Please show up to provide support for the bill or deliver testimony!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Valerie Ervin on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Check out County Council President Valerie Ervin on the Kojo Nnamdi Show (88.5 FM). She's also a former Board of Education member.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Superintendent Search - Leadership Profile Report

For everyone who hasn't seen it, here's the Leadership Profile Report from HYA about the Superintendent Search. Stay tuned for more info!

This 21-page document summarizes public input about the search, with data disaggregated by stakeholder.

Superintendent Search Feedback                                                                                            

Friday, March 4, 2011

Potential Budget Reductions

Below is Dr. Weast's Revised Summary of Potential Budget Reductions.

Staffing Allocation March 4, 2011                                                                                            

Bethesda Magazine Interview with Dr. Weast

The Last Lessons of Jerry Weast

A question and answer session with the retiring superintendent of Montgomery County Public School.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Funding Our Children’s Future: The Right Thing to Do

Funding Our Children’s Future: The Right Thing to Do
February 18, 2011

Dear Friend of Montgomery County Public Schools:

On February 14, 2011, the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a $2.2 billion FY 2012 operating budget request for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Mindful of the economic climate, the Board adopted the minimum funding level mandated under the state’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law, which requires counties to fund education at the same per student level each year. In order for Montgomery County to meet MOE, it must increase local education funding by $82 million to address increased enrollment of more than 3,300 students. If the county fails to meet its minimum funding obligation under MOE, as a penalty, the school district may lose at least $22 million in additional state aid. The Board’s adopted budget request, which includes no new programs, will now be submitted to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council for consideration.

As a Board, we have been careful fiscal stewards. When there were federal stimulus dollars available, we were able to assist our county in closing the deficit. In the last two years alone, we have worked hand-in-hand with the county to waive $250 million dollars owed to MCPS. Over the past three years, MCPS has saved more than $300 million through budget cuts and expenditure controls. This has resulted in the loss of hundreds of positions, drastic reductions in central administrative services, and an increase of class size by an average of one student. In fact, MCPS is now spending $1,000 less per student this year (FY 2011) than it did last year.

The superintendent has released a sobering list of non-recommended cuts that amount to approximately $50 million. The Board has not taken action on specific cuts, but it is likely that we will need to make reductions before this budget is finalized. The challenge would be to make reductions that are not so deep that they do lasting damage to our schools. If we have to take the non-recommended cuts as proposed by the superintendent, the effect on direct delivery of instruction will be devastating. Regardless, every student in every school across the county will be affected by the reductions that are coming. We have concerns about the ability of the central office to manage the school system with the cuts being proposed. Some officials believe we can continue to absorb cut after cut without affecting student outcomes. They are wrong. Increases to class size, and cuts to counselors, paraeducators, special education and other teachers, special programs, sports, after-school activities, and other staff and programs will have devastating impacts that will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

The Board’s action on the budget followed the good news that Governor Martin O’Malley has recommended providing the school district with $37.2 million more in state aid than had been anticipated in the FY 2012 operating budget. These recommendations are needs-based and speak eloquently to how much Montgomery County has changed over the past decade; it is no longer the wealthy enclave that people think it is. The governor’s actions signal how much he appreciates the need to keep MCPS a top-functioning school system renowned for its commitment to academic success for all children. The Board thanks Governor O’Malley for standing by the children of Montgomery County at a time of great fiscal anxiety and exploding enrollment. Many more of the students coming to us are living in poverty and bring greater needs into the classroom than ever before.

Some County Council members have suggested that while they support the intent of the MOE law, its requirements should be relaxed in times of fiscal crisis. These suggestions come at a time when the federal stimulus dollars for public education have dried up and the state has signaled its intention to shift the cost of pensions to local school systems. The Board agrees that the MOE law should be amended—for different reasons. As currently written, if the County Council does not fund the school system at the maintenance of effort level, and a waiver is not granted, the penalty hits the schools’ budget directly, and penalizes our students twice. The Board intends to work with all the other school systems in Maryland to effect a change in this law in Annapolis. We salute our County Council and county executive for their past support of our school system. MCPS is a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education because of our community’s tradition of demanding and funding excellence in education. We ask our leaders to simply obey the law and fund our budget at the minimum MOE floor level. It is the right thing to do.


Christopher S. Barclay
President, Montgomery County Board of Education

For more information on the FY 2012 budget, visit our website.

Friday, February 11, 2011

SMOB Candidates

Today was the SMOB Nominating Convention, and there was a great turnout of middle and high school kids from all across the county. Several members of the Board of Education also provided comments.

The final two candidates for this year's SMOB election are Hal Zeitlin and me, and the election will take place on April 13th.

Check out each candidate's voter guide here:

Superintendent's Recommendation for Wheaton & Edison

Dr. Weast has recommended that Wheaton and Edison retain their separate identities, and that we identify program and budget efficiencies to help develop the unique programs at each school.

His specific suggestions regarding programs, the budget, and recruitment are below: