Board Approves School Boundary Change for Hampshire Greens Community, Discusses Special Education Issues, Makes Revisions to the Strategic Plan
The Board of Education met on Tuesday (July 17) and, among other items, discussed an update on the least restrictive environment for the instruction of students with disabilities, approved revisions to the strategic plan for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), approved a school boundary change for the Hampshire Greens community, and appointed five administrators. The Board also approved a temporary ground lease to the Damascus Historical Society, approved two Board committee appointments, and scheduled two forums on the strategic plan in the fall.
Update on Least Restrictive Environment
The Board discussed an updated report on the least restrictive environment (LRE) for the instruction of students with disabilities. The report affirmed the Board's commitment to advancing the academic success of students with disabilities using a variety of approaches and a continuum of services, mindful of providing instruction in the general education environment to the extent appropriate for student success. The percentage of students with disabilities in LRE settings within MCPS has increased and now approaches the Maryland state target of 60.11 percent. Discussion focused on the importance of early identification and intervention and the positive role of literacy education in the preschool years to avoid the need for ongoing specialized instruction. Also stressed was the importance of building the capacity of general and special educators through professional development. Efforts also are targeted to increasing opportunities for secondary students to have access to general education, providing outreach to schools through LRE grant activities, and using data and appropriate strategies to help address the continuing issue of overrepresentation of African American and Latino students identified as needing special education services. Cost implications of placements, from the least to most restrictive environment, also were discussed.
Middle School Boundary Recommendation for the Hampshire Greens Community
The Board voted to change the middle school assignment of the Hampshire Greens community from Francis Scott Key Middle School to Briggs Chaney Middle School. The decision follows a boundary study initiated by the Board, input from a Boundary Advisory Committee comprising community stakeholders, a public worksession in which two alternatives to the superintendent's recommendation to continue the current school assignment were offered by the Board, and a public hearing. The Board decision reflected a majority view of balancing demographic impact and geographic proximity in the school assignment. The change in assignment applies to all Hampshire Greens middle school students who will enter Grades 6 through 8 in the 2007-2008 school year; however, a liberal transfer policy will be used for rising seventh and eighth grade students who desire to continue their education at Francis Scott Key Middle School. The Board also voted to require a comprehensive cluster boundary study before any further requests for boundary changes would be considered.
Strategic Plan -- Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence
After making several alterations to the draft document, the Board approved a revised strategic plan for Montgomery County Public Schools, Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence. The revised document reflects ongoing stakeholder involvement and feedback during FY 2007. It incorporates final Board action on the FY 2008 Operating Budget and focuses on Board and school system priorities for the next several years. The Board added a new academic priority to the strategic plan: Develop, pilot, and expand improvements to secondary content, instruction and program that support students' active engagement in learning.
In addition, the Board modified an existing academic priority to read "Expand and deliver literacy-based initiatives from prekindergarten through Grade 12 to support student achievement." Other revisions include a new section entitled "Strategies Implemented since 1991," reduction in the amount of text in the document, and a complete revision of Goal 3, "Strengthen Productive Partnerships for Education." Changes in Goal 3 reflect feedback from stakeholders; benchmarking with other school systems nationwide; and new milestones, data points, and strategic initiatives that give a clearer picture of the progress being made in engaging all stakeholder groups.
Public Forums to Be Held in the Fall
The Board scheduled two forums in the fall to elicit public comment concerning the operation of MCPS and to guide the Board in its development of its budget and further revision to the strategic plan. It is anticipated that forums will be held in different geographic locations on September 20 and October 11. The Board encourages all members of the community to attend and provide feedback on the areas in which the school system is doing well and the areas that need improvement.
The Board approved the following administrative appointments:
Christine Handy Collins, currently principal, Colonel Richardson High School, Federalsburg, Maryland, as principal, Gaithersburg High School
Martin M. Creel, currently acting director, Division of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs, as director, Department of Enriched and Innovative Programs, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs
E. Grace Chesney, currently acting supervisor, Testing Unit, Department of Shared Accountability, as supervisor, Testing Unit, Department of Shared Accountability
Rosie M. Ramirez, currently coordinator, Special Initiatives, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs, as administrative assistant, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs
Grace Hotchkiss Scarano, currently visiting faculty, Center for Mathematics Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Maryland, as program coordinator, Middle/High School Mathematics, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs
Ground Lease Proposal for the Damascus Heritage Society
The Board approved a temporary ground lease at no cost to the Damascus Heritage Society for the use of the Oak Drive Elementary School site as a temporary museum designed to preserve the history of Damascus, promote related community activities, and serve as an educational resource for the county¡¦s public schools. The Society plans to host an historical field trip annually so that students in middle and high school can learn about Damascus' history from the museum's displays of artifacts and memorabilia.
Appointment to the Policy Committee
Ben Moskowitz, student member of the Board of Education, was appointed to serve as the fourth full member of the Board's Policy Committee.
Appointment to the Communications and Public Engagement Committee
Ben Moskowitz also was appointed to serve as the fourth full member of the Board's Communications and Public Engagement Committee.