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Community Conversations → Summary of Public Input →  2009 → 2009 Forum Summary

2009 Forum Summary

The Board of Education held two community forums on the strategic plan and the operating budget on September 17, and October 15, 2009, at Quince Orchard High School and John F. Kennedy High School, respectively.

A total of 54 community leaders and individuals signed up to speak before the Board; 18 on September 17, and 36 on October 15, 2009.  There were a total of 140 attendees at both of the forums.  Videos and electronic copies of the testimony are also available on the Board’s website. In reviewing the testimonies, eleven themes were identified and they are summarized below review:

After-School Activities

  • Invest in after-school clubs for fun learning activities.
  • Continue funding youth development programs for at-risk youth.
  • Sensitize principals about the worth of after-school programs.
  • Ensure that activity providers have access to school-related data for schools they serve.

Building Capacity

  • Organize/optimize land and other resources to build additional school capacity.
  • Modernize Paint Branch, Gaithersburg, Wheaton, and Seneca Valley high schools to improve morale and make learning attractive.

 Class Size and Groupings

  • Maintain small class sizes.
  • Assess the need of each individual student.
  • Address oversized classes in over-utilized schools.
  • Maintain discrete grade-level classes by reducing or eliminating combination classes.
  • Regroup students for homogeneous reading and writing for more focused instructional time.

Curriculum and Instructional Programming

  • Phase in the Seven Keys criteria as the new standard for an “on-grade-level” curriculum; ensure that the Seven Keys is a realistic set of goals for students.
  • Reassess speed and sustainability of curriculum reforms.
  • Focus on education in the early years; provide early intervention – focus funding on Head Start and Pre-K (Rolling Terrace ES).
  • Provide less online teaching; rely more on text books.
  • Financial literacy should be a priority.
  • Invest in fine arts and physical education.
  • Provide writing instruction.
  • Teach a second language and music at an earlier age.
  • Provide more full language immersion.

Communications and Parent Involvement

  • Ensure that families with limited English skills/computer access stay involved with their students’ academic progress; find creative ways for all parents to monitor their students’ progress.
  • Encourage Asian American parent involvement.
  • Provide more ESOL parent community coordinators.
  • Provide resources and staff for effective communication with non-English speaking families.
  • Continue to fund ESOL services.

Gifted and Talented and Special Programs

  • Fund programs that help to provide students with enrichment opportunities.
  • Provide challenging material for our highly able students.
  • Maintain funding for the Blair magnet program.
  • Provide competitive programs for highly-able students in elementary school, middle school, and high school; changing the GT program is of concern–fund the GT program.
  • Provide support for the College Institute Program at Gaithersburg High School.
  • Continue funding the Loiederman Middle School programs.
  • Maintain the high school academies in the Downcounty Consortium.
  • Provide enhanced academic programs in middle schools.

Ideas for Savings

  • Share personnel vacancies among cluster elementary schools (e.g., when one school ends up with a .2 intervention vacancy and another school ends up with a .2 focus vacancy, and so on, they can pool those vacancies and share the position).
  • Eliminate global screening.
  • Create some innovative partnerships with other county departments and share resources.

Safety and Security

  • Secure the school buildings to eliminate gang recruitment and provide safety for the children; improve safety at recess and limit building access.
  • Update and modernize the schools to improve upon safety and security features.
  • Install a Visitor Management System in all our schools.
  • Continue initiative to reduce or eliminate re-locatable classrooms.
  • Install security cameras at Strawberry Knoll Elementary School.
  • Support the Wellness Center at Northwood High School.
  • Fund initiatives on anti-bullying.

Special Needs and Alternative Programs

  • Continue to fund Hours-Based Staffing; student needs are being addressed with this type of staffing.
  • Count special education students in general education classes in order to provide appropriate staffing and services to all students.
  • Provide Transition Support Teachers to assist with planning and transition to higher education and to adult service providers.
  • Provide training for paraeducators.
  • Fund adequate staff development.
  • Implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Staffing Support and Development

  • Provide adequate and motivated staff, staff training, and support for curriculum initiatives.
  • Implement a new staffing model that is sensitive to student population in large elementary schools.  Provide more resources for large elementary schools.
  • Provide a math content coach in every middle school.
  • Increase teacher capacity by providing more effective techniques and tools in their teaching.
  • Provide staffing and staff release periods to help with building teacher capacity.

Support for At-risk Students

  • Provide strong support network in high schools to catch failing kids; explore alternative high school–one that recognizes the challenges our students face; revise staffing to reflect educational load and support needed for at-risk students; provide academic interventions/support staff.
  • Meet the needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander population of kids that are not doing well academically.
  • Research and address the cause of the decline in graduation rates.
  • Form productive partnerships with other county agencies to better support students.


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