Montgomery Board of Education News
The Montgomery County Board of Education met on Tuesday, Feb 12. Among other items, the Board discussed district-wide efforts to close the achievement gap; received an update on Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) transportation depots; discussed and approved its position on legislative issues and took final action on Policy DJA, MCPS Procurement Practice and Bid Awards.
Systemic Approaches to the Achievement Gap
The Board of Education held a wide-ranging discussion about MCPS’ systemic approaches to narrowing the achievement gap. MCPS is one of the nation’s highest achieving school systems and has made significant progress in narrowing gaps in some areas, including Advanced Placement performance and participation, early grades reading, and suspensions. However, in some areas, MCPS continues to see persistent gaps between White and Asian students and African American and Hispanic students. For instance, there are large gaps between these groups in the percentage of students who are scoring at the highest levels on exams, such as the advanced range on the Maryland School Assessments.
MCPS has implemented many structures, strategies and processes that promote equity and address the complex issues that create persistent disparity of educational measures. The MCPS approach to closing the achievement gap involves three key areas of focus; community engagement, interventions, and professional development. MCPS will continue to analyze all data to ensure equitable access and will continue to refine and use monitoring tools such as the Student Instructional Program Planning and Implementation (SIPPI) student screening process and the Honors/AP Identification Tool (HAPIT). MCPS is also in the process of revising its strategic plan, Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence. The revised strategic plan will highlight the commitment of MCPS and the Board of Education to narrowing the achievement gap by race and ethnicity and among students impacted by poverty, Limited English Proficiency, and disabilities. Superintendent Starr’s recommended Fiscal Year 2014 Operating Budget calls for investments in key strategic areas, including middle schools, mathematics instruction, and professional development.
MCPS Transportation Depots
The Board received an update and held a discussion on the district’s transportation depots. The MCPS Department of Transportation operates its school bus fleet from five primary depot locations around the county. During the last 30 years, the MCPS school bus fleet has more than doubled in size from 600 buses to a fleet of 1,272. In December 2007, the Montgomery County Executive placed in motion the County Smart Growth Initiative to relocate the County Service Park and move forward with the Sector Plan development around the Shady Grove Metro Station. The Smart Growth Initiative currently will relocate several facilities to a new location on Snouffer School Road in Gaithersburg, known as the Webb Tract. However, the largest operation at the County Service Park, the MCPS Shady Grove North and South Transportation Depots, does not have a relocation site.
Three of the depots are significantly over utilized—Bethesda (169 percent), Clarksburg (226 percent), and Shady Grove North and South (167 percent). The Randolph and West Farm depots are both at capacity and cannot accommodate any additional school buses. In 2012, County Councilmember Valerie Ervin requested the establishment of a work group that would review the relocation of the Shady Grove Transportation Depot due to redevelopment of the area, as well as the overutilization at the remaining depots in the county. The work group reviewed best practices associated with school bus depot locations and school bus maintenance. The MCPS Department of Transportation has been working to find ways to cope with severe overcrowding at its depots.
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Positions on Education Legislation
The Board discussed several pieces of legislation that are currently being considered by the Maryland General Assembly. Among the legislation the Board supports are: a bill that would establish the Maryland Center for School Safety; a bill that would require each county board of education to evaluate the effectiveness of the emergency management plan in each public school; and a proposal that would require a new school or a renovated school that receives State public school construction funds to have controlled access for visitors with a camera, intercom, and buzzer system. The Board opposed other pieces of legislation, including those that would permit designated individuals to carry firearms on school property.
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The Board took final action on Policy DJA, MCPS Procurement Practices. This policy recognizes the procurement procedures published in the MCPS Procurement Manual and Maryland law; established limits for advertising bids and obtaining bid approval by the Montgomery County Board of Education; and puts in place a process for the Board’s Fiscal Management Committee to review the Procurement Manual. The Board rescinded Policy DJB, Bid Awards, given that relevant sections of that policy have been incorporated into the revised Policy DJA.
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Other Action: The Board also took action on several items, including:
Resolutions: The Board unanimously approved the following: