Superintendent Joshua Starr gave a brief introduction and then took questions from the audience orally. Helpers wrote questions on large pieces of paper so they were recorded. The event was also videorecorded and audio recorded.
Parents were bringing concerns to Starr's attention. Both the "listen" and the "learn" referred to Dr. Starr. He did not really give out a lot of substantive information. It was more of an information gathering exercise to see what the community's concerns were. He did not attempt to provide answers to any of the concerns, they were just noted for him to be aware of. He stated that after he had held all of these "Listen and Learn" events, he would hold community forums in the new year to address specific issues like special education, gifted education and Race to Nowhere concerns.
1) Transparency - he wants to create more of it regarding how decisions are made.
2) Initiatives - he wants to analyze if there are too many, choose which ones to keep and then focus on how to ensure accountability and follow-through
3) Variability - how to deal with it among schools and teachers to make sure all students have access to a high quality eduction.
- SAT score variability by High School
- AYP - schools with high ESOL or special ed need more support - Starr responded to this by promoting more professional development for teachers
- Raises for teachers needed
- Poolesville cluster reassigned community superintendent - Starr responded that this was just to even out numbers among superintendents
- School system confrontational with parents about special needs students
- Germantown elementary rebuilt? More schools needed to house students
- Children attending proper schools based on address - Starr dismissed this concern, said that people check this routinely
- Safe, drug and bully-free schools
- Overcrowding at Northwest High School at lunch
- Magnet schools taking the "cream of the crop" from local schools, thus affecting test scores - Starr responded that he supports magnet schools and gifted programs, believes in choice; however, he estimates that only 3-5% of student population is truly "gifted" and would require such services. Rest of MCPS' 39% gifted students are just "really smart" and can be taught in their home school.
- SRO program - Starr supports if support from police department and it is clear that principal of school has authority over SRO in how to handle incidents
- Concern that Curriculum 2.0 would be too challenging for students already struggling - Starr described 2.0 as just integrating the teaching of the subjects and including more technology
- How can school assist students with transition to adult life - Star talked about teaching social and emotional competence
- Too much middle school acceleration in math and languages affecting college applications
- High School course offerings not meeting the needs of students who have been accelerated in Middle Schools
- Math content too broad - Starr said they would be narrowing content and focusing on specific skills - said he realized Math would be a big issue and he is going to look at the workgroup report, consult parents and experts in the field and then make a final decision on Math that would be permanent. Starr said he thought all academic skills should be taught through the lenses of science and history. "because that's where you really learn how to think. You can learn all the skills from the other subjects through study of science and history."
- Budget and staffing concerns - Starr said that it is up to the parents to let the county know how much they value education. He said he would be an advocate, but that he has to work with the budget he is given. As constituents, parents should let elected officials know they want more money for schools.