Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summary: County Council, Supt Smith Chat Over Catered Lunch while BOE Looks On Silently

Over a catered lunch from Panera Bread, featuring selections of salads, sandwiches, chips, cookies, and soda, the County Council enjoyed a discussion with incoming Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith on Monday, July 18. Mike Durso, current president of the BOE, introduced Dr. Smith and his Chief of Staff, Henry Johnson, and opened up the discussion.

Dr. Smith stated that his first impressions of MCPS were that we enjoy a talented staff and a supportive community. He said that it takes a cohesive sense of mission to have success, and he wants to help every single student have options and choices.

Craig Rice mentioned that MCPS has many kids of color, lower socioeconomic status, and students with disabilities. He mentioned that he met with young people in the Artstream program.

Smith replied that we have students across 14 different categories (referring to the disability categories in IDEA). Our expectations for them should be individual and unique. If we talk about averages we get in trouble. What are our expectations? He shared his personal story, singling out the few teachers who moved him on past High School. He added that you have to look at the data regularly, and that if you can't read, you have no options. If students are accelerating, "let 'em go...push them on." Equity and excellence are do-able.

Roger Berliner mentioned his interest in growth and development (as in land use, not children). The issue for him is "how do we grow and where?" We need MCPS as a constructive partner. Look at how schools are built. MCPS hasn't done anything any differently. He also stated that there was stigma attached to the vocational program at Edison (??????).

Smith replied that the conversation needs to talk about what spaces are needed, and especially needed are programs for kids who don't "fit" in a comprehensive high school.

George Leventhal stated that he had particular interest in Chinese studies, and students with disabilities. He hasn't read the school choice report yet, but wants to know why we can't assess what the demand is for particular programs (choice, language immersion, etc)and then fill it. He also stated he is enthusiastic about Robotics, and just met with constituents who urge that Robotics be treated the same as athletic activities in terms of support and resources. He asked Smith who the point person is for Robotics, and he replied that families should talk to Maria Navarro and Kim Statham.

Sidney Katz stated that MoCo is proud of their academics but he has concerns. Technical schools used to be a way of involving kids who were not doing well in academics, but if they are not doing well in academics they also get excluded from extracurricular activities.

Dr. Smith responded that he had adopted children from eastern Europe, and that they had to move so that they could make sure one son would get a high school diploma. He said that whether you want to pursue college or go work for the local Toyota dealer, you need to walk out of school prepared to do those things. His son passed two HSAs, and then did Bridge projects, he had a learning disability and and issue with language acquisition. There is no value in handing someone a diploma that only means you are prepared for the lowest wage job. That doesn't help.

Nancy Navarro: Has Montgomery County reached a tipping point, where you can throw money at the problem but it is still too late? The mainstream student is now low income and/or children of color. It is not ok that a percentage of ESOL students are US born.

Smith: NCLB made us look at disaggregated numbers. That was a gift. Are we going to accept that gift? How can we change the performance for different groups? Stewardship of the money is about learning for the students, not about getting awards.

Marc Elrich: I spent 17 years teaching at Rolling Terrace. There has been a failure dealing with african american achievement. It is not where it is supposed to be. We have to get a handle on this. We did not prepare kids for the workforce.

Smith: We need to look at scoring of state tests. Is it legitimate? Society is in need of people in different occupations. Have looked, african american performance is not good, it is uneven in certain school. Don't hang the destiny on the state tests. Most of us have confidence in the AP tests. Just writing new curriculum isn't enough. What happens in 3rd grade? Studies of vocabulary acquisition show decrease. Children of poverty have a literacy gap. I'm confident we can "get there/"

Nancy Floreen: We don't just write the check. We care, deeply.

Craig Rice: Achievement gap-how are we going to measure success? What metrics? What will that look like?

Dr Smith: July 25 we will have a framework. August 17 we will lay it all out. We will have a plan in place at the beginning of the school year. Want to see noticeable increases in achievement in the first year.

Roger Berliner: What is role of Arts and Music?

Smith: I have done a lot of work in Arts Integration. I have directed plays/musicals. What is the opportunity cost? There is not an unlimited pot of money. There is value in clubs, athletics, all serve a purpose.

Floreen: Thank you.

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