Board of Education Discusses Bell Times; Hears Presentation on Child Abuse and Neglect and Takes Action on Policies

January 14, 2015

The Montgomery County Board of Education met on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. Among other items, the Board continued its discussion on changing bell times; heard a presentation from MCPS staff on efforts to redesign and enhance systemic efforts for recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect; and took final action on policies JGA and DNA. The agenda for the meeting, with links to related materials, can be viewed on the Board of Education website. You can also watch the video of the meeting by clicking here.

Bell Times Options
The Board received an update and held a discussion on new options for adjusting school starting and ending times.  In 2013, Superintendent Joshua Starr created a Bell Times Work Group to study the possibility of shifting school starting and ending times. The group was created in response to a growing body of research on the impact that early start times have on adolescents. The Work Group report was released in October 2013. Based on its findings, Dr. Starr put forward a recommendation to consider shifting high school start times 50 minutes later and middle school start times 10 minutes earlier, while extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes with starting times unchanged. 

MCPS studied the full financial impact of this recommendation and gathered extensive feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, including students, staff, parents, community members and businesses. In June 2014, Dr. Starr recommended that MCPS not move forward with the proposal based on the significant annual cost—at least $21 million a year—and mixed community support.

The Board asked Dr. Starr to develop other options for changing bell times that would cost no more than $10 million a year. The Board has been presented with five new options regarding bell times, with some having different variations for consideration:

  • Shift all start times 20 or 35 minutes later;
  • Start elementary school first;
  • Modify Dr. Starr’s October 2013 recommendation;
  • Split the high school day; and
  • Make no changes to bell times and explore other options to provide flexibility for high school students.

Some of the options will have little or no budgetary impact, while others will have annual costs between $2.6 million and $5.85 million. The Board is seeking community input on the options and will gather feedback throughout January and early February. The Board will hold two public hearings, both on Jan. 22, and written feedback can be sent to Visit the Board’s public participation website for more information on how to participate in the process.

Learn more about the options the Board is considering


Child Abuse and Neglect Work Group
The Board received a presentation from MCPS staff and held a discussion on efforts to redesign and enhance systemic efforts for recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect. Superintendent Starr convened a work group in the fall of 2014 to recommend ways for the school system to enhance awareness of child abuse and neglect among parents, staff, and students and improve how MCPS monitors and reports allegations of abuse or neglect. The Work Group included subject matter experts from county partner agencies, leadership from the three employee associations, parents, community members and representatives from the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations. The Work Group assisted MCPS staff in developing six strategic areas of focus for the district:

Strategic Priority Area 1: Revise the Board of Education’s policy and the MCPS regulation on recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect, and update them on a regular basis to reflect current practices in the area and ensure efficient collaboration with County partner agencies.

Strategic Priority Area 2: Enhance human resource management systems and processes to ensure robust screening of new and existing employees, volunteers, and outside contractors.

Strategic Priority Area 3: Design and implement updated training for all employees in accordance with the most current practices for identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect.

Strategic Priority Area 4: Develop a comprehensive parent awareness program for how to identify and respond to suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

Strategic Priority Area 5: Ensure the MCPS curriculum contains robust student learning opportunities across all grade levels in abuse prevention and reporting.

Strategic Priority Area 6: Communicate regularly to students, parents and the wider community about issues associated with child abuse and neglect.

MCPS staff will be developing an implementation plan based on the recommendations in the coming weeks. The district will work with its partners and outside experts on the implementation and monitoring of the plan.

Read the memo

Child Abuse and Neglect Work Group Website


Final Action Policy JGA, Student Discipline
The Board approved changes to Policy JGA, Student Discipline. On August 21, 2014, the Board tentatively approved these changes and sent the revised policy out for public comment. The policy was updated to align with new state regulations and affirm the Board’s commitment to a disciplined learning environment that is safe, positive, and respectful; increases student engagement; boosts student achievement; and, when possible, prevents student misbehavior before it occurs. Revisions to Policy JGA also align with guidelines released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice regarding school discipline.  (Please note: During the meeting, the Board made an additional change to the policy that is not reflected in the Committee Recommended Draft at the link below. The following language was removed from line 71: “including harm to victims or others”.)

See the revised policy

Final Action Policy DNA, Disposition of Board of Education Property

The Board approved changes to Policy DNA, Disposition of Board of Education Property. On May 14, 2014, the Board tentatively approved these changes and sent the revised policy out for public comment. The updated policy includes changes to the purpose and additional language about authorization, fair market value, preapproval for modifications, right of reclamation, and preferred use of property. 

See the revised policy

Facilities and School Construction
The Board approved the following items related to school construction projects and facilities:

-Approved preliminary plans for the Seneca Valley High School revitalization/expansion project

- Appointed an architectural firm for the Silver Spring International Middle School addition project feasibility study and Sligo Creek Elementary School capacity study

-Appointed an architectural firm for the Tilden Middle School revitalization/expansion project feasibility study

-Approved the contract for the request for external consultants to review Montgomery County Public Schools Choice and Other Special Programs


Resolutions: The Board approved the following resolutions:

-A resolution declaring the month of February 2015 to be African American History Month.

-A resolution proclaiming February 2-6, 2015, as National School Counseling Week in Montgomery County Public Schools


Future Meetings
The Board will hold a hearing on the Superintendent’s FY 2016 Operating Budget recommendation (Operating Budget) on Thursday, January 15 as well as an all-day work session on the Operating Budget on Tuesday, January 20.  The Board will hold a hearing on bell times on January 22, 2015, and its next regular business meeting on Tuesday, February 10, 2015. Please check the Board of Education meeting calendar for further information


About the Board of Education
The Montgomery County Board of Education is the official educational policymaking body in the county. The Board is responsible for the direction and operation of the public school system. The Board consists of seven county residents elected by voters for a four-year term and a student elected by secondary school students for a one-year term. Board members are elected countywide but run at-large or from the Board district in which they reside.

Montgomery County Board of Education: Mrs. Patricia O’Neill, president; Mr. Michael Durso, vice president. Members: Mr. Christopher Barclay, Dr. Judy Docca, Mr. Philip Kauffman, Ms. Jill Ortman-Fouse, Mrs. Rebecca Smondrowski, and Ms. Dahlia Huh, student member. Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent and secretary-treasurer. Office of the Board: 301-279-3617.


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