Board of Education Approves FY 2015 Operating Budget; Discusses Bell Times and Receives Update on Math Work Group

June 19, 2014
The Montgomery County Board of Education met on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. Among other items, the Board discussed proposed changes to school starting and ending times (bell times); approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS); discussed the report of the math semester exam work group; and took final action on Policy FAA, Long-Range Educational Facilities Planning.  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.

Proposal on Changing Bell Times
The Board received an update and held a discussion on Superintendent Starr’s recommendation that MCPS not move forward with proposed changes to school starting and ending times. Implementation costs and mixed feedback from the community were two major factors in Dr. Starr’s decision. The Board unanimously passed a resolution asking Dr. Starr to have staff explore other, lower-cost options to change bell times.

In October, Dr. Starr recommended that MCPS consider shifting high school start times 50 minutes later, shifting middle school start times 10 minutes earlier, and extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes. This recommendation was based on a report from the 2013 Bell Times Work Group, which studied the impact that school start times have on the health and well-being of students, mainly those in high school.  Dr. Starr asked MCPS staff to gather public input on the recommendation and do an in-depth analysis of the costs and operational impact. He also asked a group to study options for how the additional 30 minutes of elementary school time could be used. 

From October to April, input on the bell times proposal was gathered from thousands of students, parents, MCPS employees, and community members in a variety of ways, including  community forums, Neighbor-to-Neighbor discussion groups, surveys completed by more than 75,000 parents, students, staff, and community members, and written comments submitted by email. Overall, the public was divided on Dr. Starr’s recommendation, with parents most strongly in favor of the changes and elementary school students and staff most opposed. High school students and staff were evenly divided on the issue.

The cost of Dr. Starr’s bell times recommendation was determined to be at least $21.6 million per year for transportation, utilities, and increased staffing. Dr. Starr told the Board that he did not think it was feasible or fiscally responsible to move forward, given the cost and the mixed community feedback.

Board member Patricia O’Neill introduced a resolution directing MCPS staff to review low-cost options (not to exceed $10 million) for changing bell times, and identify the implications of those options. The Board asked that these options be brought to the Board by January, in time for discussions on the Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget.  The resolution passed unanimously.

Read Mrs. O’Neill’s resolution seeking additional options
Read the Board memo

Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget
The Board of Education approved a $2.28 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The budget represents a $51.3 million—or 2.3 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The budget will allow MCPS to manage its continued growth, make strategic investments to improve teaching and learning, narrow achievement gaps, and prepare students to meet higher expectations. The budget also will allow the district to make strategic enhancements to provide targeted services to narrow the achievement gap.

Read the Board Memo
Read the Press Release

Report of the Math Semester Exam Work Group
The Board received an update and held a discussion about the work of the Math Semester Exam Work Group and the actions that will be taken by the district to improve teaching and learning in math.

Dr. Starr created the Math Semester Exam Work Group after concerns were raised by the community about high failure rates on some countywide semester exams in mathematics. The highest failure rates were among high school students taking non-honors-level mathematics classes. While the failure rates were high on some of the exams, a majority of students were passing the classes.

The work group reported that there were a number of factors that contributed to student performance on exams, including:

·  The need for more professional development and instructional resources to assist students who are struggling in math;
·  Student preparation for high school math courses;
·  Instructional options for students who failed Grade 8 math courses; and
·  The impact of current grading practices on student motivation.

Dr. Starr shared with the Board that work had been done throughout the 2013-2014 school year to address concerns about math performance and to narrow achievement gaps. In continuation of that work, Superintendent Starr introduced a five-point plan that enhances and supports the recommendations of the work group to improve student understanding and performance in mathematics. Some of these recommendations will need to be funded in future budgets, beginning with Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The recommendations are as follows:

·  Starting Math Success Early—Expansion of Math Expertise at the Elementary Level
·  Breaking the Cycle of Failure—Reconsideration of Secondary Articulation Policies
·  Targeted Support for Students Struggling in Math—Development of Diagnostic Instruction Tools and Interventions
·  Building Staff Capacity—Create Professional Development to Reach Students Struggling in Math
·  Leveraging the Expertise of Our Best Teachers—Crowdsource a Library of Student and Teacher Resources

Read the Board memo
Read the Press Release

Secondary Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework
The Board approved changes to the MCPS Secondary Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework (Framework). The Framework establishes curriculum requirements for the courses that students take in middle school and high school. In 2013, MCPS conducted a comprehensive review of the Secondary Comprehensive Health Curriculum, soliciting feedback from stakeholders including health educators, MCPS leadership, students, community members, the Curriculum Advisory Committee, and others. The revised Framework is aligned with state and national standards and is consistent with the values outlined in the MCPS Strategic Planning Framework. Based on feedback from community members, educators, and students, many of the repetitive topics of the curriculum have been streamlined so teachers can spend more time on fewer topics at each grade level. For instance, the Family Life portions of Grade 6 will be removed because the content repeats what is taught in Grade 5. Also, sexual orientation lessons are being moved from grade 8 to grade 7 to balance content and respond to national data. MCPS Teachers will receive professional development this summer on the updated Framework.  In the 2014-2015 school year, the district will implement the shift away from scripted lessons, including those on sexual orientation.  In the 2015-2016 school year, updated courses in Grades 6, 7, and 8 will be rolled out.  The updated high school course will begin in the 2016-2017 school year.  

See the revised Framework

Policy FAA, Long-Range Educational Facilities Planning
The Board of Education approved changes to Policy FAA, Long-Range Educational Facilities Planning. On January 14, 2014, the Board tentatively approved these changes and sent the revised policy out for public comment. This policy guides the school facilities planning process. The process is designed to promote understanding of planning for MCPS and to ensure that there are sufficient opportunities for parents, students, staff, community members and organizations, local government agencies, and municipalities to identify and communicate their priorities and concerns to the superintendent and the Board. The policy revision aligns the processes for obtaining public input on matters relating to long-range facilities planning with Board Policy ABA, Community Involvement.

See the revised policy

Fees for Food and Nutrition Services Program
The Board approved an increase in fees for school meals for the 2014-2015 school year. The price of elementary and secondary school lunches will increase by five cents to $2.55 and $2.80, respectively. The price of lunch for all students eligible for reduced-price meals will remain at $0.40.  The cost of breakfast will remain at $1.30 for both elementary and secondary students. This is the first time in four years that MCPS is changing the price of school meals, despite escalating costs. In that time, the district has made significant improvements to the nutritional quality and variety of its meals.

Read the memo

Board Appointments

The Board appointed Peter F. Rose to a three-term on the Ethics Panel, beginning July 1, 2014.

The Board appointment the following people to a one-year term on the Montgomery County Collaboration Board for Career and Technology Education, beginning July 1, 2014, subject to the agreement of the Montgomery College Board of Trustees:

- Arts, Humanities, Media, and Communications: Matthew Boratenski
- Biosciences, Health Science, and Medicine: Lisa McDonald
- Business Management and Finance:  Candace dePass
- Construction and Development: Tom Clendenin
- Education, Training, and Child Studies: Nancy Wiltz
- Engineering, Scientific Research, and Manufacturing Technologies: Toby Ratcliffe
- Environmental, Agricultural, and Natural Resources: Jason Jefferson
- Human and Consumer Services, Hospitality, and Tourism: Denise Newton
- Information Technologies:  Joe Kessler
- Law, Government, Public Safety, and Administration: Sean Fay
- Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics: Harold Redden
- Montgomery County Public Schools staff member: Steven Boden
- Montgomery College staff member: Clarice Somersall

Administrative Appointments

The Board of Education approved the following administrative appointments:

Debra S. Munk, currently consulting principal, Department of Professional Growth Systems, as director of School Support and Improvement of High Schools, Office of School Support and Improvement

Melissa M. Souder, currently school performance specialist, North County High School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, as supervisor, Secondary Literacy Instruction, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs

Anne R. Taylor, currently coordinator, Special Initiatives, Department of Enriched and Innovative Programs, as coordinator, Interim Instructional Services/Home and Hospital Teaching and Home Schooling Unit, Department of Student Services

Lakeisha D. Lashley, currently assistant principal, Oakland Terrace Elementary School, as principal, Fairland Elementary School

Resolutions: The Board approved the following resolutions:

A resolution recognizing the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Hispanic Scholars Awards
-A resolution recognizing the Leadership Montgomery Youth Community Leadership Awards recipients
-A resolution recognizing the Montgomery County Alliance of Black School Educators Scholarship Recipients
-A resolution recognizing the Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients
-A resolution recognizing the George B. Thomas Sr. Learning Academy, Inc. High Achievement Scholarship Recipients

Future Meetings

The Board’s next regular business meeting will be held on June 30, with public items scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.  
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: Mr. Philip Kauffman, president; Mrs. Patricia O’Neill, vice president. Members: Mr. Christopher Barclay, Ms. Shirley Brandman, Dr. Judy Docca, Mr. Michael Durso, Mrs. Rebecca Smondrowski, and Mr. Justin Kim, student member. Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent and secretary-treasurer. Office of the Board: 301-279-3617.

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