Spotlights
My Continued Promise to Baltimore County Public Schools
02/25/2014

Spotlight
Video

Moving a school system from good to great is one of the hardest undertakings for any superintendent.  This is the case here in Baltimore County, but let me be clear, I am up for the task and I am committed to seeing it through.  Twenty-two months ago, prior to my arrival, I penned an op-ed whereby I pledged to our community that the foundation of each of my decisions would be rooted in what was best for all of our children. As I have travelled around our community, I have heard loudly from our stakeholders about the equities and inequities that exist within our school system. I also see the equities and inequities personally as I visit our 173 schools, centers and programs. To ensure equity, we must keep our focus on creating a culture of deliberate excellence for every student, every school, and every community.

Being superintendent is not a popularity contest.  We recognize that when decisions are made, 100% consensus is extremely rare. We hear from those who disagree or are disappointed in decisions we make, but we also hear from those who support our direction and understand the reasoning.  You don't always see or hear those voices quoted, but they are no less important. 

I pride myself on being an open, transparent, and inclusive leader who strongly believes in communicating early and often.  I expect the same from my administration and our school leaders. The school system's leadership team and I meet with stakeholders often and respond to thousands of emails and other forms of communication. It is our job to respond to our stakeholders, and we do not take it lightly.  We hold community input sessions, student and teacher town halls, meetings with my business, parent, student, principal, and community advisory councils and various meetings with our elected officials to name a few.  We value all of the input, ideas, and engagement we get from everyone as we are all members of Team BCPS. But it is important to note that if a decision is not changed because a particular group disagrees with it, it does not mean they were not heard.  It simply means a different decision was made with the best interest of all children and the entire school system in mind. 

There have been some high interest issues before us this year, but this work began last year during my first year as superintendent.  For example, the academic environment at Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle Schools is proving to be incredibly successful. The students, parents, and school community have rallied to make it the envy of other schools.  The start of this transformation was difficult and we made some decisions that were not popular with everyone; but listening to input from parents and students and working together, we now have a program that is challenging students and preparing them to become globally competitive. 

Also, last year, we challenged our high schools to find ways to keep students in school who were on the verge of dropping out or giving up.  We are proud to have seen our graduation rate increase by nearly 3 percentage points this year, and the gap between our two largest groups of students, black and white, has decreased with only about 2 percentage points separating the two.   This is not easy work, but we have proven we are up to the challenge, and we will keep moving forward.  

Now we are embarking on a major initiative that will mean a change to how we deliver instruction in our classrooms.  It will be a facilitative, student-teacher collaborative approach to teaching and learning, and it will ultimately mean putting a mobile learning device in the hands of every student and teacher.  This is not about increasing test scores and it is not something we will put in place overnight. To be clear, this is simply about making sure we give access and opportunity to all of our children and creating an equitable playing field. We will take our time and continue to get input from teachers – the experts in the field – and our stakeholders in our community.  But, we are moving forward and it is the right thing to do for all children.  It is about preparing students for their future and not our past. It is about meeting students where they are and how they communicate and interact every day. S.T.A.T. (Students & Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) has the ability to revolutionize student engagement for our school system and propel our community to having the best school system in Maryland and ultimately the nation.

I am humbled and blessed to be superintendent of this incredible school system. I ask you all to join me in celebrating our many accomplishments and to stand with us as we face difficult decisions moving forward as a community.  We might not always agree, but you will always be heard, and together we will make Baltimore County Public Schools the best learning environment.

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