ROCKVILLE – Vestibule construction, teacher hirings and additional portable classrooms are some of the topics that central office staff discussed during the Aug. 29 Board of Education meeting.
The purpose of the discussion was to update Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education members about what happened in MCPS while students were on summer break.
Some summer work included hiring teachers, including some who were familiar with the school system already. Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman said 59 of MCPS’ new teachers for the 2019-2020 school year came from its own workforce; they had been members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 and then became teachers.
Other new employees were hardly strangers to the school system either, but for another reason – they used to be students in the county. Zuckerman said he was pleased about the number of students who return to MCPS as employees after they graduate.
“This year, 289 new staff are MCPS alums,” Zuckerman said.
MCPS Human Resources Director Lance Dempsey and her staff worked on filling vacancies in teaching positions that opened between the end of the last school year and the start of the new school year. Some vacancies remain.
Superintendent Jack Smith said several vacancies formed due to employees resigning or retiring after the school year ended. He was concerned about the need to keep teaching positions filled, citing a national trend.
To Zuckerman, he said, “I think you’ve told me that a bulk of those are retirements.” Zuckerman confirmed the information.
Smith has said during discussions of the MCPS operating budget that the school system must look at how it recruits and retains teachers. It is becoming harder to fill positions – a concern he said extends nationwide. One factor he mentioned on Aug. 29 was that as baby boomers continue to retire, the number of people in the pool of teachers may decrease.
Regarding school administrators, Deputy Superintendent Kimberly Statham of the Office of Teaching, Learning and Programs said MCPS added six new assistant principal positions to the budget starting this school year.
Statham’s staff reviewed the process of creating school improvement plans (SIPs), which every school must put together. According to a May 8, 2018 memorandum from Smith to the board of education, the schools make SIPs to outline goals and plan to increase the number of students who reach the academic benchmarks of MCPS. Now, based on feedback from within the schools, Office of School Support and Improvement staff will supply some student data to the schools to help with plan assembly.
“Schools now receive some elements of their school data pre-populated,” Statham said.
During the couple of months since classes let out, building work occurred as well.
“As soon as we close up on last day of school, literally that evening we are in there working on our systemic projects,” Zuckerman said.
Some schools had additions built onto them. Crews continued finishing site work for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School addition and at Wheaton High School as of Aug. 29.
Infrastructure work included adding 50 new temporary classrooms to increase school capacity for students, Zuckerman added.
MCPS constructed “eight new vestibules additions,” or entryways, on school buildings for added security on campus. Staff and teachers received training on various safety-related topics, Zuckerman said. Several of the added safety trainings and practices in schools stemmed from legislation on school security, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2018.
Some updates the board received on Aug. 29 were not part of the planned presentation. MCPS Chief Academic Officer Maria Navarro and Smith gave details about enrollment numbers for the new school year, requested by Board Member-At-Large Karla Silvestre during the board meeting. For the upcoming school year, the percentage of new international students has increased, and so MCPS might have more students needing to enter the METS program, which is for students with interrupted education, Navarro said.
Smith said more than 1,000 new students enrolled in August alone. “A majority of those students…obviously, came through the international admissions office,” Smith said.
The number of new students enrolled may be different when MCPS tallies up student enrollment numbers at the end of the first month, Smith said, which is what occurred in fall 2018.