Summer is coming, but One Montgomery isn’t taking a vacation. We hope to use the next few months as an opportunity to continue our conversation about the state of Montgomery County’s public schools and how we can ensure stronger, more equitable schools for everyone. Here’s what we have going on:
– Tonight, we are cosponsoring a County Council District 5 candidates forum hosted by the Coalition of East County Citizens. Hear the candidates talk about their plans for education in District 5, which includes Burtonsville, White Oak, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park. That event will be at 7pm at the East County Regional Services Center, located at 3300 Briggs Chaney Road.
– On Saturday, we’ll be at IMPACT Silver Spring’s East County Family Reunion, a free event with food, games, a live DJ, and a basketball tournament. We’ll have a table and would love to meet you and hear your thoughts on Montgomery County schools. Join us from 11am to 3pm at the East County Community Center, located at 3310 Gateshead Manor Way.
-Help us elect candidates who are committed to school equity! We’re looking for volunteers to help pass out sample ballots at early voting centers. Early voting runs from June 12 to June 19 and we’d like to have people at the Silver Spring Civic Building and Fairland Recreation Center on weekday evenings and weekend mornings. Please email us at onemontschools at gmail dot com if you’re interested in helping.
– We won’t be having another community workshop until the fall, but until then, we’re interested in having smaller house meetings where we can get to know the people who are active in local school communities and talk about the issues facing our public schools. Would you be interested in attending or hosting one? Send an email to onemontschools at gmail dot com and let us know.
Last Thursday, approximately 40 activist parents and residents came together for One Montgomery’s first community workshop at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Colesville. Reporters from the student and professional press were there as well.
Following time for initial greetings, the interrelated issues of residential and school socio-economic segregation, underfunding of schools with concentrated poverty and school academic underperformance were presented through PowerPoint pictures, words and graphs.
Workshop participants separated into groups to discuss and later present the strengths and weakness and opportunities and threats characterizing our schools; and the causes of and solutions for our current situation. The groups’ findings are outlined below.
The meeting concluded with observations regarding the political nature of school improvement. Change will require formation of an active community and its insistent communication of the request for change.
What are our schools’ present strengths and weaknesses?
1. New facilities
2. Every school has honors and AP programs
3. Strong principals at individual schools (e.g., Blair and Springbrook)
4. Some strong PTAs engaging parents with cultural barriers
1. Politics for resource distribution
2. Weak community engagement
3. Wide gap in scores across individual schools
4. Cultural misconceptions of students within school (e.g., withheld opportunities, more minorities with suspensions)
5. Public perception that schools are bad – middle class flight
What opportunities and threats do our schools face in the future?
1. Increase SAT scores and graduation rates
2. Strong leadership: Maryland-school-community
3. Safety—a priority
4. Maintenance of effort—increase base funding
5. Reputation of success of school
6. Better branding
7. Good social interaction
8. More libraries/music programs: allow leadership opportunities for students
9. Head Start/Pre-K
10 Build on diversity for global citizens
11. Language, tech
1. More violence
2. People move out of neighborhoods
3. Economic vulnerability
4. Imbalance – population growth
5. Continuing low level of involvement by parents
6. Perception and reality of inequalities
7. Can’t increase enrollment without parent involvement
8. Middle schools lose ability to meet student needs
9. Bad branding – identify issues and make adjustments
What are the causes of current issues in our schools?
1. Economic disparities
a. Demographic changes to economy
b. Consortium maintains economic status quo
c. Correlation between race proportions and economic opportunity
2. Cultural differences
a. Not understanding differences in students, unique needs
b. Staff cultural competency
3. Continual staff training; necessary supports
4. Standardized testing teaching vs. engagement in learning
5. Home life
a. Lack of wrap around service
b. Lack of early childhood education
c. Lack of resources to support and advocate
What are some possible solutions for improving our schools?
1. Greater access for Head-Start: advocate for funds
2. Advocate for resources from Annapolis for our County
3. Volunteer program from qualified high school students, local colleges/universities
4. Solutions aren’t necessarily easy
5. Alternative programs for students with behavior problems
6. Stop changing the curriculum
7. Formula needs to match needs of the school; fair does not mean equal
8. Candid communication between MCPS and community
9. Greater resources for high needs schools
10. Proactive with population trends
Thanks to everyone who came out to our community workshop last night in Colesville. About 30 people came out to the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration for a meeting about the achievement gap in Montgomery County Public Schools and how to make our schools stronger. It’s exciting to see so much community support for strong schools.
It was an ambitious agenda for the first community meeting of the members of One Montgomery, an organization formed this summer to look at the problem of declining test scores in schools of the Montgomery County Public Schools Northeast Consortium and see how the trend can be reversed.
Ed Wetzlar was one of the founders of the group, along with Fred Stichnoth and Adrian Lees, all Silver Spring residents living in the Northeast Consortium area.
“I was concerned not only for the students, but also our property values,” said Wetzlar, who lives three blocks from Springbrook High School. “Schools are the foundation of your children’s future and, if you own property, schools determine the value of your property.”
Although originally focused on the Northeast Consortium — which encompasses James Hubert Blake, Paint Branch and Springbrook high schools, along with five middle schools, 16 elementary schools and the Carl Sandburg Learning Center — One Montgomery would like to have a farther reach, Wetzlar said, working for equity in education throughout the county.
We’re not done yet. Next Tuesday, several elected officials from the school board, County Council, and state delegation will host a Community Concerns Forum at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville. We’d love for you to come out and join the call for more resources in underperforming schools. For more information and for other upcoming events, visit One Montgomery’s calendar page.
One Montgomery is ready to start a conversation about how to support and improve Montgomery County Public Schools so that every student in every school has the resources they need to succeed. Join us for a community workshop on Thursday, November 14 at 7pm at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, located at 13925 New Hampshire Avenue in Colesville. This event is sponsored by the Greater Colesville Citizens Association.
We’ll have a meet-and-greet with refreshments at 7pm before calling the meeting to order at 7:30. There will be a short presentation about the issues facing Montgomery County schools, especially those in the Northeast and Downcounty consortia, followed by breakout sessions where we can gather ideas for how promote school equity. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.