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Volunteers on study group brainstorm ideas to improve Washington Co. public schools

Third Generation recommendations include expanding International Baccalaureate program

February 05, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Northern Middle School sixth-graders Alex Lund, left, and Shawn Thomas, right, work on their line, shape, and form art projects in art class.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Imagine that money and space were not an issue.

Then think about what kind of programs you would want Washington County public school children to experience.

That's what Washington County Public Schools asked a group of about 100 volunteers to do last fall, providing them with several ideas and allowing them to suggest their own. It was the third time the school system had asked a group to think freely about the school system's future.

Some of the results from the first study group, which met in 2002, are Barbara Ingram School for the Arts and the International Baccalaureate program at North Hagerstown High, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

Expanding that baccalaureate program to other schools was one of the recommendations the most recent group proposed Tuesday to the Board of Education.

Other recommendations included adding a middle school arts magnet program, creating a dual-immersion science program taught in Spanish and starting a college-prep public boarding school.

Morgan started the study groups, known as the First Generation, Second Generation and Third Generation study groups, shortly after coming to the school system.

"I have always been focused on the future, so (it's) not unusual in the last throes of my superintendency that I'm going to be here," listening to the Third Generation study group's recommendations, said Morgan, who is retiring from the school system on Feb. 28.

It will be up to a new superintendent and the school board to decide whether to implement any of the latest study group's recommendations, Morgan said Wednesday.

"At this point in time, they are ideas, just like we've had ideas in the past. We've been able to realize some of them and we haven't been able to realize others," Morgan said. Some of the ideas were put in place, just not as they initially were envisioned, she said.

"The process of generating ideas to improve education for kids is extremely important," Morgan said.

In soliciting people to participate in the study groups, the school system provided a checklist of possible programs to be considered, said Shulamit Finkelstein, co-chair of the Third Generation Study Groups. Many of those ideas were reviewed and recommended to the school board last week.

Finkelstein said participants also could suggest other ideas to study. One group, for instance, studied how to provide more opportunities for students with disabilities.



Five goals

The study groups were charged with five goals as they thought of new programs.

According to Tuesday's presentation, those goals were:

  • To raise student achievement through challenging and highly motivating specialized programs.
  • To offer more choice for families and students within the public school system.
  • To balance enrollment and diversity throughout the county's public schools.
  • To provide continuity between elementary, middle and high school specialized programs.
  • To support a college-going and career-ready culture in the school system.

A more detailed written report is available through BoardDocs at the school system's website at www.wcps.k12.md.us/index.html. The report was expected to be available at the website's home page and under "Parents & Community" by today, school system spokesman Richard Wright said. School system officials plan to devise a way for the public to provide feedback about the report.

Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael, co-chair for the study groups, said school system officials also will get information about the study groups' recommendations out to PTAs and Citizen Advisory Committees.

Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for curriculum, school administration and improvement, said principals and supervisors will begin discussing the report this month.

Morgan said during Tuesday's meeting that there were no fiscal notes on the study group's recommendations.

However, the more detailed 260-page report by the study group includes cost estimates for some of the programs.

Michael said the next steps will include seeing what ideas are doable and reviewing feedback to see which ideas have energy and student interest behind them.

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