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Washington County school board airs concerns during budget discussion

Members worry about teacher training, Pangborn Elementary enrollment, and the virtual high school project

February 05, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

At least three Washington County Board of Education members expressed concern about training available for teachers, specifically with a more rigorous curriculum being implemented, new assessment tests coming, and the state pushing for improvements for gifted and talented students.

That was just one of the issues discussed during a Tuesday morning work session about the superintendent’s proposed $254.4 million operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Another issue that arose was that if enrollment growth projected for Pangborn Elementary becomes a reality, a temporary measure, such as having new kindergartners and their siblings attend another school, might have to be considered, Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said.

Wilcox said the summer literacy program started last summer for many incoming second-graders will be expanded from four to six schools, though details are still to be finalized. Approximately 160 students participated in last summer’s program, rather than the 400 hoped for by school system officials. Wilcox said he realizes there probably won’t be as many as 400 participants this summer.

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Board member Melissa Williams asked how the school system was “taking up the slack” after five curriculum specialists and three mentor teaching positions were eliminated following a reorganization at the Central Office. Those jobs helped with teacher training.

Any time positions are reduced, “there are hiccups in the system,” Wilcox told the board.

Wilcox said the position of director for curriculum and instruction, which had been held by the late Clyde Harrell, was eliminated from the budget, but he might want to add it in the future if that expertise is needed. Wilcox said he has extended a job offer to someone for the associate superintendent opening and that person has such expertise. The opening was created when Associate Superintendent Donna Hanlin retired.

Wilcox said the school system was “dangerously thin” administratively now, but there is a great team in place.

“The question is, ‘How hard can people run for how long?’” Wilcox said.

Board member Wayne Ridenour was concerned about how much training was going to be needed for teachers, regarding gifted and talented students, and whether the school system had considered the associated cost if that training cannot be provided during designated professional development days.

Wilcox said the Maryland State Department of Education is driving improvements regarding quality and strategies for teaching gifted and talented students.

Ridenour said he was anxious to see how the virtual high school project would work, but he also was skeptical.

Wilcox said he hoped to have a presentation to the board this spring about the project.

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