KEY QUESTIONS RAISED

The following are questions posed to Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Arlotto at the symposium.  Responses were provided by the school district's Director of Communications Mr. Bob Mosier.

This is a great conference.  Thank you but I do have concerns.  My concerns are, how can we have confidence in the leadership?  Meade is treated like a stepchild.  The school system doesn't even track arrests at their own school.  Dr. Arlotto is confused about his own sexual assault policy.  It's like the school system and police department have never had a conversation or strategy session together about these issues.  How often does the leadership meet to even discuss these issues - only when it's time to vote? 

 

Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) engages with the Anne Arundel County Police Department (AACPD) daily. While many of those conversations involve incidents that have already taken place, a good number involve the prevention of incidents and formulation of strategies to accomplish that. The School Resource Officer program has been the focal point of national presentations, and other school systems have adapted parts of the program we have in our county for their use.

 

Part of the interaction between the AACPD and AACPS involves training and drilling on mock scenarios to make responses – should they be necessary – more efficient and effective.

 

Additionally, the Board of Education receives a Safety and Security Update at its first meeting every month. Those meetings are open to the public and are televised live. Those wishing to watch the meetings, either live or after they have been completed, can do so here.

 

Meade is a very unique school Dr. Arlotto.  Why do you continue to treat the school like it's not - meaning that the school has military dependents, students in deep poverty, and middle-class students from other parts of the County.  There isn't any other school like Meade in the entire state.  It doesn't seem like you are being imaginative about how to maybe make Meade a smaller school or devote more resources to it even from private partners.  What is your big picture plan for this school that is so key to our community?

 

We have been involved in discussions with the Federal Government about a grant that would fund renovations to Meade High School, and our Strategic Facilities Master Plan study done by MGT of America in 2015 calls for another high school in the western portion of the county to address the large-school issue posed in this question.

 

With regard to partners, we are fortunate to have collaborative relationships with Fort Meade, the Fort Meade Alliance member organizations, NSA, DISA, DMA, FBI, Anne Arundel County Government, Anne Arundel Community College, UMBC, Dreamport, and many others. These groups bring unique perspectives to a unique school and our work together has resulted in innovative programmatic initiatives. NSA and many of the aforementioned partners have been key players  in the development of the Homeland Security signature program, for example, and our Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program has the support of many local partners.

 

Additionally, the Local Development Council and Fort Meade Alliance have contributed grant funding and advocacy in support of specific programs and initiatives at Meade High School. Moreover, we have garnered approximately $6 million of Department of Defense Educational Activity grant funding for Meade schools with high military populations over the past ten years for STEM teaching and learning, cyber teaching and learning, co-curricular club support, student mentoring support at the secondary level, and mental health awareness training for Meade cluster administrators, faculty, and counselors.

 

Since the possession of tobacco products has been decriminalized, how will the County address the health issues from adolescent nicotine use?  This is especially important due to the rising number of deaths related to nicotine vaping?

 

Whether or not the possession of tobacco products is a criminal offense is immaterial when it comes to the AACPS Code of Student Conduct. Possession of tobacco products, including vaping paraphernalia, on school property is a clear violation of the Code of Student Conduct and our schools take appropriate disciplinary action when students violate the code.

 

AACPS has a great relationship with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and we have worked together on a variety of substance use and abuse issues. However, parents and the community at large have a big role to play in this effort as well.

 

Is there an alternative school?  If so, how many office referrals are allowed before a student is moved to THAT school?

 

The Phoenix Academy and the Mary Moss @ J. Albert Adams Academy offer alternative educational settings for students based on need. These are not punitive placements based solely on referrals, however.

 

How many calls from teachers are called to Meade's administrative office daily?  This is disruptive and it means that other students aren't learning.

 

This is not data that is tracked.

 

Dr. Arlotto, Dorchester County has done well to help with students who have trouble "regulating" themselves.  They use professional mediators and conflict resolutions to solve problems.  Would you consider such programs in our school system beyond social-emotional support?  To include as needed, mediation-conflict resolution?

 

We have employee peer-to-peer mediation in schools and continue to do so in appropriate situations. We have also had success with restorative practices (RP), which we have been using in our school system for several years. We started the program with just one staff member training personnel at all of our schools (elementary, middle, and high) and have added staff in subsequent years.

 

RP is an integral part of our behavioral supports and interventions we can offer to students because it fosters conversations that can lead to better understanding both of issues and of the negative impacts that behaviors can have on others. The impact of one’s actions may not always be readily apparent; the RP strategies, including our well-recognized Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) process, help those who commit violations of the Code of Student Conduct better understand the harm their actions have caused. Such an understanding increases the likelihood that future behaviors are positively impacted.

 

I am an Anne Arundel County Public School teacher and I have never once been alerted about a "handle with care" child.  What can we do to ensure this is communicated to teachers?

 

Only those staff members directly involved with a “Handle with Care” student are informed.

 

If a child enters the diversion program, will their offense end up on a criminal record?

 

That is a question for the Anne Arundel County Police Department to answer.

 

Is Timeka the only person handling the diversion program and all of its activities?

 

That is a question for the Anne Arundel County Police Department to answer

 

It seems like minor incidents are made into major offenses at Meade.  Why can't this be handled internally?  These incidents do not need to be elevated to a criminal level. 

 

The decision to charge any person criminally is one made by police and not the school system.

 

How are you addressing discipline issues more "upstream" starting especially at the middle schools.  The arrests and citations numbers at MacArthur are just as alarming as the numbers at Meade.  It seems like you are really failing to address the issue much earlier before it becomes a problem at the high school level.

 

Enhancements to the advisory program at the middle school level have resulted in more lessons aligned to encouraging students to make better decisions and understandings the ramifications of poor decisions. At the elementary level, the use of the Second Step program, which focuses on social/emotional coping skills, is intended achieve the same outcomes. We have also implemented a new class schedule at the middle school level that more closely aligns with the high school schedule to assist in minimizing drastic changes. 

 

There are different education focuses at different schools: IB, Business, Art, etc.  Are students "hot zoned" for these schools offered the opportunity to apply and attend these schools?  Can this be extended for military families?

 

Business and art classes are offered at all of our high schools. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme is a magnet program offered at three county middle schools and three county high schools, among them MacArthur Middle School and Meade High School. Those programs are open to students in the Glen Burnie, Meade, North County, and Arundel feeder systems and applications are accepted annually. Should there be more applications than available seats, a lottery is held to determine admission. All students in Meade High School can avail themselves of the Homeland Security Signature Program and Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nationally recognized pre-engineering program.  Moreover, Meade High School also offers an Army JROTC program for interested Meade students who wish to apply.

 

Meade students are also able to apply for the following magnet programs:

  • Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) magnet program at Brooklyn Park Middle and the PVA magnet programs at Broadneck High (music) and Annapolis High schools (dance, creative writing, theater, visual arts, film);

  • STEM magnet programs at Lindale Middle and North County High schools and Chesapeake Science Point Charter Middle/High School

  • Monarch Global Contract IB-PYP Elementary School and Technology Middle School

  • Center for Applied Technology – North (CATN)

 

When is the lottery held for families to find out if they may attend one of the charter/magnet schools?  Can this be extended for military families who primarily move in the summer?

 

The application period is open annually for the months of October and November.  The lottery, when needed, is conducted by an outside agency in mid to late January.  Families are notified of acceptance of an offer of a magnet seat in the magnet program or a seat on the waiting list by late January/early February each year.

 

Military families who have been issued orders may apply based on their military orders.  Students of military families transferring from magnet programs elsewhere will be offered a seat in a similar AACPS magnet program upon their arrival in the area.

 

Are there plans to expand the Global Citizenship Class to the middle school population?  Often high school is too late to address some of these issues . 

 

This is an ongoing conversation. AACPS has adapted and enhanced its middle school advisory lessons and implemented Second Step, a program which focuses on social/emotional coping skills at the elementary level, to begin these critical conversations at earlier ages. However, this is another task AACPS cannot tackle alone. We need the partnership of parents and community groups to help our children develop more accepting and kind mindsets.

 

At Meade High School, what initiatives have been put in place to promote academic performance?

 

We have increased teacher professional development to increase teacher content, pedagogy, and pedagogical content knowledge. We have also increased the professional development of teachers related to teaching at-hope students, English Learners, gifted students, and students who have experienced trauma in their personal lives. Students at Meade High School are offered opportunities during and after school to seek help from teachers, redo assignments, or receive teaching after absences. Moreover, we are offering more clubs for students to become involved in; an engaged student is often a student who does better academically as well. The Stable program for ninth-graders has also shown to help boost academic performance and the ninth-grade promotion rate.

 

Naviance - the idea is good but there are still issues with colleges NOT getting documents.  How can this be fixed?

 

Naviance is currently working well.  If students use Naviance to request transcripts to be sent to colleges, a school counselor must follow up to send or email the transcript.  Ultimately, the student must be the one to follow up with the schools to which they apply to make sure all documents are received from their home high school. Often the challenge is with the college personnel, who must access their web portal to acquire the documents that were electronically transferred from the high school. We continually advise students to act on these document requests early in the college application process so problems do not arise at the time of application submission deadlines.

 

What is being done to eliminate lottery-based magnet programs like STEM?

 

AACPS has no plans to eliminate lotteries for magnet programs when applications exceed the number of available seats. We do, however, work with a student’s home school to make sure a student with an interest in STEM receives a STEM-rich schedule at their home school as they enter ninth grade.

 

When is reading going to be considered by the oversight committee (school board) at Meade?

 

We closely monitor reading at the elementary level for all schools in the district.  As students enter middle and high school, we have special support reading programs and when needed special reading intervention programs, for all students not yet reading on grade level or above.

 

What is being done about smaller classrooms at Meade?  What resources are being deployed to address this issue?

 

Thanks to funding from the County Executive and the County Council, AACPS added 223 classroom teaching positions for the current school year (2019-2020). This year, AACPS is educating approximately 1,700 more students than a year ago. Superintendent George Arlotto’s recommended Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget, presented to the Board of Education on December 18, 2019, contains funding for another 195 classroom teaching positions to address class size issues.

 

The Board of Education held a public hearing on Dr. Arlotto’s recommended budget on January 9 at the Parham Building on Riva Road in Annapolis and will hold a second public hearing on January 27 at Old Mill High School. The Board’s budget request will be forwarded to County Executive Steuart Pittman in March. Mr. Pittman’s budget recommendation will be debated by the County Council, which will also hold public hearings on it in May, before a final budget is adopted by June 15.

 

The degree to which elected officials know an issue is important to constituents is based largely on communication between those two parties and testimony at public hearings like the ones detailed above.

 

What percentage of high school students participate in one of the magnet programs?

 

Currently, 20.8 percent of our high school students are engaged in magnet programs across the district, including BMAH, IB, PVA, STEM, both CAT Centers, and Chesapeake Science Point.

 

What program are in place to "prep" students for the SAT and ACT test?

 

AACPS offers the PSAT and SAT free of charge to all of our high school juniors. Last year, more than 4,900 juniors took the SAT for free in our classrooms, and we expect another 5,000 to do the same this year. Many, but not all, high schools also offer one-semester (0.5 credit) SAT prep classes.

 

It's important for African-American males to have role models and to see someone who looks like them in an academic setting.  What are your strategies to recruit more African American male teachers?

 

The Division of Human Resources continues to look for ways to connect with diverse candidates, including African-American males. Staff members attend diversity focused job fairs and visit colleges and universities with higher proportions of students from underrepresented groups. We recruit at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and our Diversity Specialist networked with HBCU leaders from across the country at the Dream Deferred Conference last year. We host a diversity job fair annually and invite African-American males to attend.  Our Workforce Monitoring team monitors our data and hiring and we aim to provide our administrators rich pools of applicants to choose from when staffing their schools.  We also host networking events for diverse educators from around the county to help them develop relationships with other educators. This is a key in retaining the diverse candidates we hire. Additionally, we host a yearlong professional development program for diverse educators to provide mentoring and support.

 

What is being done about the shortage of IB teachers at Meade High School?  For example, IB teachers are being shared via video conferencing (also teaching roaming back and forth to classes).  Not all teachers are properly qualified or trained to teach IB.  This is a big issue at Meade.  Why don't they have the appropriate resources at Meade?

 

There is currently no shortage of IB teachers at Meade High School. We do offer one distance learning high level mathematics course at Meade High, but the teacher is on-site at Meade High daily and the course is video-streamed to students at Old Mill High School.  Students at Meade High have access to the teacher on a daily basis. 

 

When teachers are hired to teach IB-Diploma courses, they are notified of mandatory IB training. All IB teachers in the district participate in IB training during their early career with us in AACPS.  All teachers cannot leave the classroom to be trained simultaneously, but most receive their IB training during the first calendar year after they have been hired to teach in one of our IB schools.

 

What can be done to effectively incentivize teachers to sponsor extra-curricular activities?  When our daughter went to the nationals round as a member of the debate team at Meade, her team won awards.  However, the debate team folded because there were no sponsors.

 

AACPS cannot, of course, mandate that teachers or any other staff members sponsor clubs. Utilizing limited financial resources, AACPS makes some funding available to schools to utilize for club sponsors. Those clubs are formed largely based on student interest and may vary from school to school.

 

What's being done about teacher retention at Meade High School?

 

We recruit for Meade High School locally, regionally, and nationally as we do for all of our schools.  However, for recruiting purposes we do showcase Meade High School as an IB World School where teachers will be trained as an International Baccalaureate teacher and be a part of an IB World School learning environment.  Moreover, we discuss the numerous opportunities a teacher at Meade High School has over the course of their career, if they remain at the school.  They have the option of teaching in the IB Diploma Program, Homeland Security Signature Program, JROTC, PLTW, AVID programs, to name just a few.

 

Dr. Arlotto, you don't seem really committed to equity.  For example, why did you eliminate and bargain away retention bonuses at schools like Meade.  Eliminating the bonusses only creates of vicious cycle of teacher shortages, long-term substitute teachers, etc.  Will you fight for restoring the bonuses?  The bonuses are a solid strategy for helping to achieve equity and stability at schools like Meade.  You've actually hurt Meade more than you realize.

 

It is an unfortunate, but common misperception that AACPS unilaterally eliminated bonuses for teachers at designated “challenged schools.” In fact, the elimination of those bonuses was part of a negotiated agreement between the Teachers Association on Anne Arundel County (TAAAC) and the Board of Education. In fact, it was a proposal by TAAAC, which wanted to spread the money to its entire membership in the form of compensation increases as opposed to focusing on a smaller number of teachers at certain schools, that led to the elimination of the bonuses. Further, the data showed that teacher retention did not improve over the time bonuses were in effect.

 

Regarding the equity oversight committee, are parents invited to sit on the committee?  If so, how are they selected?  If not, why?  How are issues discussed on this committee shared with the public?  How is the committee held accountable to act?

 

Because the Executive Oversight Committee discusses student-specific data, the inclusion of those outside the school system – be they parents or others – would be a violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

 

We have conducted meetings of the Equity Advisory Committee since 2005. The committee meets monthly with member members to discuss equity-related issues. The committee is also co-chaired by a community member.

 

Is the casino money being used for education or is it being used to transfer money from the education fund to other priorities?

 

Beginning in 2019, a portion of the casino proceeds must be utilized for the direct support of public schools as prescribed by the new State law.  During this academic year, the Local Development Council  awarded the Meade schools $681,000 in funding (Casino funding) for Trauma-informed professional development for teachers and parents and for the development and implementation of the Meade Cyber Lab at Meade High School.

 

With the large turnover of teachers, administrators, and counselors especially large at Meade this year, how can we improve new staff mentoring and support so that there is continuity in instruction and culture.  This really matters!

 

Every first-, second-, and third-year teacher in the school district receives support from a Right Start Advisor (support teacher).  This includes all new teachers in the Meade cluster.  In addition, teachers receive professional development support throughout the year from all discipline-based offices (reading, English, math, social studies, science, world language, arts, music, physical education, dance, technology education, computer science, etc.)

 

Why is Meade allowed to look in disrepair?  Who is responsible for the aesthetics around Meade High?  Parking lot, more trash cans, signage for the entrance are all needs.

 

AACPS’ Facilities Division utilizes available fiscal resources to support all 128 public school facilities within Anne Arundel County.

 

Are there any plans to build any new high schools on the Anne Arundel County side of Laurel to help relieve overcrowding - over 2,000 plus students at Meade High School, Glen Burnie, North County, and Old Mill?

 

Yes. As adopted by the Board of Education, the attendance area for the new Crofton High School does not include any students currently attending Meade. The addition of the new Old Mill High School and another high school in the western portion of the county may have an impact in this area, however.

 

Overcrowding at Meade, North County, and Glen Burnie along with a high number of FARM (free/reduced meals) is a concern.  When the new Crofton HS opens up, will the number of students be reduced at Meade?

 

As adopted by the Board of Education, the attendance area for the new Crofton High School does not include any students currently attending Meade. The addition of the new Old Mill High School and another high school in the western portion of the county may have an impact in this area, however.

 

With regards to racial incidents - latest was a "kill list" at MacArthur Middle and a swastika at South River.  The message to parents is "we have a policy on bias, a student handbooks of consequences, and just be kind.  As the Superintendent, do you think your responsibility as the leader of the school system includes making a stronger statement against bias actions and racial incidents?  Does your position include appropriately staffing the Equity Office?  The equity office provides bias training to staff and community.  There are less than ten staff members servicing the enter county school system.

 

Dr. Arlotto has written – and The Capital has published – six columns since April 2018 (April 13, 2018; September 2, 2018; October 14, 2018; February 17, 2019; October 20, 2019; and November 17, 2019) that dealt with hate, bigotry, bullying and bias. All contained strong statements condemning such actions and mindsets.

 

Dr. Arlotto has also repeatedly stated another fact: No school system will eradicate hate and bias alone. AACPS, like every other school system, needs the partnership of families and community organizations. Schools have students for approximately 19 percent of the hours in a week. Families and community organizations have a chance to make in imprint over the course of the other 81 percent.

 

In his December 18, 2019, budget address to the Board of Education, Dr. Arlotto said this:

 

“We all must do our part and collectively it starts with an honest assessment of where we are. For me, it’s this: Our county has a problem with biased and hateful mindsets and actions. We cannot tolerate hate and bigotry at any time, in any place, and we all need to do something about it. We can spend hours, days, and months debating this issue, but such debate often does nothing to move us forward. No matter our calling or occupation, we must all admit that we all have opportunities to help our children unlearn the biases that have been imparted to them since birth.”

 

Additionally, AACPS’ efforts to infuse equitable approaches and practices go well beyond the Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement. Every school has an Equity Lead, a staff member who takes on the additional role of developing strategies to ensure equitable approaches both inside and outside of our classrooms. The efforts of the Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement and our Equity Leads was recognized this year with an award from the National School Boards Association. This is the second straight year that we have been honored with this national award for our work around equity, and AACPS is the only school system in the nation with more than 20,000 students to earn it in each of the last two years.

 

Parents want to support their children and students academically.  Why isn't the full student curriculum posted online?  Parents only see the areas covered if they make an appointment with their child's teacher.  This take time away from work.

 

Our Division of Curriculum and Instruction is working on making more of the curriculum at all levels accessible to families.  However, often an email or phone call with the teacher is enough to assist a parent who is trying to support their child’s learning.

 

How can the community better support the schools as volunteers?  Where is the greatest need?  What are the top three ways that the community can be involved in the Meade and North County cluster?

 

First and foremost, be involved with children directly, whether it is at a school during school hours or outside of a school at night or on the weekends. Take an active role in their education and development.


Second, inquire of the administration at a school how you can best invest your time and volunteer. Every  school has a place where volunteers can help.

 

PTAs and PTOs are also vehicles for parent volunteers.  Many of these parent organizations offer opportunities throughout the year for parents to offer their time and talents to the school.

 

How are parents encouraged to be engaged during the school day at Meade?

 

See above question.