Plus: School board candidate forum on Monday; 157 students semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships; School board to discuss SRO program Monday
Harris apologizes for statement criticizing teachers union
Lynne Harris, a candidate for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County school board, this week issued a statement apologizing for a comment she made to a student newspaper in which she criticized the county’s teachers union.
On Friday, MCPS gave the required 45-day notice to its employee unions to begin planning for in-person instruction. In a statement to Silver Chips, the student newspaper at Montgomery Blair High School, Harris said she was “completely frustrated that the associations, especially MCEA, would NOT get in the boat and row since Spring to help create meaningful Covid plans for teaching and learning.”
She wrote that the union was “obstructionist, inflammatory, and just said ‘no’ to everything.”
“We need plans in place NOW to bring small groups of students into schools safely –– for special education instruction, for specialized arts and other programs that require access to MCPS facilities and resources to be equitably delivered, for CTE programs that can’t be delivered virtually etc.,” she wrote.
Union members pushed back against Harris’ statement, calling it insulting.
On Saturday, Harris issued a new statement, apologizing for her comments.
“I recognize that the comments hurt and offended fellow teachers and do not reflect my deep respect and gratitude for their dedicated work to support our students,” Harris wrote. “It’s a bad idea to speak to the media when you’re tired and frustrated. My words do not reflect how much I value the hard work of MCPS educators. I am sorry to anyone who feels unappreciated by my poorly-worded comments.”
Harris is running against Sunil Dasgupta for an at-large seat. The election is Nov. 3.
School board candidate forum on Monday
The six candidates for three seats on the Montgomery County Board of Education will participate in a forum on Monday evening.
The forum is sponsored by several community organizations, including the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, Identity, League of Women Voters and the NAACP. It will begin at 7 p.m.
The candidates for the at-large seat are Sunil Dasgupta and Lynne Harris. Candidates for District 2 are incumbent Rebecca Smondrowski and Michael Fryar. Candidates for District 4 are incumbent Shebra Evans and Steve Solomon.
The general election is Nov. 3. People can vote in person at several sites throughout the county. Early voting will be held from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2. Residents can request a mail-in ballot until Oct. 20.
157 students are National Merit Scholarships semifinalists
Montgomery County Public Schools announced this week that 157 students are semifinalists for this year’s National Merit Scholarship competition. The semifinalists, from 15 high schools, will compete for scholarships that will be announced in the spring.
The students attend the following high schools: Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walter Johnson, Walt Whitman, Paint Branch, Clarksburg, Northwest, Seneca Valley, Poolesville, Winston Churchill, Col. Zadok Magruder, Richard Montgomery, Rockville, Thomas S. Wootton, Montgomery Blair and Wheaton.
A list of the students can be found on the MCPS website.
The National Merit Scholarship competition began in 1955. Approximately 1.5 million high school students across the country are entered each year.
Students enter by submitting preliminary SAT scores. Those with the highest scores qualify for recognition. About 16,000 students nationally are named as semifinalists.
School board to discuss SRO program Monday
The Montgomery County Board of Education will meet on Monday for a work session about student discipline and arrest data and to discuss the school resource officer program.
The meeting, which begins at 11 a.m., comes three months after the school board voted to evaluate whether to modify or end the resource officer program.
In a unanimous vote in June, the school board passed a resolution directing MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith to gather and review three years of data about arrests of students made on school property, or stemming from incidents that occurred on school property.
Smith will recommend by January whether to modify or end the school resource officer program.
A Bethesda Beat analysis in June of publicly available data showed that Black children make up one-fifth of MCPS’ student population but account for nearly half of student arrests.
Between the start of the 2016-17 school year and the end of the 2018-19 school year, 738 MCPS students were arrested on school property or because of incidents on school property, according to data released by the state Department of Education.
About 48% (354) of the arrests were of Black children, according to the state data.
In MCPS, about 21% of students identify as Black.
Each of Montgomery County’s 26 high schools, and many middle schools, employ a resource officer — a sworn county police officer to help resolve conflicts and intervene when a student, employee or community member poses a threat to themselves or others.
Civil rights activists across the country have long argued, however, that Black students are referred to law enforcement more often than their peers and that resource officers are too often engaged in routine disciplinary actions that should be handled by teachers and administrators.