Eastern Shore’s Board of Eduation doesn’t seem to sleep. Since historic victory in the last year’s election, the new Board of Education in Queen Anne’s County declared war on the achievement gap which escalated to epic proportions during 2020 school year.
Marc D. Schifanelli, an Army Green Beret and Maryland attorney and Helen Bennet a former US Marine and a small pet shop owner won the 2020 election for the new school board and since their swearing in they have been visiting schools each week, getting feedback from parents, students and principals, tiresly reviewing resumes for the new Superintendent, digging into gaps in the budget, working on the mandatory “Equity policy”, reading books offered for the children as secondary novels offered by the language arts department and much more. Out of six (6) books they approved five (5). Since January the BOE voted to create a new sport for the high school students: Clay Target Shooting, an Olympic sport and to create an opportunity for students to apply to numerous scholarships offered through this sport.
Now, 5 months later and after successfully selecting the new Superintendent, the BOE is focused on getting kids back to in person learning. Parents’ voices have been heard. Kids are failing in math and online education has not worked for over 90% of students in all schools and on all levels of the child development. Parents’ testimonials during live and televised school board meetings were emotional and heart breaking: children have suffered enough: from attempted suicides to deep depressions – the new BOE vouched that no child in QAC should be driven to depression and mental health harm by political activism of those in power again. Political activism by the former Superintendent and few disgruntled teachers must never be allowed again. The entire community voiced that sentiment loud and clear in the historic write-in election in November 2020. And the new BOE has not disappointed.
The public schools reopened, but only to a hybrid model followed by the strong opposition of the teachers union, threats by some political activist teachers of not returning to the classrooms in fear of Covid-19 even after receiving both doses of Covid vaccines and double masking to make the point.
The BOE kept the eye on the kids and many parents went to get certifications and training to work as the substitutes in case teachers refuse to return to work and to their classrooms.
Now the QAC BOE together with the excellent leadership of all the principles in every single public school created a Summer Program for all the children using the Grant Fund. Their equitable approach to bridging the gap not only fully conforms with Maryland new law promoting equitable outcome but the program of fairness and equal opportunity for all.
In the next couple of days the school principals, counselors, math and language arts teachers will identify children who have the biggest learning gaps in particular areas – whether math, reading or both. The parents should expect to receive a letter from the school Principal. The parents will confirm their child’s attendance securing the place for the students in need first for 4 hours of instructional in person learning. After those seats are filled, all other parents can enroll their kids to the Summer learning program during June and July. All the children will be eligible to sign up and receive additional learning especially in math and language arts for all grades in the summer. No child will be denied access to learning.
High Schools in QAC will also open their doors and accept students for additional instructions and learning.
The BOE, parents, principals and children have joined forces to win the battle for their children’s sole and knowledge. The enthusiasm is unprecedented. Much work remains to be done, but this time, no child will be left without educational results regardless of their skin color. No child in QAC shall be segregated into political boxes and treated differently because of that child’s national origin or gender. The common sense in raising children will be the guide for any and all school policies. Helping those in need first is just and equitable but as one teacher had stated in the public school board meeting “I have been applying equity for the past 17 years before anyone identified the word”. Common sense is equity. Providing extra help in instructional time, education and resources to students in need is equity. But equity is also challenging those students with particular talents and raising the bar for all.
The parents should expect their children to be back in schools full time in the fall. Announcement shall be made in the upcoming BOE meeting after the BOE officially welcomes Dr. Patricia Sealens, the new Superintendent in July.