School nam­ing com­mit­tee selects three pos­si­bil­i­ties for new el­e­men­tary school

Meet­ing also cov­ers an­tibul­ly­ing pol­icy, en­ergy sav­ings, bus driv­ers

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

The names of a for­mer school board mem­ber, a for­mer deputy su­per­in­ten- dent and a for­mer teacher are the fi­nal­ists un­der con- sider­a­tion for the name of a new el­e­men­tary school cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion on Billings­ley Road.

The chair­woman of the 2016 El­e­men­tary School Nam­ing Com­mit­tee, Col- leen Longhi of Wal­dorf, pre­sented the three names to the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing its Dec. 13 meet­ing.

The school board es­tab­lished an eight-mem­ber com­mit­tee, com­prised of school staff, par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers on Sept. 19.

The com­mit­tee so­licit- ed nominations from the com­mu­nity in per­son, through the school sys­tem web­site and through press re­leases, Longhi said.

The com­mit­tee re­ceived a to­tal of 26 names for con- sider­a­tion, and held a pub­lic hear­ing Oct. 17.

Board pol­icy 7230 re- stricts the nam­ing of schools and other build- ings to de­ceased per­sons or places of sig­nif­i­cance to Charles County.

The board is ex­pected to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion at its Jan­uary 2017 meet­ing.

“Our com­mit­tee also strongly felt that the new el­e­men­tary school should be named af­ter a per­son of sig­nif­i­cance to Charles County or an in­di­vid­ual that a child could look up to as a role model, some- one who has made a sig- nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to ed­u­ca­tion,” Longhi said.

The three names sub­mit­ted for rec­om­menda- tion are the Charles E. Car­ring­ton El­e­men­tary School, Ron­ald G. Cun- ning­ham El­e­men­tary School and Mar­garet Ja- mieson Thorn­ton Ele­men- tary School.

Car­ring­ton, a grad­u­ate of Henry E. Lackey High School, served on the board of ed­u­ca­tion from 2006 to 2010, served as a men­tor and coach of sev­eral sports, and also served as a mem­ber of sev­eral com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Ron­ald G. Cunningham was a Charles County Pub­lic Schools em­ploy- ee be­gin­ning in 1994 as a re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor. In 2005 he was named dep- uty su­per­in­ten­dent and over­saw school sys­tem op­er­a­tions un­der Su­per- in­ten­dent James E. Rich- mond. Cunningham was also a long­time mem­ber of sev­eral com­mu­nity orga- niza­tions.

Mar­garet Jamieson Thorn­ton was a life­long Charles County res­i­dent, ed­u­cated in the one-room school house in Port To­bacco un­til sixth grade, and com­pleted her high school stud­ies at Bel Al- ton Ju­nior Se­nior High School and Dun­bar Se­nior High School. Thorn­ton re­turned to teach at sev­eral schools in the county, and was a strong sup­porter of early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and kinder­garten. When Charles County be­gan of- fer­ing kinder­garten, she be­came one of the school sys­tem’s first kinder­gar- ten teach­ers.

The new school is sched- uled to open at the be­gin­ning of the 2018-19 school year.

The board also re­ceived re­ports on el­e­men­tary read­ing pro­grams, health care costs and new teach- er re­cruit­ment.

Steve Vance, su­per­vi­sor of main­te­nance, re­port- ed the school sys­tem re- ceived a com­bined credit and re­fund of $217,980 due to its par­tic­i­pa­tion in SMECO’s en­ergy man- age­ment pro­gram in which it re­duced elec­tric- ity us­age dur­ing times of peak en­ergy de­mand in the sum­mer.

Dur­ing the pub­lic com- ment phase, seven indi- vid­u­als, all bus driv­ers or bus con­trac­tors, spoke. Charles County trans­por- tation ser­vices are pri­mar- ily pro­vided by 26 con­tract com­pa­nies that serve the county.

Bus driver Keith McGirt said driv­ers are afraid to com­plain about their treat- ment.

“The bus driv­ers bring their con­cerns to me, and I de­liver them to you,” McGirt told the board. “They have so much fear that they can­not speak for them­selves, so they bring their con­cerns to me.”

Bus con­trac­tor Mark Koch of Koch Truck­ing said con­trac­tors are close to set­tling a 2011 law­suit by bus driv­ers.

“Ex­cept for a few par­ties, an agree­ment has been reached re­gard­ing a pend- ing law­suit,” Koch said, adding that a con­fi­den­tial- ity clause pre­vented him from go­ing into de­tail. “The par­ties are cur­rently work­ing with le­gal coun- sel in the court sys­tem to fi­nal­ize the process.”

Koch in­vited the school board to come to his bus lot and speak with his driv- ers them­selves.

“Please come talk to our driv­ers,” Koch said. “We have a good re­la­tion­ship with our em­ploy­ees, and there are just a few peo­ple try­ing to stir up some stuff.”

Sam Graves, an­other bus driver, was highly crit­i­cal of a bus driver “sick-out” held the af­ter­noon of the last day of school be­fore win­ter break in 2015.

“Last year, right be­fore Christ­mas, my chil­dren got on the bus that morn- ing scared to death that I wasn’t go­ing to bring them home at the end of the day. I had par­ents call­ing me, ‘Mr. Sam, are you go­ing to bring our chil­dren home today?’” Graves said. “If driv­ers are pro­fes­sion­als, like they claim to be, they wouldn’t use tac­tics to scare chil­dren; they wouldn’t use tac­tics to scare par­ents, es­pe­cial- ly right be­fore Christ­mas.”

The board also voted by a 4-3 vote to re­vise its draft anti-bul­ly­ing pol­icy. The pol­icy, which board at­tor- ney Eric Schwartz said was based on lan­guage re­com- mended by the state, had been re­vised to in­clude lan- guage defin­ing cy­ber­bully- ing and re­move ref­er­ences to pagers and PDAs.

Board mem­ber Mark Craw­ford, how­ever, ob­jected to the “laun­dry list” in the pol­icy that lists ex­am­ples of “ac­tual or per­ceived” char­ac­ter­is­tics a stu­dent could be bul- lied for, “in­clud­ing race, na­tional ori­gin, mar­i­tal sta­tus, sex, sex­ual orien- tation, gen­der iden­tity, re­li­gion, an­ces­try, phys­i­cal at­tributes, so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus, fa­mil­ial sta­tus and phys­i­cal or men­tal abil­ity or dis­abil­ity.”

Craw­ford moved to strike the list from the pol­icy, say­ing we don’t cur­rently know the types of char­ac­ter­is­tics stu­dents could be bul­lied for in the fu­ture.

“If my kid is made fun of be­cause they like ‘Star Wars’ … that’s still bul­ly­ing,” Craw­ford said. “I think be­ing broader and more in­clu­sive is the way to go.”

Board chair­woman Vir­ginia McGraw ar­gued the pol­icy needed a list of ex­am­ples.

“I do think there needs to be some spec­i­fi­ca­tion there,” McGraw said.

Board mem­bers Craw­ford, Vic­to­ria Kelly, Mar­garet Mar­shall and Jen­nifer Abell voted in fa­vor of strik­ing the list, while McGraw, vice chair­man Michael Lukas and board mem­ber Bar­bara Palko voted in fa­vor of keep­ing the lan­guage.

Schwartz in­formed the board that strik­ing the list amounted to a “sub­stan­tive change” and that the re­vised pol­icy draft would be brought to the board as an ac­tion item at its next meet­ing.

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