Board given an update on school progress
CENTREVILLE — An update on Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Equity Plan — part of Education that is Multicultural and Achievement (ETMA) — was presented at the June Board of Education meeting. Co-chairs of the Education that is Multicultural steering committee, Janet Pauls and Brad Engel, told the board the chain of events that occurred at the end of the school year spurred new discussion amongst the committee.
Our goals, said Paul, are to provide equitable access to the programs and services provided in the district to all students. The committee is looking at issues of discrimination and what those reporting practices are. It is important to remember, she said, that discrimination is not limited just to race.
“[For QACPS] it has been a challenging year ... with difficult situations,” said Engel. The work ahead is difficult work, he said, but he believes that with the leadership in place they are headed in the right direction. “There are good people in Queen Anne’s County,” said Engel.
There were 20 incidents reported during the 2016-17 school year, according to Pauls. Of those incidents, seven were at the elementary school level, four among the middle schools, and nine from the two high schools.
Reported issues were a combination of race-related discriminatory comments, gender discrimination, and inequitable practices for discipline, they said.
The committee looks at diversity factors including race, ethnicity, region, religion, gender, gender identity, language, socioeconomic status, age, and individuals with disabilities. By educating students about diversity and commonality, ETMA prepares students to live, learn, interact, and work creatively in an interdependent global society by fostering mutual appreciation and respect, said Pauls.
Among the Equity Plan’s plan of action to ensure equitable practices in Queen Anne’s County schools are continued policy and procedure development, ongoing data analysis to review suspensions, co-teaching strategies, and ongoing professional development which has begun to be implemented over the past two years. Professional development has focused also on transgender education.
The addition of equity personnel, Les Stanton and Ed Modell — hired contractually by QACPS during the 2016-17 school year to help facilitate ETMA and provide additional liaisons between the community, staff, and students — were positions defunded for the 2017-18 school year due to budget cuts. Monthly multicultural meetings will continue to be held to monitor the progress of the overall plan.
The new Bullying Harassment Intimidation form is now very visible on all school webpages, Engel said. Many parents had been previously unaware of the existence of the form and ways to report incidents, he added. The form is also available on the homepage of the QACPS website, www.qacps.org, under featured news.
Discriminatory comments and similar complaints of harassment are not new to the district. Some of these issues have been existing previously, said Pauls, but now we are facing them head on.
At the conclusion of the report Interim Superintendent Gregory Pilewski added that he was overwhelmed at the response they had received — since the May 3 letter addressing several racially motivated incidents — from parents responding with their stories.
“We need to continue to do more,” said Pilewski, “as we continue talking about this, going forward with our commitment to do something about [racially and otherwise motivated incidents]...our primary responsibility is to all students for a public education in a safe and equitable environment.”
“Our greatest strength is our diversity,” concluded Pilewski, “we appreciate our leadership and the board’s support in this work ... it will take all of us working together.”
Brad Engel, co-chairman of the Education that is Multicultural steering committee, interviews Sudlersville Elementary student Ricardo Gonzales during the Diversity for Life awards program Monday afternoon, June 5, at Matapeake Middle School in Stevensville.