Board given an up­date on school progress

Record Observer - - School - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

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.”

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

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.

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