Anne Arundel school board considers changes to Citizen Advisory Committee

Members also OK increase to school meal prices and adding 5 early dismissal days for teacher development

May 05, 2011|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education considered on Wednesday policy revisions to the Citizen Advisory Committee, approved an increase in school meal prices and granted a request for five early-dismissal days next year for teacher professional development.

The school system's office of school and family partnerships offered a first reading of a draft that outlined revisions to the countywide Citizen Advisory Committee structure. The committee is a state-mandated arm of the school board made up of county residents, including teachers and those with or without children in the school system, that advises the board on decisions affecting the system.

The new structure would consist of an executive committee that represents elementary and secondary schools in each high school cluster, as well as at-large representatives for a special-education advisory committee and the parent involvement advisory council.

The proposed revision of the CAC's policy came after its chairman, Tom Frank, resigned last year and stated on the group's website that the impression he got of the CAC's duties differed with that of the board. Jim Snider, who went from vice chair to acting chair after Frank's resignation, stepped down earlier this year.

The board responded by meeting with the CAC and vowed to review CAC policy.

The draft also states that CAC terms of offices would be two years, with the first team of elementary members being three years. If a member is absent for two or more meetings during the year, the board would be able to terminate the individual's membership.

Teresa Milio Birge, the school board vice president, said that, if agreed upon, the measures would bring more consistency to CAC meetings. In the past, she said, "You would get about 25 people each time, and maybe five would be the same core people. The others would be different every time, and that's really hard to accomplish anything."

The board also approved a 10-cent increase both for breakfast and lunch beginning next year. Breakfast will cost $1.35 for all students. Lunch for elementary students will cost $2.60 and lunch for secondary students will cost $2.85. Costs to students who qualify for reduced meals will remain unchanged.

The school system derives 55 percent of its meals budget from food sales at schools, officials said.

Perhaps the most contentious topic during the meeting involved Superintendent Kevin Maxwell's request to add five early closings for teacher development next school year. School officials said three days now are designated for professional development.

School officials said a committee was formed to determine the best way to carry out objectives designed to increase student achievement and prepare students to compete in the working world. The result was a suggestion to include in the calendar year 15 hours of additional professional development time, with current early-dismissal policies.

The 15 hours would be achieved via two-hour early-dismissal days that school officials say would allow for three hours of professional development each day. The scheduled dates are: Sept. 14, Oct. 19, Nov. 9, Jan. 11 and May 2.

The early dismissal would not cut into the legal requirement for school hours because the county already exceeds that requirement, officials said.

Board member Kevin Jackson said that while he supported more professional development, he questioned the proposed time frame.

"If we're going with two-hour early dismissal, are children losing in their educational time?" said Jackson. "From a return-on-investment standpoint, we have to weigh whether that return on investment is worth that lost time in the classroom."

Fellow board member Victor Bernson suggested that the school system should add professional development days "on top of and in addition to the existing 181-day workday requirement."

But after the measure passed the board president, Patricia Nalley, said, "Across the board we need to increase our ability to help teachers develop professionally. It's an excellent way to make it consistent. …

"It's extremely important in order to close the achievement gap for everyone to hear the same message."

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