Fifth District County Councilman David Marks this week called for outgoing Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Joe Hairston to "delay or modify" changes to school board policy regarding how students are assigned at county magnet schools.
On Tuesday, June 12, Marks — who represents Towson — sent a letter to Hairston regarding the policy change, saying he is "very concerned that the changes are being adopted with seemingly little input from parents and no community notification."
In the letter, Marks also said he felt that with a change in leadership in the school system — with Hairston retiring and new SuperintendentS. Dallas Dancecoming on board — that the policy should not have taken place so quickly.
"I also do not believe these changes should have occurred before the new superintendent has taken office and had the opportunity to review the policy," he said.
In the past, the school system has allowed siblings to have "priority placement" in magnet schools if the older child has been placed there. In other words, if one child is placed in a magnet school, his or her brother or sister would be granted placement in that school as well, in order to keep the siblings together.
But under a change to School Board Policy 6400, adopted at the April 17, 2012, school board meeting, priority placement will not be given to kindergarten students with older siblings enrolled at the same school, after the 2014-2015 school year.
In his letter, Marks spoke out against that policy change, and another specifically affecting his Campus Hills constituents who send children to Cromwell Valley Elementary School, a magnet school on Providence Road.
"There may be good reasons to make a change in the name of countywide equity and fairness, but there are also solid arguments for retaining the current policy," Marks wrote in the letter. "Parents contend that the sibling rule helps keep families intact, and allows parents to balance work schedules."
The second change alters what Marks called an "unstated policy" that gives priority placement to students who live inside what was the walking boundary for Cromwell Valley when it was a traditional elementary school. Cromwell Valley is now a magnet school.
"The concept of allowing walkers to have priority placement is also very compelling," Marks wrote. "Busing children to a distant elementary school will add to our transportation costs, and it seems inconsistent with the polices of walking, physical fitness and community livability we are trying to promote in Baltimore County."
Marks said he has been discussing the issue for three weeks with two school board members and staff.
School system officials were not immediately available for comment.