Equity policy, school safety discussions fill Guthrie's last Carroll school board meeting as superintendent

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Superintendent Stephen Guthrie’s final meeting stretched almost three-and-a-half hours Thursday, and while it was filled with proclamations, speeches and goodbyes, it was also filled with discussion on school security, equity and a now-withdrawn consideration of a charter school.

Guthrie’s tenure as superintendent comes to a close at the end of the month. He will head to be the superintendent of the Sussex Technical School District, in Sussex County, Delaware. Steven Lockard, his replacement, will take on the role July 1.

Commissioners Richard Weaver, R-District 2, Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, and Doug Howard, R-District 5, were in attendance and presented Guthrie with a proclamation.

Members of the Board of Education also presented Guthrie with a proclamation, and spoke about their time with him.

“I certainly appreciate all the accolades and the heartfelt sentiments,” Guthrie said. “I’ll say what I’ve always said, it is I that owes Carroll County. Carroll County was home the moment I stepped in here.”

Guthrie said he’d had other experiences in other school systems and none were like Carroll.

“No one was as professional and would care more about me than Carroll County Public Schools,” he said.

Equity policy talk continues

After the pomp and circumstance, the school board continued to work for another two-and-a-half hours, tackling issues at the last meeting before the school year ends June 15.

The board discussed whether to bring back the discussion on the proposed equity policy, which was brought to the BOE last month.

At last month’s meeting, Judy Jones, supervisor of Equity and Community Outreach, unveiled the proposed policy, which states: “It is the policy of the Board of Education of Carroll County to provide educational equity for all students. Therefore, the board directs that all appropriate staff shall deliver high quality instruction based on the unique learning styles of each student and provide opportunities for academic support and enrichment activities.”

BOE Vice President Donna Sivigny had a number of questions on the proposed policy and said while she agreed with the concept of the policy, she had concerns about some of its wording.

The policy was scheduled to come back for comment at the June meeting. Guthrie said it had since been decided that the policy would not come back, because the Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Association of Boards of Education plan to release a sample model policy.

“That’s why it is off the agenda,” he said.

Sivigny disagreed with that and said even if the state was coming down with a model policy, the board should have the discussion Wednesday night, because she had some concerns she wanted to raise.

Board members Devon Rothschild and Virginia Harrison, and board President Bob Lord disagreed and voted against Sivigny and member Marsha Herbert.

Rothschild said she strongly supports coming up with a policy that shows real commitment to equity, but that they should wait until there’s a model policy.

Sivigny continued to disagree.

“I feel that this discussion should be had as we had planned to have it,” she said, later adding, “I think we owe it to the public to have this discussion.”

She argued if the board waits for the state to put out a model policy and CCPS doesn’t have a policy in place, it will have to adopt the state’s model.

But Guthrie said if the school system has a policy in place before the state model comes down, generally, CCPS would still have to submit its policy to the state regardless to make sure it complies.

Questions remain in SRO discussion

The school board also discussed the plan for the school resource officer program, which is still somewhat up in the air.

After a shooting at a school in St. Mary’s County this past spring, a last-minute piece of legislation mandating SRO programs or adequate law enforcement coverage.

“I think that there’s a lot of confusion about what it will entail,” Sivigny said.

Guthrie said a lot of things people have questions are still question at the state level as well.

Duane Williams, supervisor of school security and emergency management, said there are still questions but they’re working to get through them.

People are slowly getting their minds around the bill “because it is massive,” he said.

Rothschild brought up concerns about an SRO program, and made a point to say the school board hasn’t publicly taken a position on the program.

“I haven’t been convinced that SROs are the way to deal with this problem,” she said, and advocated for adding crisis counselors and behavioral specialists to the schools.

Howard, who was sitting on the board as a non voting ex-officio member, said he thought that it was the county’s obligation to act quickly. He said he had every degree of confidence in the school system and the sheriff’s office that SROs won’t be used to deal with discipline and detention.

“I appreciate the very quick action of Mr. Guthrie and the sheriff,” Howard said.

He also said he didn’t think the solution had to be a matter of SROs or crisis counselors. He said that Carroll should be dealing with school security like they deal with the drug problem — trying to solve the issue on the streets, but also putting resources into preventing people from becoming addicted.

Williams said they have looked at policies from across the state, and training is being developed in Maryland.

“The right things will be in place by the beginning of the school year next year in terms of MOUs and policies,” he said.

Back to the drawing board for charter school

Silver Oak Academy, a private, residential all-boys facility contracted by the state for youth who have been in trouble with the law, was supposed to propose a charter school for Carroll County, but in lieu of an anticipated denial from CCPS, the school pulled its request and plans to try again next year, Guthrie said.

Greg Bricca, director of research and accountability, said earlier this week in an interview with the Times that Silver Oak sent a letter to the school system in early January detailing plans for a charter school.

Bricca said Silver Oak had been looking to build a middle school and high school that would run along side its current academy that would be a vocational charter school. It wouldn’t be for students in the academy, but for other students in Carroll, he said.

Bricca said the school system has a scoring team for these types of requests.

“[In Maryland], they would fall under our Board of Education,” Bricca said.

Wednesday’s meeting also included the seating of 44th student representative to the board, Evan Warren, the approval of the facilities master plan and the transfer of the Winchester Building — which houses CCPS Central Office — from the county commissioners to the Board of Education.




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