Baltimore County schools staff recommends Golden Ring Middle School closure, concerned about system dropout rates

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Dr. Darryl L. Williams, Superintendent Baltimore County Public Schools, gives remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new replacement school for Lansdowne High School, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. The embattled superintendent announced Jan. 23 that he will not seek another term, after letters were sent to the Board of Education by several education and community groups, calling for a new superintendent.

Baltimore County Public Schools staff presented a recommendation to close Golden Ring Middle School, as well as a report on lowered graduation rates and increased dropout rates, to the school board at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.

Golden Ring Middle School is part of a boundary study for BCPS central and northeast area middle schools. The study looks to build a new middle school near Golden Ring and plans for the termination of Golden Ring’s building as a middle school. Board member Tiara Booker-Dwyer said that communication regarding the closure of Golden Ring Middle, where she attended as a student, could be strengthened. Several other board members shared the same critique, explaining that not everyone who would be impacted by the closure are aware of what’s going on.


BCPS administrative staff said communication has followed board policy for school closure. As part of procedure, the staff members presented their recommendation for Golden Ring’s closure Tuesday, citing that the September 2020 Capital Improvement Plan proposed a new northeast area middle school to take the place of Golden Ring. On May 3, the board will hold a public hearing on the matter and make a decision May 16.

Staff said it could take 12 to 18 months to determine how the old building will be repurposed.


Board member Rod McMillion pointed out that the staff’s presentation on the closure recommendation was shorter and less detailed than the documents shared with board members; he said the public would benefit from seeing the details. He also questioned the timing of the closure recommendation and why Golden Ring’s future was not discussed for years.

“Why wasn’t that talked about a while ago?” McMillion asked. “Somebody said to me, ‘It was an election year last year.’”

Board member Julie Henn said she would like to see the breakdowns in which communication downfalls occurred, as well as look at the board policy to see what needs to be improved.

BCPS staff said there has been extensive conversation on the need for more student seats and that Golden Ring was part of the justification submitted with the Capital Improvement Plan. Deputy Superintendent Myriam Yarbrough said she respected the board’s feedback, will look to get permission from Superintendent Darryl L. Williams to make documents for the closure recommendation public and ensure that those impacted by the closure receive information.

At the meeting, BCPS staff members also presented data on 2022 graduation and dropout rates, which Chief of Schools Michael Zarchin characterized as a “call to action.” He further elaborated that BCPS is “not in a position to celebrate” in light of the data.

Four-year graduation rates decreased for all student race and ethnicity groups. The overall four-year graduation rate dropped from 87.6% in 2019 to 84.5% in 2022. Hispanic students held the lowest graduation rate at 68%. Students classified as English learners had an even lower graduation rate at 54.7%.

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Dropout rates increased to 9.6%, about one percentage point higher than in 2019. English learners reported the highest dropout rate of all student groups with 35.6% of English learners dropping out.

Zarchin said the school district is responding to the data through sending letters to parents, a student support team, monthly Project Graduation meetings and parent partnerships. He said developing a six-year graduation plan with middle schoolers has also been part of BCPS’ response.


Vice Chair Robin L. Harvey said she would want to see a breakdown of the dropout rates to see the ages and reasons of the students not graduating.

Board member Emory Young said he has spoken with parents who said they wish they’d been told their child was at risk of not graduating.

“If a letter is going out but there’s no confirmation back, are they really receiving it, understanding the scope of the issue?” Young asked BCPS staff. They responded saying that they will follow up with families if they don’t hear back.

This is the first meeting of the academic year after newly appointed board members Booker-Dwyer, Young and Tiffany Frempong took their seats. The trio, all selected by Gov. Wes Moore’s office, were sworn into their positions Friday and Monday. Moore’s office was tasked with naming four appointees but decided to leave one seat open for the time being, leaving the board one member short. This is the first time a Maryland governor has not appointed enough members to fill all appointed seats, according to Cindy Sexton, head of the district’s school board nominating commission.

“Already, you have jumped in,” said Williams to the new members.