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Education

Decrease in staff for gifted students proposed in Baltimore County Public Schools, concerning stakeholders

At a public hearing for Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Darryl L. Williams’ proposed budget, two of the seven speakers who came forth for comment voiced worry about the possible cuts in staffing for gifted and talented students.

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Williams’ proposed fiscal year 2024 budget details cutting three full-time resource teachers from the Office of Advanced Academics, which serves gifted and talented students. Such cuts would mean only one resource teacher, one coordinator and one administrative assistant.

The school system’s budget for FY2023 allotted funds for four resource teachers, one coordinator and one administrative assistant, Baltimore County Schools spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.

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The community members, both involved in the Citizens Advisory Committee for Gifted and Talented Education, an organization established by the school system to garner community feedback, asserted the Office of Advanced Academics serves about 27% of the system’s students in grades 4 to 12.

“This proposed budget shows BCPS ignoring [nearly] one-third of its students,” Jessica Paffenbarger said at the Tuesday hearing hosted by the board of education.

Paffenbarger asked the board to allot one resource teacher for high schools, two for middle schools and two for elementary schools.

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Onijala said the proposed “changes to staffing for this office are a part of the central office cuts that Superintendent Williams referenced in his presentation and our ongoing efforts to actualize additional savings in central office management.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, gifted and talented students accounted for 18.5% of public school students in the 2017-18 school year.

Suburban schools, like Baltimore County Public Schools, are more likely to have gifted programs than schools in urban or rural areas, according to a 2020 article from the Journal of Advanced Academics. However, the article found that Black and Hispanic students are “statistically underrepresented” in gifted programs.

Williams’ proposed budget still stands to undergo several checkpoints before it is fully approved. On Tuesday, the board of education will hold a work session on the budget before voting on it Feb. 28. County Executive Johnny Olszewski will then review the budget and present it to the county council, which will vote on it in May.

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Before the Baltimore County school board votes on the budget, Williams has a Feb. 1 deadline to tell the board whether he wants to stay as superintendent. The board then has until March 1 to offer him a contract if they choose.

Williams’ current contract is set to end June 30.


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