School system outlines plans to address Relay parents' concerns

Relay Elementary School Principal Lisa Dingle addresses a crowd of concerned parents and community members during a special meeting at the school on July 8.
Relay Elementary School Principal Lisa Dingle addresses a crowd of concerned parents and community members during a special meeting at the school on July 8. (Heather Norris)

In a letter sent last week to Relay Elementary School parents and guardians from Baltimore County Public Schools, Chief Academic Officer Valletta White outlined the school system's plan to address concerns brought forth in recent weeks by the Relay Elementary community.

The plan does not include removing the school's principal, Lisa Dingle, despite parent requests to do so.


In response to concerns about increased behavioral incidents and the school, along with what some parents described as a lax and inadequate system of discipline, White said the school would implement the following changes:

• A behavior interventionist will be hired for the school to put into practice and monitor a behavior program and specific protocols.

• Data regarding student behavior will be collected and analyzed quarterly in order to monitor trends and progress. The data will also be reviewed by assistant superintendent for elementary schools Jane Lichter, who supervises the school, and White.

• The school's current behavioral program and procedures will be reevaluated as the behavioral data is analyzed.

• The administration will improve transparency for both staff and parents related to the outcome of behavior incidents.

• Staff will undergo professional development to improve strategies for dealing with behavioral issues.

According to the letter, 11.7 staff positions and 1 support staff position were voluntarily vacated at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. In the year prior, that number was 2.5 positions.

According to the letter, "Although the reasons for leaving the school varied, Ms. Dingle has initiated discussions this summer between teacher leaders and the administration in an effort to improve mutual respect and teamwork with staff."

Stemming from those discussions, White said the following things will also happen over the course of the next school year:

• A discussion similar to that which occurred between the administration and leadership over the summer will be replicated with the rest of the staff.

• Teacher leadership and Dingle will arrange team-building exercises for staff throughout the year.

• Quarterly meetings will be planned between Assistant Superintendent Llichter and the Faculty Council and the Teacher Leadership Team to track staff morale. Meeting details will be relayed to White.

• First-year teachers will be given "consulting teachers," who are "master teachers in their field who have consistently demonstrated the ability to deliver high quality instruction," by the school's Department of Organization Development who will help to ensure that they meet performance standards.

Additionally, the letter from White told parents and guardians that a Parent Advisory Board will be formed and will meet quarterly with both Dingle and Slichter. The county school system's Office of Equity and Cultural Proficiency will also help the school's staff and administration with "support and professional development on race, equity, and cultural responsive teaching," White said.


In a July 8 meeting, about 100 Relay Elementary parents and community members gathered in the school cafeteria to voice their frustration over what they described as a flood of staff leaving the school, an increasing rate of behavior incidents and a lack of sympathy and responsiveness from Dingle, who became principal of the school in 2012.

On July 14, several brought their concerns to an evening meeting of the Baltimore County Board of Education in Towson.

In BCPS Stakeholder Satisfaction Surveys obtained by the Arbutus Times from the school system, more than half of the school's 39 staff respondents said they disagree with the statement that communication at the school is open and timely.

Forty-one percent of staff disagreed with the statement that they work in a positive, professional environment.

Almost 42 percent said they disagreed with the statement that the school's administration fosters a collaborative work environment.

Close to 40 percent said that bullying is a problem at the school and that discipline is implemented consistently.

Half of the respondents said they would give Relay Elementary a B grade for its overall effectiveness.