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Carroll County school board removes outdoor mask requirement, denounces racist remarks, announces top teacher

The Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously on Wednesday evening to lift the outdoor mask requirement on school grounds.

Board member Ken Kiler made the motion. He said recess and sporting events were examples of places where masks should not be required.

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“These kids need to get these masks off,” he said.

Ed Singer, county health officer, said he is less concerned about sporting events.

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“I do have a little bit of concern about the recess with younger kids that can’t be vaccinated,” he added.

Singer said the highest case numbers are among those 18 and younger. He encouraged that they wait until after the school year.

Tara Battaglia, fellow board member, said it’s important to emphasize that wearing masks will be a parent choice.

Board members agreed to wait until on or after May 15, the day Gov. Larry Hogan said the state’s outdoor mask order will be lifted, for the new rule to go into effect for sporting and ticketed events. The rule for other outdoor activities, like recess, starts immediately.

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The beginning of Wednesday’s board meeting included the announcement of Carroll County’s Teacher of the Year and remarks on racism.

Racial slurs denounced

During the citizen participation portion of the school board meeting, a few people addressed the report of racist comments made at lacrosse game on Monday.

Gary Foote, a teacher at South Carroll High School, said saying racism will not be tolerated is not enough and asked how diversity can truly be achieved. Foote said more diverse juries deliberate longer and reach fairer verdicts, more diverse schools have better test scores and simply looking at the portraits in the board of education’s lobby says more about the system’s commitment to diversity than anything else.

Mariana Caplan, a senior at Liberty High School, said the vast majority of the student body are familiar with students and teachers saying disparaging racial remarks. She said a white teacher made a “crude impression of being a Black person from the ghetto.” And another said all Asian countries are interchangeable.

Caplan said she was there today to speak on behalf of a friend who is a person of color, who has had racist experiences. And although Caplan is not in the racial minority, she is Jewish and has received anti-Semitic comments. She said racial issues are “ingrained in our system” and are “frequently overlooked within the school and often goes unaddressed.”

She added it’s damaging to students’ mental health. Superintendent Steve Lockard stopped Caplan before she left to apologize that she had to share this experience and that Cindy McCabe, chief of schools, touch base with her in the hallway to talk about it further.

Devanshi Mistry, student board of education member, shared an experience of a South Korean CCPS student who said people made fun of her skin, eyes and name. And added the student did not speak up because she may have been labeled as sensitive.

Mistry called on the board and superintendent to make an action plan to combat racism.

Board member Patricia Dorsey agreed and said it’s an experience she had. Dorsey said it’s important for them to understand that these are more than stories, but “actual lived experiences” students are having.

Battaglia said it’s not Carroll County’s values and Kiler said “if we make it unacceptable it will be unacceptable.”

Lockard said it’s clear it’s time to double-down on a plan of action as Mistry suggested. And it can’t be just one or two or 10 people working on it. It has to be everyone.

“The days of people just tolerating things are over,” he said.

Teacher of the Year

Lockard announced this year’s teacher of the year is Dawne Dill, an English teacher at Century High School. Dill has been at Century since 2012.

After Lockard’s announcement, Dill thanked the board for making tough decisions, thanked parents for having “amazing humans for us to spend our days with” and said she loves all her students.

Dawne Dill, the 2021 Carroll County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, receives a plaque from Superintendent Steve Lockard during Wednesday's school board meeting. .
Dawne Dill, the 2021 Carroll County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, receives a plaque from Superintendent Steve Lockard during Wednesday's school board meeting. . (Kristen Griffith)

Prior to joining CCPS, she taught in Virginia Beach for two years and West Lafayette, Indiana for three.

She’s a graduate of Purdue University for her Bachelor of Arts in English an received a Master of Education degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.

In her teacher of the year application essay, Dill said: “One of the greatest feats of being a good teacher is to get students to work hard and still think the class is fun. I strive to achieve a balance of both. Because I prove I love and value my students, I am able to get them to accomplish great things in the classroom.”

Shannon Zepp of Francis Scott Key High School won the Rita Dowd Outstanding School Administrator Award recipient for assistant principal And Katie Purper of Winfield Elementary School was the recipient for the principal category.

The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was Tom Hill, director of middle schools. The eight teacher of the year finalists were also honored. He said it’s an honor to serve the school system. His parents instilled in him early the value of education. He wanted other people to know how much he valued it as well and how far it can take you.

“I hope I did that,” he said. “I hope I served you.”

COVID-19 cases

The number of COVID-19 cases within Carroll County Public Schools dropped by a few this week, the third week in a row for a decrease in total cases.

The school system’s data dashboard, which reports positive COVID-19 cases of students and teachers attending in-person learning, reported on Wednesday there were 72 total cases this week, including 68 students. That’s seven fewer students and staff members than last week.

That’s in line with county’s overall trend. The Carroll County Health Department reported 126 cases last week, which represented 30 fewer than the previous week’s 156 and means Carroll has seen decreases in four of the past five weeks

The CCPS dashboard also reports 208 people showing virus symptoms this week, including 198 students. That’s five fewer students and staff members than last week.

Manchester Elementary School had the most positive cases among the elementary schools with eight. Northwest Middle had six and Liberty and Winters Mill high schools each had five.

Cranberry Station Elementary School had 16 people with symptoms, the most on the elementary school level. It was the only elementary school with symptom numbers in the double digits this week. Both Oklahoma Road and East middle schools each had nine people and Century High School had 14, the only high school with double digit numbers for symptoms.

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