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Carroll’s top education stories of 2019: McDaniel’s major dilemma, top test scores, resolution to East Middle quandary

The Carroll County Board of Education was in the middle of a number of the biggest stories of 2019, including the fate of East Middle School.
The Carroll County Board of Education was in the middle of a number of the biggest stories of 2019, including the fate of East Middle School. (Courtesy Photo)

Looking back at 2019, the Times has put together a list of the biggest stories from four categories based on significance as well as online readership. Over four days, we will present in roughly chronological order a look back at the stories that shaped the year in Carroll County business, education, government and breaking news.

There were big changes at McDaniel College, a new era began at Carroll Community College, and a contentious budget season ended harmoniously with Carroll County Public Schools teachers getting a hefty raise. But the education story that dominated the year was the oft-asked question of the past several years: “What to do about East Middle School?” Finally, there is an answer.

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McDaniel restructures academic programs

During a February meeting and unanimous vote of the board of trustees, McDaniel College moved forward with plans to restructure some of the liberal arts school’s academic programs, eliminating several undergraduate majors. Art history, religious studies, French, German and music are no longer offered as majors. Additionally, minors in German, Music and Latin are no longer be offered. (At the graduate level, enrollment was suspended for Deaf Education but was reinitiated at the Board’s May meeting and is still being offered.)

The program suspensions affected less than 3 percent of the student body and less than 1 percent of this year’s pool of admitted students, according to the school. The decision came after a faculty-led group made recommendations regarding each academic program based on 10 years of data about student enrollment, retention and other factors. Some students said they had not had adequate opportunity to express concerns prior to the decision being made.

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In November, the school announced it was going to add eight new undergraduate majors. Students will now be able to pursue bachelor’s degrees in actuarial science, applied mathematics, biochemistry, biomedical science, criminal justice, health sciences, marketing, and writing and publishing. McDaniel is the first school in Maryland to offer writing and publishing as a major.

CCPS names three chiefs

The process of overhauling the structure of CCPS central office was completed May 29 at a special meeting of the school board, when the changes were reviewed. One of those changes was designating a chief of schools. Cynthia A. McCabe, who had been the school system’s director of elementary schools, was appointed to the new role. The changes took effect July 1.

The position essentially replaced what was formerly known as assistant superintendent of instruction, the title held by Steve Johnson before his retirement. The position will continue to support principals and the directors of elementary, middle, and high schools. Student Services and the Technology Services Department will also be a part of this position.

Previously there were two assistant superintendent roles — held by Johnson, who oversaw instruction, and by Jonathan O’Neal, who oversaw operations. Under the new structure, there are three chiefs. McCabe became chief of schools. O’Neal’s title shifted to chief operating officer. His position will oversee human resources, transportation, finance and facilities. Jason Anderson became chief of academics, equity, and accountability.

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CCPS earns accolades

Among the awards won in 2019 by CCPS educators ...

· In April, CCPS recognized Judith Jones, supervisor of equity and community outreach, with the Jack Epstein Award for Contributions to Multicultural Education. This award recognizes individuals who have made major contributions in Maryland to furthering multicultural education.

· In mid-October, Denise Kresslein, a life science teacher at North Carroll Middle School, was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award, which included $10,000, is the highest honor given by the federal government to teachers of mathematics and science.

· In late October,Carroll County Career and Technology Center teachers Michael Campanile and Michael Schweinsberg were surprised with a check for $50,000 for earning second place out of about 750 nationwide applicants for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

In December, Hampstead Elementary School was named one of six Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools, the first Carroll County recipient of the annual recognition since 2013. The program recognizes schools “that exhibit high performance and/or significant improvement in student achievement."

Teachers get 5% pay increase

Carroll County Public Schools teachers received a 5% raise after CCPS ratified agreements with four of five employee bargaining units in mid-June ensuring a 3.5% raise. For teachers, that unlocked an additional 1.5% raise thanks to state funding. The ratified agreements took effect July 1.

“This year’s tentative agreement was a hard fought compromise that we felt confident to present to membership. We believe our members deserve more compensation and we will work towards that next fall,” said Carroll County Education Association President Teresa McCulloh. The CCEA had voted the previous night to accept the tentative agreement, 247-19.

The starting salary for teachers is now $48,000. It was $45,787 previously. Superintendent Steve Lockard called the starting salary “very competitive.” According to the Maryland State Department of Education, Carroll ranked 12th out of 24 school districts in the state in terms of starting teacher salary for the 2018-19 school year.

Carroll Community College starts sports program

On Aug. 27, Carroll Community College competed in intercollegiate sports for the first time when its men’s soccer team took the field against Hagerstown Community College. The college, which opened in 1993, decided in 2017 to begin a sports program, starting with the 2019 fall season. The school unveiled its mascot, the Lynx, and named its first coaches in 2018.

That first game drew a large crowd that included CCC President James Ball, among other school officials, four Carroll County commissioners and Del. Susan Krebs. Two food trucks were on hand and music added to the festive atmosphere. The Lynx beat Hagerstown 6-3 in that first game and finished the season 5-9.

Carroll also added men’s and women’s cross country last fall and plans to add women’s soccer next fall and men’s and women’s lacrosse in the spring of 2021. The school is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, and the Lynx compete in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference.

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High marks in final year of PARCC

Carroll County Public Schools ranked No. 1 in math and second in English Language Arts among school systems in Maryland for the standardized tests called the PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Supervisor of Elementary Education in Social Studies and Gifted and Talented Kendra Hart said CCPS has a lot to celebrate based on the results.

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Carroll saw the biggest increases in Grade 10 ELA, rising 3.3% over last year to a total of 68% of students passing. Grades 3-8 ELA reached 60% passing, with an increase of 2.5% over last year. CCPS was the top school system in the state for students passing Math grades 3-8 and Algebra 1. In the Math 3-8 tests, 53.4% of students achieved passing. This was a decrease of 1.9% from last year. In CCPS, for Algebra 1, 59.9% of students achieved passing, representing no significant change over last year, but making the school system the best in the state.

The results were announced in late August. The 2018-19 school year was the final year for PARCC testing in Maryland. A set of tests called the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) will be administered to students in the 2019-20 school year. The tests will evaluate students on the same academic content standards as the PARCC.

CCPS to start after Labor Day

At its November meeting, the Carroll Board of Education reached consensus on the 2020-21 Carroll County Public Schools calendar: The start of school for students will be Sept. 8, 2020, the day after Labor Day. That puts the last day of school at June 9 if the school system uses no snow days. If all five are used, the last day of school for students will be June 16. The Board decided that school would be held during Yom Kippur but that accommodations would be made for students and staff who are absent to celebrate the holiday.

The school board voted after taking feedback for 60 days on the proposed calendar and hearing recommendations from Lockard. Before that, a School Calendar Committee committee surveyed almost 10,000 stakeholders — nearly 53% of which preferred to always start after Labor Day — when crafting three potential drafts for the calendar.

This marks the fourth consecutive year with the first day of school in Carroll County coming after Labor Day. In 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan mandated a post-Labor Day school year start via executive order. But the Maryland General Assembly voted in March to return authority over calendar decisions to local school systems.

New East Middle to be built

The Carroll County Board of Education voted unanimously at its December meeting to build a new East Middle School on the Westminster site of the existing East Middle, about 200 feet north of the current building, capping years of discussion about what to do with the facility that opened in 1936 and now has many systems deemed past their useful life as well as not being in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current building will need to be demolished. The project is expected to cost about $60 million.

Numerous meetings and public hearings were held about the school in 2019 after a feasibility study commissioned by the county school board came up with five options: renovating the current building, building a new middle school on the present campus, building a new middle school on the campus of Friendship Valley Elementary School, or building a kindergarten-through-eighth grade school either at the present campus or at Friendship Valley.

The Friendship Valley options were essentially taken off the table when it was made clear to CCPS that, because of water restrictions in Westminster, building on the Friendship Valley campus would require a new water allocation from the city — something the Westminster Common Council was unlikely to grant a special exception for — that would’ve likely delayed the move for years.

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