Motions regarding Howard County high schools in the ongoing redistricting process were made at the Board of Education’s Thursday afternoon work session.
However, no motions are concrete until the school board votes on a final plan Nov. 21.
Two motions passed: one to move polygons 154, 214, 1154, 2154 and 97 from attending Centennial High to Marriotts Ridge High, and another to move polygons 171 and 1171 from Marriotts Ridge High to Glenelg High.
A polygon is a cluster of neighborhoods and areas of the county that attend certain elementary, middle and high schools.
Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano presented a recommendation in August to move nearly 7,400 students to combat school overcrowding, address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty and establish a road map for the county’s 13th high school, in Jessup.
Students would be moved ahead of the 2020-21 school year.
The school board also reached a consensus on several additional potential polygon moves. Reaching a consensus marks an agreement among board members, but the decision can change when an eventual motion is made.
The consensuses include: moving polygons 52, 2051, 51 1051, 279 and 3139 from Oakland Mills High to Atholton High, and moving polygons 308, 1308 and 2308 from Mt. Hebron High to Centennial High.
Beginning at 1 p.m., Thursday’s work session was held before the school board’s regular 4 p.m. meeting.
School board member Vicky Cutroneo missed the work session due to an unexpected flight cancellation, but made it to the 4 p.m. meeting.
Despite Thursday’s work session being held in the middle of the day, the room was filled with community members, most holding various signs and wearing different colored T-shirts. Attendees lined up outside the school board headquarters as early as 9 a.m. Thursday to get a seat inside the work session.
School board member Jennifer Mallo spoke at the beginning of the work session, addressing those in the audience and their behavior.
“We have had people who aren't here in the meeting … [and] have watched the audience’s behavior and have been horrified,” Mallo said.
All redistricting work sessions are live-streamed.
“We [school board members] do not raise our voices to each other, we do not call each other names, we don’t intimidate each other and we don’t bully each other,” she said.
“Unfortunately, our community has chosen to do the opposite,” she added. “Many of you have had side conversations that cannot continue [with] some of your side conversation toward board members laced with profanity and intimidation that will stop today.”
Mallo also addressed the signs in the audience, saying all signs cannot be higher than the sign holder’s chin, as the signs are “blocking the people behind you.”
Following Mallo, several other school board members addressed the audience.
“Please remember our staff are people, our superintendent is a person [and] threats to him, threats to us are not acceptable,” said Vice Chairwoman Kirsten Coombs. “We are talking about education and our children. Please model good behavior.”
Board member Chao Wu said, “Don’t raise your hand, don’t raise your signs. We want to make sure the conversation will go on peacefully.”
For member Christina Delmont-Small, “One of the best things about this county and this board is there is a diversity of opinion.
“If we all wanted to do the same exact thing the same exact way, many of your voices would not be heard.”
Howard community members, parents and students can submit written testimony until Nov. 19.
At a work session Tuesday, a motion failed to continue the ongoing redistricting process by starting from Martirano’s recommendation. During the first work session last month, the school board reached a consensus to use current boundary lines as a starting point when making redistricting decisions.
Remaining work sessions are scheduled for Nov. 12, 14 and 18 at the school board headquarters. The Nov. 12 and 18 work sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m., while the Nov. 14 work session has moved to begin at 1 p.m.