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Howard County school board explains public input methods for redistricting process

In the first Howard County Board of Education meeting of the school year, the chairwoman clarified some components of the current redistricting process.

Mavis Ellis explained the public input procedure concerning redistricting during the 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. hours of Thursday’s board meeting.

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Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano presented a recommendation plan last month for comprehensive redistricting. In his proposal, he would move nearly 7,400 students to different schools for the 2020-21 academic year.

“The superintendent’s proposal is just that, a proposal,” Ellis said.

For the next three months, the school board will go through Martirano’s recommendation before arriving at their own in November. The board will take many factors into account, including public input.

Ellis went over the process of submitting written testimony about redistricting to the school board.

Submitted written testimony “holds equal weight” to those who give testimony in person at one of the public hearings, Ellis said.

Community members are welcome to submit written testimony about the ongoing process to redistricting@hcpss.org or by U.S. mail to Board of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042.

Any testimony submitted to a specific board member or to the school board’s main email account will not be considered, Ellis said.

Additionally, if the same testimony is submitted multiple times, it will only be considered once.

“We encourage all to stay involved until the end,” Ellis said. “The board is looking forward to hearing from you.”

Ellis stressed all upcoming public hearings and work sessions are open to the public. The school board will hold three public hearings — Sept. 17, 24 and 26 — and seven work sessions ahead of the scheduled Nov. 21 decision.

“Remember our children are listening,” Ellis said at the conclusion of both updates Thursday.

In other business, school system staff gave an update on Policy 1080, with a working title of “Educational Equity.”

The purpose of the policy is for all students to see diversity and inclusion as part of their “curriculum and respect the contributions of all populations,” according to the school system.

In June, the Maryland State Department of Education requested to publish new Code of Maryland Regulations on educational equity. Howard created its policy committee in March in anticipation of the state’s request.

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Howard’s policy committee consists of Howard teachers, administrators, students, citizens and members of various councils, committees and organizations. Representatives include those from the teacher’s union, the health department, PFLAG, NAACP, the Horizon Foundation — a Columbia-based health and wellness philanthropy — and others.

The next step for the committee is editing the draft policy, which consists of categories like academic achievement and growth, school climate and school success, educator and staff capacity, resource allocation, vision, mission and leadership, and human capital.

A detailed guidebook and the final regulations will be adopted in the following months.

Martirano is expected to give a report to the school board about the policy in the winter, and the policy is scheduled to take effect next summer.

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