Nearly one month since the Elementary School Model Initiative to be implemented in five elementary schools next year was unveiled, African Americans in Howard County (AAIHC) is throwing its support behind the initiative and four Board of Education candidates that it believes are key to the program's success.

About 20 people attended a brief press conference on the subject Thursday at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia., including Board of Education candidates, current Board members, school system representatives and community members. AAIHC is the political division of the African American Coalition of Howard County.


Larry Walker, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Education in 2010, said AAIHC "strongly supports" Foose's pilot program because it raises the level of education and enhances opportunities for all students in the county.

"This is the one thing that I am confident will help to eliminate gaps in achievement," he said.

The elementary model school initiative, introduced publicly May 15, is a pilot program that features expanded pre-kindergarten, Spanish language programs in early grades and departmentalization, which allows teachers to focus on specific subjects. It also establishes Telehealth services at each school that will connect children in school to doctors, allowing students to be treated in school so they miss less class time.

The model will be installed at the beginning of the next school year in five elementary schools -- Running Brook, Bryant Woods, Phelps Luck, Stevens Forest and Talbott Springs. Each school is a Title I school.

Schools Superintendent Renee Foose has said that this model is only a pilot and she would have to see results before expanding the program to more elementary schools.

In April, AAIHC announced that it has endorsed Olga Butler, Maureen Evans-Arthurs, Sandie French and Mike Smith for the Howard County Board of Education.

Sherman Howell, Vice President of Research and Agenda Planning for AAIHC, said that while all 13 candidates running for the School Board have something to contribute to the education of our kids, these four are committed toward implementing the elementary school model, the Common Core State Standards and early childhood education.

AAIHC's preferred candidates all attended Thursday's event and expressed their strong support for the model with French saying the pilot is an excellent step for the school system.

For Butler, the pilot program is especially important to her, since her nearly 2-year-old son will soon be enrolled at Bellow Springs Elementary School.

"I have a vested interest not only for my child, but for every child in Howard County to see that this succeeds and is very well supported," she said.

More information on the elementary school model can be found online at http://www.hcpss.org/academics/elementary-model.