Backers offer final push for Middle Years plan


Members of the Annapolis city council joined with parents and a few school board members this week in voicing hope that the Board of Education - at last - will fund the rigorous International Baccalaureate Middle Years program for middle school pupils.

Those in favor of the program, a precursor to the International Baccalaureate diploma program for high school students, have advocated for years, only to have their hopes dashed when the County Council cut the program from the budget for the three years in a row.

When the school board formally adopts its fiscal 2007 budgets Wednesday, members will have the discretion to fund the Middle Years program at three county middle schools for the coming school year, though the County Council cut $146,000 from the school budget for the curriculum.

However, the school board can shift funds around, and two school board members - Eugene Peterson and Enrique Melendez - previously have said that they would like to see that happen.

But board Vice President Tricia Johnson has said the board will have to weigh all of the school system's priorities.

On Monday, the Annapolis city council will be asked to support the program by passing a resolution asking the school board to fund the program at Annapolis Middle School. According to the resolution, the Middle Years program is "vitally needed at Annapolis Middle School to boost Academic Achievement and keep students in the public school system after elementary school."

Ward 8 Alderman Josh Cohen also has written a letter to school board members, asking them to fund the program. In his letter, he points out that two of the county's lowest-performing middle schools are in the Annapolis High School feeder system.

"Just as the IB program has helped boost academic achievement and bring back students to Annapolis High School, many of us hope the [Middle Years program] will do the same for Annapolis Middle," Cohen's letter reads.

The IB high school program currently is operating at Old Mill and Annapolis high schools and will be added at Meade High School this fall. The three middle schools that had been selected for the Middle Years curriculum - MacArthur Middle School, Old Mill Middle School North and Annapolis Middle School - are in the feeder systems for those high schools.

The $146,000 that had been requested for next year was for planning and teacher training, according to Chris Truffer, the school system's director of middle schools. School system staff, who had advocated for the program, were disappointed when it was cut from the budget.

"The value is that it's a rigorous program that is a good preparation for the IB program at the high school level," Truffer said. "We see it as a very positive program, and we were excited about the possibility of seeing it come to middle schools."

No public comment will be allowed on the budget at the board's meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the school system's central office, 2644 Riva Road in Annapolis.

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