The AACPS Board of Education is fully elected for the first time in history. I heartily welcome Robert Silkworth, Corine Frank and Joanna Tobin of Districts 2, 3 and 6, respectively. Now, and for the first time, every county council district in Anne Arundel County has a duly elected member of the Board of Education and is beholden to the voters of their district. Thank you to exiting members Terry Gilleland, Julie Hummer, Eric Grannon and Bob Leib for their service to our students and community.
The three newly elected members join Candace Antwine, Melissa Ellis, Michelle Corkadel, Drake Smith and me for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year until a new student member is seated in July – as has always occurred. One notable difference, however, is that moving forward, the Board of Education will be an eight-member board instead of a nine-member board. This change occurred because each member, except for the student member, now represents one of the seven Anne Arundel councilmanic districts as opposed to a state legislative district. Quorum will remain at five members. I look forward to working with each of the new members on issues that matter to us, most notably being the reopening of schools once the county COVID-19 positivity and case rate falls to within the school reopening metrics set by the state and county.
The new members will be seated on December 7 at the AACPS Central Offices and their first Board of Education meeting will occur on December 16. The AACPS budget season also kicks off on December 16 when Dr. George Arlotto will present his recommended budget to the board.
Without a doubt, the board will have to make difficult decisions and carefully prioritize as both the state and the county face budget shortfalls because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long gone are the days of my first budget cycle, a banner budget year.
My goals for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget will include the following. First, we must not trample down the road we found ourselves on during the last economic downturn that left our veteran teachers several steps behind. We are still trying to dig ourselves out of that hole that has left our recruitment and retention strategies with much to be desired. Our educational system is only as good as our teachers, and so we must do all we can to retain our veteran teachers and to recruit the finest educators available. I will continue to support make-up steps for our teachers.
Second, our students have suffered immensely at all levels because of the pandemic, and additional mental health staff will be critical as we recover from this and the last school year. In addition to the need for additional mental health staff is the need for additional teachers to reduce class sizes. Now, more than ever, our students need as much individualized attention from our teachers to close achievement gaps made even wider by the pandemic. Finally, but never least, is directing as much of our finite resources as possible to meeting school needs at the school level and increasing efficiencies where possible in other areas.
Please reach out to me and my colleagues to voice your opinions and share your concerns. The new members’ contact information will be posted on the AACPS website soon at www.aacps.org/board. Two budget hearings are currently scheduled for early January. Given the current pandemic numbers, I am unsure if they will be virtual or in-person. Stay tuned for more details. As always, I can be reached at email@example.com. Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.