BOE holds community meeting; addresses staffing, new curriculum, mental health


The county Board of Education held a community meeting to discuss curriculums, class sizes and mental health. These meetings are held every three years in the Whitman cluster. Photo by Meera Dahiya.

By Meera Dahiya

The Montgomery County Board of Education met with members of the PTA and other parents from the Whitman cluster May 10 in a triennial community meeting to discuss a new curriculum to be tested at Pyle in the 2018-19 school year, class size and mental health.

The proposed new curriculum refines Curriculum 2.0: a statewide curriculum the county implemented in 2013. MCPS is developing the new curriculum in conjunction with a field test done by Johns Hopkins University, Scott Murphy said. Murphy is the county director of secondary school curriculum.

As part of the study’s experimental group of schools, Pyle will add more advanced humanities and math courses this fall. Pyle principal Christopher Nardi agreed to test the curriculum, but said he doesn’t expect it to make a big difference.

“I don’t know how these are going to play out because I don’t know what these are going to look like yet,” Nardi said. “Certainly any opportunity we have to add enriched activity, which is part of what we have done in our instructional focus around differentiations, has been included already.”

The Board also concluded at the meeting that despite community concerns, budget constraints limit actions that it can take to reduce class sizes. Whitman parents, however, are still determined to make progress on the issue, cluster coordinator Sally McCarthy said.

“We had asked the Board to consider forming a task force on class size guidelines as part of our January operating testimony,” McCarthy said. “We are working with other clusters like WJ and B-CC, and we are hoping in the next year to have a task force on class size.”

Some community members also raised concerns about students’ lack of access to mental health resources. Although the Board could not promise to hire additional psychologists or counselors as resources, it emphasized measures already in place to improve students’ mental health, including a newly implemented program that uses videos to teach students about the warning signs of suicide.

“A lot of parents care about an issue that’s really important to me, which is the mental health of our kids,” BOE member Jill Ortman-Fouse said. “We need to keep going deeper, as a community, into the mental health issue and what we can do to address the needs of our kids.”