Superintendent lays out issues, priorities in press briefing


Graphic by Landon Hatcher.

By Joseph Ferrari

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith outlined his recommended budget for 2020 in his monthly press conference Jan. 17. Smith also mentioned his hope to expand pre-K and expressed urgency to curb chronic absenteeism.

Smith’s office recommended a fiscal budget of $2.65 billion for 2020, a 2.1 percent increase from the previous school year. While Smith acknowledged that the increase would be costly, he argued that such funding is necessary to accommodate the growing needs of the school system.

Director of secondary curriculum Scott Murphy and director of elementary curriculum Niki Hazel discussed the changes the Board of Education adopted to MCPS pre-K through eigth grade curricula Jan. 8. These included changes in language arts, English and mathematics.

“These [new curricula] bring degrees of cultural relevance, more resources for our parents and community, differentiation so the needs of all of our learners are met, assessments so that we know how our students are doing and a balance of both digital and print materials that are put in the hands of teachers and students,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that curriculum changes to elementary language arts will be considered at the next board meeting.

Smith and Montgomery College vice president for academic affairs Sanjay Rai also reaffirmed their support for broadening dual enrollment programs for students such as ACES, a collaborative effort between MCPS, Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove designed to provide students with a supportive path to a bachelor’s degree.

Smith additionally addressed concerns over chronic absenteeism raised by the state report card by breaking down the reasons students often become chronically absent: barriers like siblings to care for, jobs to work or lack of engagement.

“We really have to pay attention to making sure our courses and our level engagement and relevance for students at the high school level is what students need for their future, not our past,” Smith said.