DCC concerns arise in debate
Northwood High School hosted a discussion forum for the Board of Education (BOE)candidates on Wednesday, February 18. Parents and teachers from Montgomery County attended the debate and were able to ask questions concerning pressing matters in the down county area.
Three of the seven BOE seats are up for election this year; District 2, District 4, and At-large. The BOE discusses guidelines, priorities and budgets for Montgomery County Public Schools. Both candidates running for District 4, Valerie Ervin and Sheldon Fishman were present at the meeting as were the candidates for the At Large seat; Sharon Cox, who is running for re-election, Tommy Le, and Michael Ibanez. Karin Chenoweth, Homeroom columnist for the Washington Post moderated the debate for the evening.
A topic that seemed to be on most audience members' minds was the Down County Consortium (DCC). Fishman acknowledged that while Blair's freshmen class for the 2004-2005 school year is much larger than any of the other four DCC schools', it is to be expected "because [Blair] is a bigger school." While Fishman thinks that the academies have potential, he does not think they will help students for college or life after high school. "I think the major problem at all those schools [DCC schools] is that we have a large number of students who are graduating without being prepared," Fishman said.
However, Fishman argued that the DCC creates a variety of opportunities for students, and "more choices are better than fewer choices." To create more options, Fishman also suggested starting charter schools to relieve overcrowding in Montgomery County and looking to federal money for funding, which is available but not being used. "[Montgomery County] is turning its back on good green money," Fishman said.
According to Chenoweth, the DCC will run out of federal grant money next year, however all candidates pledged to find funding anyway they can. If elected to the Board of Education, Ervin promises to keep her eye on the DCC and its funding. "I've always had a question mark on the DCC," Ervin said. With decreases in spending and promises about the academies mounting, Ervin said the consortium "theoretically is a recipe for disaster." However Ervin does not plan to turn her back on the DCC and said that only by "watching it very carefully to make sure what we set out is going to happen" will the plan be successful.
Other issues discussed by the board members included integration in schools and bridging the achievement gap. Cox commented on the fact that the Minority Council just ended its monitoring of MCPS, but other candidates argued that true integration has not occurred. Bob Mixing, who is running for the District 2 seat said that there is not enough racial integration among students. "We definitely have schools with schools," Astrove said.
Primary elections, in which voters will vote for a candidate from their district and an at-large candidate, will be held on March 2. The top two candidates for each race will be chosen in the primaries.
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