During a Dec. 8 Board meeting, Patricia B. O'Neill and Christopher Barclay were unanimously elected as president and vice president respectively of the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) for next year. They will both serve one term.
This will be O'Neill's fourth term as Board president and her 11th term as a Board member. O'Neill is the past president of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) and past co-chair of the Washington Area Boards of Education. Barclay has been involved in the BOE and in MCPS since his appointment to the Board in December 2006. In addition to serving on the Board for one term, he has been a member of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA) and the NACCP Parents' Council, according to the Board of Education web site.
Montgomery County Region Student Government Association (MCR-SGA) President Vanessa Trinh positively welcomed O'Neill and Barclay's appointments, especially because the new officers encourage MCPS student input. "In my own experience, both Mrs. O'Neill and Mr. Barclay have always been supportive of students and especially student government and student advocacy," Trinh said. "I'm glad to know that we will have Board members that are on the students' side."
Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Timothy Hwang believes that O'Neill and Barclay also have the background needed to carry the BOE forward, especially in dealing with the current budget issues the county faces. "Ms. O'Neill is no stranger to the Board presidency and brings tremendous experience, respect and know-how into the process," Hwang said. Hwang also acknowledges Barclay's financial knowledge to his recent appointment as the chair of the BOE's Fiscal Management Committee. "When it comes down to the difficult choices that are going to have to be made this year in terms of the budget, O'Neill and Barclay will provide the leadership the school system desperately needs to succeed and get out of these troubling times," Hwang said.
Every year, the BOE focuses on three major issues: hiring the superintendent of MCPS schools, organizing the annual budget and creating policy, according to Barclay. This year, the BOE will be mostly focused on the MCPS budget. "We have a dire budget situation in the country, state and county," Barclay said. "We are looking to a long, hard battle to adequately fund our schools."
The county's budget issues stem from several sources, one of which is the lack of finances available to cover a growing MCPS school system. "There has been a two percent in growth in enrollment. At the same time, we're looking at only an one percent increase in budget," Barclay said. "I'm really concerned by the amount of resources we have."
Proposed budget cuts will add to the 200 million dollars in cuts obtained over the past two years. These cuts may entail increased class sizes and teacher cuts, according to the Washington Post. In the Washington Post, Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast cited that a one-student increase in class sizes could save up to 15.4 million dollars.
Hwang will be visiting Blair next week to address overall budget slashes that the Blair community will face. Hwang hopes for the "the support of all the students."
In addition to dealing with the budget crisis, the Board will continue focusing on student achievement. "We are committed to providing challenging academics and a supportive environment for all of our students," O'Neill said in a Dec. 8 press release. Barclay is especially enthusiastic about MCPS's success in improving minority improvement. "We have done so much with African-American and Latino students," he said, but added that he sees room for more improvement. "We need to make sure all young people are prepared."
Although Barclay admits that battling the MCPS budget will provide for a "tough year," he has high hopes that the Board will solve these issues to the best of its ability. "It's going to be a long process, but I'm very positive about this year," Barclay said.