MCPS Superintendent: ‘We Need To Talk About Students Respectfully’

MCPS Superintendent: ‘We Need To Talk About Students Respectfully’

School leaders respond to racially charged comments made during boundary meetings

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Smith

Superintendent Jack Smith attends a school board meeting Tuesday in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

Racially charged comments made during discussions about an evaluation of public school boundaries last week have grabbed the attention of the school system’s top leader.

During a Tuesday afternoon school board meeting, Superintendent Jack Smith highlighted upcoming meetings about the boundary study, but said conversations need to be more respectful.

“Children make up about 20% of our population … but they make up 100% of our future,” Smith said. “We need to talk about students respectfully because they will make the difference, good or bad, in what happens in Montgomery County in the years to come.”

During a public meeting last week about the yearlong study, some parents raised concerns about students at lower-performing schools not being able to achieve at higher-performing schools and said white families are “being punished” for “working hard and doing well and choosing to live in a certain community.”

Other parents have argued shifting school boundaries would lead to long bus routes, decreased home values and disturbed community relationships.

Smith reiterated that the study is an analysis of school boundaries, looking for areas of improvement to increase diversity and offset crowding issues throughout the county. The school board will not be required to make any boundary changes when the study is complete.

The study, introduced by student school board member Ananya Tadikonda, is the school system’s first comprehensive look at school boundaries in at least 20 years and has pitted a contingent of students who are lobbying for more diverse classes against some parents who oppose boundary changes.

Tadikonda, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School, said students were “very, very disturbed and upset” about the comments made during the last boundary study meeting.

“We need to be clear these are the remarks of some, but in no way are a reflection of our values as a school system,” Tadikonda said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Everyone deserves a chance and nothing, nothing, you are born with should limit your opportunities for education and success.”

Additional community meetings will be held Wednesday at John F. Kennedy High School in Glenmont, Thursday at Earle B. Wood Middle School in Rockville, April 23 at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda and at a date to be determined in November.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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