2021 | Schools

School Notes: Board of Education will meet three times next week to discuss budget, anti-racism audit

Plus: Employee contracts approved for administrators, service workers; PSAT canceled as COVID-19 cases rise

School board will meet three times next week to discuss budget, anti-racism audit

The Montgomery County Board of Education will convene three times next week to hear public feedback about and work on the Montgomery County Public Schools budget for the next fiscal year, and to discuss an ongoing “anti-racism audit” of the district.

A work session about the $2.7 billion budget will be held on Thursday, beginning at 10 a.m.

The board will hold its second public hearing about the budget on Tuesday evening, beginning at 6 p.m.

On Tuesday afternoon, the board will meet to discuss the anti-racism audit, started in November with a goal of finding areas in which the school district could improve inclusion and diversity.

The school board in November authorized MCPS to spend up to $450,000 on the audit.

Consultants with Bethesda-based Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium are leading the one-year project.

Employee contracts approved for administrators, service workers

The school board on Tuesday finalized new contracts for two of its three employee unions — the ones that represent administrators and service workers.

The three-year contracts for the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals and for the Service Employees International Union Local 500 were approved in unanimous votes by the school board. Copies of the full agreements were not available on Thursday.

During Tuesday’s meeting, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said the COVID-19 pandemic caused the unions and the school district to extend negotiations longer than usual, particularly to address an economic downturn that made previously proposed salary increases difficult.

“We were having very different conversations last December and January,” Smith said.

The school board remains in negotiations with the union that represents teachers, the Montgomery County Education Association.

PSAT canceled as COVID-19 cases rise

Preliminary SAT tests, usually administered to sophomores and juniors, scheduled for this month in MCPS have been canceled as COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the county.

During a press conference on Wednesday, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said the cancellation wasn’t based on the school board’s decision earlier in the week to delay the return to in-person classes, but because of “the circumstances that led to the board’s decision.”

“And that is the increase in the metrics in our community,” Smith said. “As we looked at this parallel, if we would have been able to go forward with in-person learning on Feb. 1, we would have had the same conditions that would have allowed us to do something like the PSAT administration.”

The PSAT and the SAT must be administered in person.

Smith said MCPS was able to administer the SAT earlier in the academic year, despite not having in-person classes, because there is a lower participation rate.

“We have tried very, very hard to come up with ways to think about and implement a safe PSAT administration,” Smith said. “We just could not come up with enough space and enough systems to provide that opportunity to so many students. …

“Given where we are right now in our community with the metrics, positivity rate and cases per 100,000 and following physical distancing requirements, we just thought at this point, we weren’t ready to be able to have that confidence of level of safety for individuals.”