Teachers demo house competition display

Teachers demo the new “house competition” display, a system designed to encourage students to have fun while learning.

CAMBRIDGE — At the Thursday, Nov. 21 meeting of the Dorchester County Board of Education topics covered board salaries, upcoming training, and funding for the Kirwan Commission.

Maces Lane Middle School (MLMS) leadership team and teachers took turns talking about what they are doing in their school. Led by Principal Jymil Thompson, the team shared elements of their school improvement plan. The staff at MLMS is relatively young, according to Vice Principal Dr. Laurie Barnes, but they are “learning as we go.” A focus on student and staff mental health comprises a significant part of the plan to improve academic and behavioral performance for Maces Lane students.

Teachers Rachel Frock and Ellen Engle presented another initiative rolled out this year, the house system program initially developed by the Ron Clark Academy in Georgia. The program, a cross between a “Classroom Dojo” style behavior and performance reward tracking app and four “Harry Potter-esque” houses that students are ceremonially assigned to, has been well received by both staff and students.

Among the many items for Board action that required a vote of approval were several items from the new North Dorchester High School. One vote moved forward with tinting the windows in the gymnasium to cut down on the glare. The Board also voted to finalize the plans for an athletic building containing locker rooms, bathrooms, and a concession stand.

During comments from the Board, Board President Glenn Bramble spoke about the Kirwan Commission plan slated for consideration by the Maryland General Assembly in their upcoming session. Bramble said that while he agrees with the aim of the Kirwan Commission, officially known as the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, the fact that Dorchester County would likely bear a significant financial burden, as related to the plan, concerns him. He pointed out that the Commission, formed in 2016, never asked the Dorchester County Board of Education for input about their recommendations or evaluation of the current situation.

Board Member Laura Layton also commented on the high cost of the Kirwan plan recommendations, but said she looked forward to the General Assembly weighing in on expanding options for discipline in classrooms.

Board Salaries

Prior to the Nov. 21 meeting, the Board solicited and received public comment on increasing member compensation from $3,200 per year for regular members to $5,200 per year, and from $3,600 per year for the board president to $5,600 per year.

Board President Glenn Bramble said the majority of the comments received from the public were negative, and that many said they wanted to see younger or new people on the Board. Bramble said, “That’s up to the public,” and that raising the year pay — last done 15 years ago — might offset the effort required for being on the Board and incentivize new candidates to run for the Board positions.

If voted for, salary increases would take place at the beginning of the next term for each district, as the terms of the Board are staggered, said Bramble.

Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate Training

Family Night at Choptank Elementary School scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 5 will include an explanation from school administrators on the ALICE protocol (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) for school safety.

According to School Safety Coordinator Chris Hauge, all DCPS staff members completed the ALICE training, and informing parents and caregivers about the process is part of effectively training the students to be more prepared for the range of threats they might face.

Often parents and community members are cautious at first when discussing school safety training, but says Hauge, “Everyone thinks about this,” and talking about it is the best way to equip staff, students, and their families to response to potential dangerous situations.

The Dec. 12 meeting of the Board of Education will be held at 6 p.m. at North Dorchester High School.

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