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Left, Centreville Middle School 8th grade students Hayden Burdette, Averie Mortimer and Cara Fellows perform beautiful patriotic music following the annual Centreville American Legion, Jeff Davis Post 18, Veteran’s Day ceremony in historic downtown Centreville in front the court house, Thursday, Nov. 11. The girls volunteered their talents for the program.

QACPS hopes to address learning gap caused by online learning

CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (QACPS) has positioned its annual goal-setting plan to address the learning gap caused by the need for virtual learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data presented to the board earlier this month showed a significant decrease in early literacy and math skills at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year when compared to school years preceding the pandemic.

In terms of literacy, based on Rigby Running Records, an assessment designed to evaluate, monitor, and report reading comprehension, 55 percent of K-2 students were reading on or above grade level – a 24 percent decrease from the 2018-19 school year. And with math, QACPS reported a 25 percent decrease in K-8 students who advanced one math level by the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Virtual learning, according to QACPS data, also led to performance gaps for African American, Hispanic and Latino students, as well as students learning English, students who qualify for free and reduced meals, and students with disabilities who qualify for individualized education plans.

While QACPS cited students’ absence from the physical classroom as being the primary cause in both math and reading gaps, Tracy Kenna, the school system’s supervisor of accountability, assessment, and data management, pointed out that this was especially true for the early literacy issues, as second grade students returned to the classroom environment this fall for the first time since kindergarten.

“Our teachers did all that they could,” Kenna told the board during their Nov. 3 meeting. “But teaching phonemic awareness virtually is very difficult. So we have some ground to make up there.”

Kenna presented the data while highlighting the system’s Local Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated Strategic Plan, an annual report due to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) that defines areas of improvement and plans to resolve those issues.

The ESSA plan’s two areas of focus are to increase both the percentage of students reading on or above grade level and the percentage of students that advance one math level by the end of the 2021-22 school year.

According to a draft of the document available through the Board of Education’s Nov. 3 agenda, the school system will work towards both goals by offering programs to students that offer more individualized instruction and regular assessments.

For reading, students across all grade levels will have access to the Exact Path program, which offers “an adaptive and individualized learning path” in different settings, according to QACPS spokesperson Lanette Power-Waters. The program, on top of assessing students three times a year, will also assist in instruction, assist in small group learning, and monitor student progress.

K-2 students will also be given Fundation instruction. Fundation is a part of the Wilson Language Program that emphasizes several foundational reading skills, including reading fluency, vocabulary, comprehension strategies, handwriting, and spelling.

For math, grades K-2 will have access to the iReady Mathematics program – which also offers more individualized learning paths – while grades 3-5 will use it as their primary class instruction, according to the ESSA plan.

Students in grades 6-8 working to catch up on their math levels will have Math 180, a math intervention program for the Common Core, put in their schedule every other day. They will both practice on the computer and receive direct instruction.

Students using either of the math programs will also be assessed three times per year.

Additionally, math tutoring opportunities will be available before, during, and after school.

None of the math or reading programs are new to QACPS, Power-Waters said.

“We really are putting every effort into it,” Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens said during the board meeting, referring to the more individualized approach driving the school system’s solutions. “And we would hope that we can get back to where our numbers were pre-COVID.”

After reviewing the data, Board President Richard Smith asked that QACPS measure its recovery off of pre-COVID numbers, despite whatever plan of action or comparison MSDE requests. He acknowledged that “it’s going to be a challenge,” but said that if Queen Anne’s County only compares itself to other jurisdictions experiencing similar issues, “the bar [will be] too low.”

“That is going to be a tough climb,” Kenna responded. “But that is how we’ve been looking at the data.”

Luke Parker is an award-winning writer and journalist covering Queen Anne’s County. To send a tip, email lparker@chespub.com. For updates, like Luke Parker – Journalist on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @lparkernews

Chesapeake Charities honors those who serve veterans

STEVENSVILLE — “We make charity happen”, is the slogan of Chesapeake Charities, and this year they hosted their sixth annual Celebration of Service honoring those who serve veterans.

On Nov. 9, as guests arrived at the Chesapeake Beach Club, a prominent line of large American flags were posted, waving in the breeze to greet especially the veterans and those who serve them. Also, through the efforts of Kent Island Cruisers, members, Dr. Paul Placek and Mike Francis, there were a number of distinguished antique cars in the parking lot, with Placek and others waving American flags.

Inside, event Chesapeake Charities Board Chair Audrey Scott welcomed a full-house of guests for the occasion. Scott wasted no time, after a prayer was offered to begin the program, a wonderful luncheon was provided by the Beach Club staff.

Chesapeake Charities mission statement explains the organization “provides innovative leadership and quality services that encourage charitable giving, build community resources, and enable donors to achieve their charitable purposes, making lasting investments in the Chesapeake Bay region.” In addition, CC has charitable projects in nine counties, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s St. Mary’s and Talbot. Their 135+ funds impact a range of charitable causes including; animal welfare, arts, community development, education, the environment, health and human services, historic preservation, and public safety. Together, CC has invested more than $28 million in the Chesapeake Bay region since 2005. Chesapeake Charities Executive Director Linda Kohler explained this at the beginning of the program, after the luncheon.

This year’s program was dedicated to veterans, as well as recognizing and honoring those who serve veterans. Before those recognitions were given, a special, annual award, The Governor Larry Hogan Scholarship, was presented by Dr. Michael Fisher (2019 Volunteer of the Year) to this year’s recipient, University of Maryland medical student Aidan Kennedy who will graduate with honors in May, 2022. The scholarship will help pay for Kennedy’s continuing medical education. The scholarship was established in 2016, and presented every year since then at the annual CC Celebration of Charity each year.

The first honorees for the Celebration was presented by Maryland Secretary of Veterans Affairs George W. Owings, III. Owings presented the Philanthropist of the Year award to John Parlett and Cruisin’ Southern Maryland for it’s decade of fundraising efforts for Charlotte Hall Veterans Home for much needed equipment and an outdoor pavilion that’s under construction at no cost to the government. Cruisin’ Southern Maryland antique car club has donated over $150,000 to Charlotte Hall, and is still thriving, thanks to Parlett’s success as a businessman and caring for veterans. When the antique cars return to Charlotte Hall each year for a show, volunteers watch the aging veterans transform into 20-somethings when they spot their favorite vehicle, and there’s lots of stories waiting to be told!

Nonprofit of the Year award was presented to Warfighters Advance by Delegate Brian M Crosby. Founded in 2003 by Dr. Mary Neal Vieten and other veterans, Warfighters Advance is committed to helping veterans transition safely back into civilian life from what is often high stress environments, that sadly, lead to an average 20 veterans each day committing suicide. To change that, Warfighters Advance provides a free seven-day training that changes post-deployment life to a positive results. After the training, monthly contacts are made with those who have received the training to make sure they’re continuing to progress.

Volunteers of the Year was presented to husband and wife, Mike Mattingly and Katie Dowd, who have served as a major force behind the transformation of Patriot Point, a 294-acre recreational facility in Dorchester County for wounded/injured veterans to have a safe quiet place to patriot poing recover with their families. Mattingly and Dowd both spend hours each week there, preparing meals, taking guests fishing, and participating in volunteer activities. They help in every aspect of the facility’s operations, but it is their warmth that transforms a beautiful setting into a place that feels like home. For that they were recognized this year.

Chesapeake Charities has hosted this Celebration the past six years, however last year’s recognitions could not be held in person, due to the pandemic. Those recipients were recognized within the printed program and acknowledged, who were personally able to be present at this year’s program. For 2020, they were: Philanthropists of the Year — Bryan and Fred Graul, Nonprofit of the Year — Anne Arundel County Food Bank and For All Seasons, and Volunteers of the Year — Lucy Kruse and Sandra Shearer Wignall.

Chesapeake Charities Director Kohler later added, “The annual Celebration is our only fundraiser. As a foundation, only 4% of all of our monies raised go to administrative overhead. We have a very small staff, and we are beyond what I would call frugal in how we handle our funds.”

For more information about Chesapeake Charities, go online at http://www.chesapeakecharites.org or call the office in Stevensville at 410-643-8413.

QA urges Franchot to 'step back' from phasing out oyster fishery

CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners penned a letter to Democratic candidate for governor and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot expressing their “deep concern” regarding Franchot’s potential plans to reshape the oyster industry.

Stating their pride in “our hardworking watermen” and the “work they do preserve and protect” the Chesapeake Bay, the commissioners challenged the gubernatorial candidate’s publicized intentions to eliminate the wild oyster fishery.

“We suggest taking a step back from the idea of phasing out wild oyster harvesting,” the letter said. “We strongly encourage you to meet with and consult our (watermen) to get the full perspective of what these hard-working people do for a living.”

Addressing the county Waterman’s Association President Troy Wilkins and Delmarva Fisheries Association Chairman Robert Newberry, Commissioner Phil Dumenil said the letter that was signed during the board’s Nov. 9 meeting was a “softened” draft.

In August, Franchot said that if elected governor in 2022, he would encourage the development of aquaculture — the breeding and harvesting of oysters in leased water bottoms — while phasing out commercial oystering.

The campaign promise enraged watermen across the state, including Newberry.

“If they did to the farmers what they do to these watermen every day, Annapolis would be lined with green tractors every day,” Newberry said during the commission meeting.

The debate and emotion surrounding the comptroller’s plan intensified after Franchot wrote an op-ed in the September edition of the Waterman’s Gazette, a monthly magazine published by the Maryland Watermen’s Association. In it, Franchot doubled down on his endorsement of aquaculture, saying he sees the practice “as the more lucrative future for oyster harvesting.”

“The wild oyster fishery faces a daunting future, both environmentally and culturally,” Franchot said in the op-ed. “The cost of wild harvesting continues to climb and the return on investment continues to decline.”

Though aquaculture currently makes up less than half of the country’s imported seafood, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as an industry, it is expected to grow. A 2020 economic analysis from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found that between 2013 and 2018, the aquaculture oyster industry in Maryland had grown an average 24 percent annually.

Newberry, who represents at least 80 percent of the watermen in the state, said he will continue to challenge Franchot’s campaign for governor.

“We’ve got a hard fight coming ahead of us. It’s going to get ugly. It’s going to get really ugly,” he said.

When asked for a response to the letter from the QA commissioners, Franchot replied, “The livelihoods of our commercial watermen depend upon a bountiful, healthy Chesapeake Bay, and there’s no greater way to achieve this goal than to significantly increase the population of one of the Bay’s top filter, the oyster. I am fully committed to ensuring the future of oyster harvesting through traditional commercial methods, as well as aquaculture.

“As I have stated previously, there is a great deal of interdependence between commercial oyster harvesters and the booming aquaculture industry. We should embrace all opportunities that carry mutual benefit, rather than looking through the lens of wins and losses.

“Our state has a long history of bringing all stakeholders together to find collaborative solutions to this enormous challenge of restoring the Bay and oysters. I believe the traditions and heritage of the watermen and the commercial harvest are critically important to the future’s innovative restoration process. We need their experience, knowledge and voices to achieve our collective goals. I look forward to working with our watermen, scientists, policymakers at all levels of government, and advocates to secure a stronger environmental and economic future for our Bay, and the Marylanders and communities that depend on it,” Franchot concluded.