Montgomery County Board of Education President Shebra Evans and Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith released the following statement in response to County Executive Marc Elrich’s recommended Fiscal Year 2021 Operating Budget:
“We are in unique times facing an unprecedented challenge. We greatly appreciate County Executive Marc Elrich’s understanding of the need to face the challenges of today while planning for the future for our children and community. His recommend budget nearly equals the Board of Education’s requested budget and is more than $35 million over Maintenance of Effort. This investment is especially significant given the financial uncertainty our county and country face as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to remember that investments in our students now will ensure a strong future economy for our county that will thrive in good times and can weather crises. The County Council has had enduring support for public education in our county. We look forward to working with the councilmembers in the coming weeks to discuss how our operating budget will continue to meet the unique needs of each of our 166,000-plus students.”
In February, The Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a $2.805 billion budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. This includes an increase of $124.1 million from FY 2020. The budget will allow Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to manage significant enrollment growth and focus on strategic investments to address disparities in student achievement.
The budget includes funding to expand and implement strategic key bodies of work. This includes:
- Additional English for Speakers of Other Languages teachers and counselors;
- The expansion of prekindergarten seats;
- Increasing exposure to language opportunities;
- Creation of three new regional International Baccalaureate centers to provide more access to rigorous coursework;
- Addition of mental health support staff to support student mental health and well-being;
- Opening of upcounty career readiness hub at the new Seneca Valley High School;
- Providing additional support for language and science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming;
- Equity and innovation initiatives; and
- An expansion and enhancement of teacher recruitment and retention efforts to ensure all classrooms have highly qualified teachers from a diversity of backgrounds.
- Additional positions based on student enrollment adjustments;
- Accelerators for Learning, Accountability and Results and Operational Excellence strategies;
- Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation-directed grants; and
- Additional identified savings.
The Montgomery County Council will hold public hearings on the county budget in April before passing a final budget on May 21, 2020. After the County Council’s action, the Board of Education will vote on June 11, 2020, for final adoption of the FY 2021 operating budget.
Former Student Board of Education Member Sebastian Johnson is seeking an at-large seat in the 2016.
Advantages and Challenges
Johnson’s strongest asset is his impressive resume. After graduating from Montgomery Blair, Johnson received his B.A. in Economics and Government from Georgetown and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. Johnson has already worked with kids in the classroom as a teacher and in the community. He’s done a lot at a young age.
Johnson’s biggest campaign challenge is that he is not an MCPS parent. As a result, he doesn’t have experience with MCPS from that perspective. Nor does he have links to the PTA network that often produces successful Board of Education candidates.
Today, his campaign was pleased to announce endorsements from seven elected officials:
Maryland State Delegate David Moon (D-20)
Maryland State Delegate Marice Morales (D-19) Maryland State Delegate Will Smith (D-20)
Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal (D-AL) Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-4)
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart
Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin
Some of the positive comments from elected officials included:
Nancy Navarro: I had the privilege of serving on the Board of Education with Sebastian, and I witnessed his steadfast dedication to public service. He has a keen understanding of the current issues facing our school system, and he brings a fresh perspective to the Board table. I am proud to endorse his candidacy.
George Leventhal: I’m very excited by the prospect of Sebastian returning to the Board of Education, where he served as student member. Sebastian’s life story embodies the success that we seek for all students. I wholeheartedly support his candidacy.
Kate Stewart: As mayor, an advocate for young people and a parent, I trust Sebastian to do what’s right for all of our kids. As a product of Montgomery County schools, he brings a keen insight to the challenges we face today. I can’t think of a better person to serve on the Board of Education, and I strongly endorse his candidacy.
Republican Gwendolyn Love Kimbrough is one of five candidates to have filed for the at-large Montgomery County School Board seat held by incumbent Phil Kaufman, who is seeking reelection. According to the Washington Post, Kimbrough founded a special education charter closed by the DC School Board in 2006:
D.C. school board members said last night that they will immediately take over the Jos-Arz Therapeutic Public Charter School after school leaders failed to introduce required improvements — including obtaining accreditation and providing a proper curriculum — at the special education facility. . . .
Despite the school’s early support from the council, Jos-Arz founders Rollie and Gwendolyn Kimbrough became embroiled in a longstanding dispute with the school board.
School board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz became suspicious of what she considered unusually high rent payments from the school to the nonprofit organization that owned the building and on whose board Rollie Kimbrough served. She also complained about contracts the school awarded to Gwendolyn Kimbrough’s company, American Therapeutic Services.
The Kimbroughs asserted that Cafritz and the school board sabotaged Jos-Arz by failing to refer the required number of special needs students that the school needed to survive. After losing thousands of dollars, Gwendolyn Kimbrough left her position as the school’s executive director in 2003.
As the operator of a charter school, Kimbrough has an unusual background for someone who wants to oversee MCPS. The failure of the charter school she founded does not bode well if she wants to be an effective advocate for new charters in Montgomery.