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County to consider naming school after Henson

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Josiah Henson bwFormer Montgomery County slave turned author, abolitionist and minister Josiah Henson. COURTESY PHOTOThe County Council president and the County Executive’s First Lady say a former Montgomery County slave never received the recognition he deserved. 

“Naming a high school in his [the Rev. Josiah Henson’s] honor would serve to pay tribute to his achievements, reminding our community of our unique history and the role of African-American leaders in our County since its earliest days,” County Council president Hans Riemer and First Lady Catherine Leggett said. “It will give our residents and children some ownership of the fight for freedom that Josiah Henson embodies. It will help portray our County in its true light.”

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All-female school board to be elected this November

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MoCo BOEWhile the names of the new members of the Board of Education for Montgomery County Public Schools won’t be known until the November election, one thing is certain. The next school board will be 100-percent female.

All seven candidates whom voters chose to include on the November ballot were women; four of them will be seated on the next school board.

Those four will join three female BOE incumbents: Shebra Evans, Jeanette Dixon and Rebecca Smondrowki.

Even the student representative to the board is female. MCPS students elected to the board in April Richard Montgomery High School rising senior Ananya Tadikibda.

Julie Reiley, the top vote-getter for the at-large seat, would have preferred a more-diverse board.

“I tend to think communities are better served if those who represent them reflect the community,” she said. “I think we need to make sure we do extra work to make sure we are fair and reflecting the need of all our students,” regardless of family income, their ancestry or their ethnicity.

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MoCo students share concerns with County Council at Youth Summit

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SILVER SPRING — In a room full of Montgomery middle-school and high-school students, Hailey Gordon, 15, a sophomore at Watkins Mill High School, said she is frustrated with her teachers. 

“It just frustrates me a lot because what I want to do, people make it seem like it’s not really possible,” said Gordon. “I just want to make art and sell it to people, but I’m always like, told that’s it kind of like you’re going to want another plan because that’s probably not going to work [well] for you or not going to work at all,” Gordon said when asked what makes her frustrated in school.

Montgomery County Department of Recreation hosted its fifth annual Youth Summit at the Silver Spring Civic Center for middle- and high-school students to share their experiences, complaints, and concerns with County Council members and other local officials during a town hall-style meeting. One by one, students from different schools, ages, and backgrounds discussed what was troubling them. Issues ranging from bullying and underqualified teachers to cafeteria options were all discussed by the students.

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G-Burg authorizes Kelley Park negotiation

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Gaithersburg SealGAITHERSBURG — The Gaithersburg City Council voted unanimously to grant City Manager Tony Tomasello the authority to negotiate with Montgomery County Public Schools over the proposed construction of a new elementary school on Kelley Park.

On March 22, the Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s recommendation for the construction of a new elementary school on the grounds of Kelley Park, a city-owned property on the east side of Gaithersburg, which features a playground, walking trails, a tennis court, and baseball fields that are used in the summer by the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. The school is intended to reduce overcrowding in the Gaithersburg cluster, where several of the elementary schools that serve city residents are operating well over capacity.

The vote and the prospect of the new school have been divisive issues in Gaithersburg. Some residents feel that the school would provide much-needed relief to the city’s elementary schools, whereas others have argued that the construction and operation of the school would deprive residents of a valued community gathering and recreational area, negatively impact property values, worsen traffic congestion as a result of parents picking up and dropping students off, and provide negligible relief to the schools.

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Rockville Police continue investigation into threats

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Nimah NayelNimah Nayel. FILE PHOTO  A Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson said the school system will defer to Rockville Police as it continues to investigate Islamophobic and racist harassment directed at a Richard Montgomery student who ran for the Board of Education.

MCPS Spokesperson Melissa Rivera said the school system will wait for police to finish their investigation of the incident before it looks into whether any MCPS students were involved in writing any of the racist messages.

“There is no way for us to know if the threat is from another student,” Rivera said. “We have to wait until the investigation is over and let the police do the work.”

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New MCPS program to help teens struggling with drugs

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MCPS logo

Montgomery County Public Schools recently formed a new partnership to enable students struggling with addiction to both recover and graduate from high school.

Thanks to a grant from Governor Larry Hogan intended to target the opioid epidemic, MCPS can start enrolling students in the new program sooner than previously planned, said MCPS Student Health and Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Rathbone.

MCPS will partner with Family Services, Inc., a local organization in Gaithersburg, which offers substance abuse recovery programs. 

“MCPS is now coming alongside [Family Services, Inc.],” said spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala. “They’ve been providing recovery support.”

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BOE to spend more for safety

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MoCo BOEROCKVILLE — In light of recent shootings at schools in Parkland, Florida and St. Mary’s County, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said he plans to ask for more funding to increase security at schools.

While officials from the Montgomery County Board of Education said they were already in the process of updating security at schools recent school shootings have made administrators reevaluate school’s security needs.

As County school officials were in the process of reviewing schools’ safety infrastructure, training for staff and violence prevention programs, they said the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County gave them pause.

“One thing we feel that we have to do is, in light of the tragedies Florida and St. Mary’s, go back out to our schools again and do another assessment – a facility assessment – both school facilities as well as non-school facilities,” said Andrew Zuckerman, chief operating officer for Montgomery County Public Schools.

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Public schools find high levels of lead in drinking water

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MCPS logoAt least 12 Montgomery County Public Schools elementary, middle and high schools have one or more drinking water units with higher lead content than the Environmental Protection Agency recommends, and one elementary school’s water fountain exceeded the recommended level by a factor of 12, according to recent reports from MCPS.

As of Monday, MCPS employees posted reports from 31 of the 205 schools. Most of the schools tested so far are in Silver Spring and Gaithersburg.

EPA officials recommend acting to limit lead in water if lead levels meet or exceed 20 parts per billion due to the safety risks.

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Gaithersburg residents object to school plans

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Gaithersburg logoGAITHERSBURG — More than two dozen city residents came to City Hall Monday night to voice opposition to a proposal by Montgomery County Public Schools to construct a new elementary school on the site of Kelley Park.  Located in the Saybrooke neighborhood on the city’s east side, the park includes green space, playground and baseball diamonds which are used in the summer by the Cal Ripken Collegiate League.

School construction has long been a hot button issue in Gaithersburg, where many of the MCPS elementary schools which serve the city are operating over capacity.

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Leggett proposes modest spending increase

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County Executive Ike Leggett.  FILE PHOTOCounty Executive Ike Leggett.      FILE PHOTO  Calling it a prudent attempt to guide Montgomery County through fiscal uncertainty, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) released the final budget proposal of his last term as county executive Thursday, putting forward a $5.56 billion operating budget – increasing spending by 2 percent – for Fiscal Year 2019, with most of the increase directed to Montgomery County Public Schools.

“This budget continues my commitment to prudent fiscal policies critical to sound fiscal management,” Leggett said. “I have increased our reserve levels to cushion the taxpayers against any future unanticipated economic setbacks and included the required level of funding for retiree health benefits."

Leggett had stressed caution in the weeks leading up to the budget announcement, promising that it would not include a property tax increase, with the caveat that it was unlikely that he would propose drastic spending increases in most areas thanks to the current budget’s $120 million shortfall.

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