The Charles County Public Schools Board of Education held its monthly meeting for the 2018-19 school year Tuesday in La Plata. CCPS officials discussed a variety of topics including the grading policy, opening of schools, physical rehabilitation textbooks, summer projects, comprehensive maintenance plan, food and nutrition services, staffing and the state and local Capital Improvement Plan for 2020.
Superintendent Kimberly Hill provided an update about the recent school safety and security town hall that the school system hosted last month at St. Charles High School. According to Hill, the town hall was the first of several open forums scheduled this year to give parents and community members the opportunity to ask questions and have an open dialogue with CCPS officials.
“It gave us an opportunity to update the public on safety enhancements completed throughout the summer and the layers of safety and security we are adding to our schools,” Hill said. “We’re not finished, but I commend our staff for the enormous effort to build vestibules, boost our volunteer program and build better relationships with emergency responders in a short time.”
On Sept. 25 at Dr. James Craik Elementary School in Pomfret, Hill said there will be a free public session on child internet safety for parents and kids who are 16 and older. Parents will receive important information from a community outreach specialist, who works for the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, about ways to keep children safe on the internet and away from negative or criminal influences.
Topics that will be discussed at the internet safety event, which is from 6-7:30 p.m., include cyberbullying, sexting, internet predators and social networking. Parents will also learn how to use internet safety resources and prevention and intervention strategies. Some of the content, however, is not appropriate for children who are younger than 16, according to Hill.
On Sept. 17, Hill said CCPS officials will join Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry (D) and school resource officers from the county at area high schools for the 11th annual “We Care” initiative. Student drivers will participate in safe driving activities, learn the rules of the road and also receive information about the dangers of texting and driving.
In other news, Hill said Eva Turner Elementary School received a surprise $10,000 donation from Burlington Stores Inc. during the school’s pep rally on Sept. 6. The money, which was presented as a check by Burlington of Waldorf store manager Robert Spencer, will be split evenly among teachers and used to buy classroom supplies at any time throughout the school year.
“We appreciate the generosity of Burlington Stores Inc. through its partnership with AdoptAClassroom.org,” said Hill, “and all of our county businesses who support our children in countless ways.”
Thanks to its school breakfast program, Hill said this will be the third consecutive year that CCPS offers free breakfast for all students throughout October.
“We are looking forward to a great school year,” Hill said. “We had a smooth opening of schools last week. A successful opening takes extensive planning, organization and attention to detail. I thank the entire [CCPS] staff for their work to ensure we were ready to welcome students.”
The last thing Hill mentioned in her report update was a job fair that will be held Sept. 20, from 9-11 a.m., at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building in La Plata. Staff from the CCPS human resources office will hire food service substitutes and building service floaters.
Update on food services
During Tuesday’s meeting, CCPS fiscal services assistant superintendent Randy Sotomayor gave a presentation titled, “Feeding the Future.” Beginning Oct. 1 and ending Oct. 26, Sotomayor said all students will receive a free breakfast. Selections include milk, cereal and fruit, with an additional option of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for high school students.
The goal of the school breakfast program is to spread awareness about the benefits of eating breakfast and ensure students have access to healthy meal choices. It is part of a marketing campaign to introduce students who don’t normally eat breakfast offered at school each day, according to Sotomayor.
Despite flat or decreasing enrollments from 2011 to 2017, CCPS has experienced an increase of 1.1 million breakfast meals. About 1.8 million breakfasts have been served as of the end of the 2017-18 school year, Sotomayor also noted in his presentation.
“Our goal in offering free breakfast in October is to ensure each child has an opportunity to start the learning day off right with healthy fuel for their bodies and minds. It is our hope that breakfast is part of a child’s normal daily routine,” Hill said in a CCPS press release Tuesday. “Students have a hard time focusing when they are hungry. I am excited to be able to offer free breakfast as a model for healthy eating habits.”
CCPS staff attribute the increase to several factors including the expansion of breakfast offerings, opportunities for students to buy breakfast and the ability for some students to eat in the classroom. Several schools offer separate areas for students to buy breakfast, such as walk-up kiosks, or provide a second time for students to buy breakfast in the morning, according to the press release.
Menu options, including breakfast, lunch and á la carte, are posted on the CCPS website at http://ccboe.nutrislice.com/.
As for developments in food and nutrition services, Sotomayor said there will be no increase in meal prices for the third year in a row. The breakfast menu has been revised with options that reflect the current trend in what kids are eating, eliminating and replacing the least four popular items.
Two of three middle schools who participate in the Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) program have changed to a kiosk-service model, eliminating the need for teachers to handle breakfast in the classroom. The MMFA program still requires that students be permitted to eat in the classroom, according to Sotomayor.
In addition, Sotomayor said parents no longer have to pay fees, through My Payments Plus, to deposit funds into their child’s meal account. All fees associated with depositing funds to meal accounts have been absorbed by Food and Nutrition Services.
Kitchen renovations have been done at Middleton Elementary School, where there are now two serving lines instead of one which will serve students faster so they have more time to eat. The school’s dish room has also been enclosed to separate it from the serving area.
The Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, along with Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School, have both received replacements for their walk-in refrigeration systems, and four hydroponic gardens were delivered to other local schools including North Point High, William A. Diggs Elementary, J.C. Parks Elementary and Mary H. Matula Elementary.
Sotomayor also reported that at least five staff members attended orientation for school nutrition management, conducted by the Institute for Child Nutrition. The national School Nutrition Association named Beverley Jenkins, a local food and nutrition services worker at Henry E. Lackey High School, as the Maryland and Mid-East regional Food Service Worker of the Year.
According to a presentation from the CCPS human resources office, new hires for the 2017-18 school year included 119 individuals at the elementary school level and more than 160 individuals at both the middle and high school levels.
At the elementary school level, new hires include one art teacher; four science teachers; three English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers; 12 first grade teachers; 13 second grade teachers; eight third grade teachers; 17 fourth grade teachers; 12 fifth grade teachers; one instructional resource professional; seven kindergarten teachers; six music-vocal/instrumental teachers; one pre-kindergarten teacher; 10 school counselors; two Individualized Education Program (IEP) facilitators; 21 special education teachers; and one other professional.
At the middle and high school levels, new hires include two art teachers; two business education teachers; one drama teacher; 13 English teachers; one human ecology teacher for family and consumer science; 14 language arts teachers; 23 mathematics teachers; three instrumental music teachers; two vocal teachers; one pharmacy technician; 10 physical education teachers; two Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) instructors; five school counselors; 16 science teachers; 24 social studies teachers; eight Spanish teachers; 36 special education teachers; and one technology education teacher.
In terms of demographics, 211 female and 71 male new employees were hired for the 2017-18 school year. All together, a grand total of 282 employees have been hired. They include 117, 81 and 82 new employees at the elementary, middle and high school levels, respectively, as well as two employees at the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center in La Plata.
To view all of the presentations and speakers’ notes from Tuesday’s school board meeting, go to https://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/ccpsmd/Board.nsf/Public.
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