School board begins values discussion -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County school employees may spot the system’s core values on a poster in the central office, or on the website or in the strategic plan.

But members of the county Board of Education want employees to know the values off the top of their head — and maybe even be judged on how closely they portray them.

The board began discussing on Tuesday how to modify the core values to be simpler, but more actionable; they want to be able to use the values to make policy decisions.

When the values aren’t used, they become irrelevant, Board President Shirley Brandman (At-large) of Bethesda said Tuesday.

Board member Laura Berthiaume (Dist. 2) of Rockville said employees should be held accountable for following the values, and a value should be less of a belief and more of an action. Instead of saying the school system is committed to a culture of respect, it should say “we treat all people with respect,” she said.

Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said the board and superintendent need to, in the values, set the standard of “what the [school system] should do, and how it should be.”

Board members said they are fearful that the new values will not resonate and that there is a “here we go again syndrome” in revising them — a point to which Judy Docca (Dist. 1) of Montgomery Village nodded her head. Docca helped the school system rewrite its core values last time around, and reminded the board of how difficult and lengthy of a process it became.

While the current values were meant to be general commitments, they cannot be taken literally, although some community members have taken them that way, board members said.

Brandman mentioned the first, and longest value, as an example. It states: MCPS is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, language proficiency, or disability, learns and succeeds.

“Whatever it takes” is not possible when outside factors play into achievement, she said.

Achievement gaps still exist, Brandman said, and people have said the board is not doing enough.

Chief of Staff Brian Edwards said Tuesday was just the start of the core values discussion. Work sessions and meetings will be scheduled when the school year begins.

jbondeson@gazette.net