MCPS parents, students, and teachers provide feedback at meeting hosted by interim superintendent

Heather Jauquet

How can MCPS better serve its students?

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MCPS Interim Superintendent, Dr. Monifa McKnight listening intently to community feedbackHeather Jauquet/Author

On April 20th, staff, parents, students, and board of education members participated in the first in-person community conversation hosted by Montgomery County Public School’s Interim Superintendent, Dr. Monifa McKnight.

The community forum asked participants to sit in small groups around Gaithersburg High School’s cafeteria to discuss three questions and provide feedback. MCPS personnel from Central Office sat and recorded the input shared at each table. The discussions and information shared around the table will provide Dr. McKnight with a sense of what the community thinks about the education provided by MCPS.

After being criticized for the lack of transparency and communication in January addressing teachers’ and parents’ concerns about the return to school after the winter break, Dr. McKnight hosted this forum to allow community members to share the strengths and challenges they see within the school district. The meeting was not a time for MCPS to provide answers. Instead, it was a time for community voices to be heard and shared. According to Dr. McKnight, participants were gathered to “Engage in important conversation.”

“Thank you for being here. I’m here to hear from you.” Dr. Monifa McKnight, MCPS Interim Superintendent

Dr. McKnight shared her three priorities for MCPS:

  • Rebuilding trust and engaging stakeholders
  • Focusing on socio-emotional wellness for staff and students
  • Refocusing on equitable teaching and learning

Her goal is to establish what these priorities represent for our community. As tables began discussing specific questions outlined for the event, Dr. McKnight reminded the room that comments retain the context of respect. The MCPS Ombudsman was also available to help resolve school-related conflicts.

As groups met around the room, they had time to discuss and answer the following questions:

  1. How do we rebuild trust and engagement?
  2. Where do we need to grow and improve to reach our potential
  3. What is one issue that, if we deal with it, would go the furthest in helping our students receive a world-class education

Dr. McKnight assured the community that she would listen during the breakout sessions and afterward take the time to read every comment recorded. Throughout the evening, while community members acknowledged the teachers' hard work, it was noted that one of the ways that MCPS could better serve its students would be to support their teachers.

One parent shared with me that she hoped that the data collected at the meeting would not fall into a void never to be revisited. MCPS, known for its extensive data collection, has not always been transparent about what is done with the data. According to Dr. McKnight, she said that this community conversation was “Not just for tonight. We will be coming back and checking on how these things are going.”

Bus transportation and translators were available for all attendees.

Two more community conversations are scheduled:

  • Wednesday, April 27, 7:30 p.m., Walter Johnson High School cafeteria, 6400 Rock Spring Dr., Bethesda
  • Saturday, May 7, 11 a.m., Paint Branch High School cafeteria, 14121 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville

What is one issue that would go the furthest in helping students receive a world-class education? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.

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