by Ted Jou
On October 15, 2009, the Montgomery County Board of Education invited the community to speak at a community forum at Kennedy High School. The event was reported in the Gazette, and the Board of Education website has posted video of the forum, a summary of the issues raised in the forum, and copies of each speaker's remarks.
Four parents took the opportunity to advocate for the Blair Magnet Program. Their impassioned pleas conveyed a clear message to the Board of Education that the Blair Magnet is a vital part of Montgomery County Public Schools and that it serves a special need for a group of highly able students. They touted the many benefits of the Magnet program and asked the BOE to continue to support the Blair Magnet.
Bing Cai, father of a ninth grader, told the BOE that the Magnet is a "rigorous program that emphasizes the development of problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and the pursuit of both independent and collaborative research projects." He emphasized that Magnet students constitute about one-third of students in the entire county who are National Merit Finalists and that the Magnet has a long history of success in the Intel Science Talent Search. Stressing that "no kids should be held back," Cai touted the advanced curriculum of the Magnet Program and asked the BOE to continue supporting the Magnet with adequate funding and resources. (full testimony in pdf)
Noemie Kedei, mother of a tenth grader, spoke of the "importance of keeping the magnet programs even in difficult economic times." She stressed that "every child deserves to be challenged in school" and touted the magnet programs for providing opportunities to challenge gifted students. Kedei also explained that magnet programs allow students to be "together with other children with similar interests and work ethics," and she highlighted the danger that students may be stigmatized, intimidated, or ostracized as "nerds" if there were no magnet programs. She said that magnet students "could be the future leaders, future inventors and future scientists," and told the BOE that "we in Montgomery County have a special responsibility to nurture the talent in all students." (full testimony in pdf)
Dipak Oza, father of an alumna and a senior, told the BOE that "we live in a competitive global world" and now "is not the time to reduce the investments and the resources for the brightest and the best our county has." He emphasized that Magnet students are not only smart, but they work very hard both inside and outside the classroom. He touted the Magnet's "rigorous, interdisciplinary academic program that challenges students to work at the highest level of their ability." Oza credited the success of the Magnet to "wise investment decisions of the county leadership in the past," and asked the BOE to continue supporting magnet programs even in tough economic times. He closed by stating that "the unique nature of the Magnet Programs is an immense incentive to live in Montgomery County, and without proper funding, it will not continue to draw the best and brightest students." (full testimony in pdf)
Dan Shepherdson, father of an alumnus and a sophomore, quoted Kay Romero, President of the Montgomery County Council of PTA's, in identifying the challenge of MCPS "to try to meet the needs of not just all, but of EACH of our students." He identified the Blair Magnet as meeting "the unique learning needs of a selective group of highly-able students whose student performance data demonstrates that they need to be provided a rigorous, advanced and extremely challenging instructional program." Comparing Magnet students with varsity athletes, Shepherdson lamented that highly-able students do not receive the same level of community accolades for academic achievements as they do for athletic ones. He emphasized that selective magnet programs would still be necessary even if MCPS raises the bar for all students and he implored the BOE not to cut funding for the Blair Magnet and other selective programs. (full testimony in pdf)
The Superintendent's 2011 Operating Budget Proposal recommends a countywide reduction in special program staffing. The proposal also includes a list of potential major reductions, including a 20% reduction in magnet teaching staff, the elimination of magnet buses, and a reduction in stipends for extracurricular activities. If you are interested in speaking out against these proposed cuts, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.