New staffing plan meant to offer greater aid to Montgomery schools -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is reorganizing central office staff for next school year in a way he says will bring principals and schools greater support.

In a letter sent to staff on Tuesday, Starr wrote that he is making changes to the Office of School Support and Improvement, which offers support to school leadership and monitors student achievement, after hearing from principals that the way staff is currently organized is presenting challenges.

Starr wrote that principals need support that recognizes their “unique programming and instructional leadership demands,” as their teachers change their lessons under the Common Core State Standards and the school system’s new curriculum.

The state standards, adopted by Maryland and most other states, set new expectations for lessons at each grade level. The school system’s new Curriculum 2.0 asks elementary school teachers to change both their lessons and the way they teach.

Starting July 1, the office will be organized into “school improvement teams” by school level – elementary, middle or high school – not by geographic area, Starr wrote.

The six current Community Superintendents, who oversee groups of high schools and their feeder schools based on their location in the county, will now be split by level, with one superintendent serving the county’s 26 high schools, one serving the county’s 38 middle schools, and four serving the county’s 132 elementary schools.

The number of positions in the department will remain the same and the changes will not affect next year’s proposed budget, schools spokesman Dana Tofig said.

The changes will help address the needs of all schools in a more equitable way, Starr wrote.

Starr is also changing the role of a position he created this year, the associate superintendent for professional development and support, in a move he says is meant to help narrow the achievement gap.

Rebecca A. Thessin, who was appointed for that role, will now serve as the “chief school improvement officer,” and will work with 10 to 15 schools at a time, “delivering intense support aimed at improving instruction and narrowing gaps,” Starr wrote.

The reorganization of community superintendents could also spur change to the way the main countywide parent group, the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, is organized. Parents are grouped by area, or clusters, just as the community superintendents are, and six area vice presidents represent the same areas as community superintendents.

Parents contact community superintendents when issues are not solved at the school level or when issues affect more than one school.

Janette Gilman, president of the organization, said parents will need to rethink how they communicate with the superintendents, but she thinks that this is a good change.

This way, she said, superintendents do not have to be subject matter experts on all school levels.

Gilman said it would make sense for the group to reorganize so that they are still aligned with the school system, and this will be discussed at a meeting Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, the school board is scheduled to talk about the school system’s “school support and improvement framework” at its board meeting.

jbondeson@gazette.net