COMMUNITY COMMENTS Updated 2/4/2021
New Comments: 2/4/2021
From Len Laing
Good Evening- Thank you for your time. I come to you tonight from multiple angles, a resident of QACO for over the last 16 years, someone who has worked with youth in this county for most of that time, someone who currently works in the death industry, a father of 2 current QACO students, and as a husband of a QACO teacher. I am so frustrated with the citizens of this county and this body-words cannot truly show the disgust that I have felt over the last year. As a supporter of the teachers of this county I have watched over the years as this county has underpaid,
under-supported, underfunded our teachers, yet continually expected more and more out of the teachers. From the inability of this board to get the missing steps in pay returned to longtime serving teacher from several years ago when the economy took a downturn ... , to having our county schools being some of the highest rated in the state of Maryland-but not paid at that level continuously and our current climate of attitudes towards our teachers and school staff. Now we come to the last year-where we as a world had to rethink everything that we do and how we do it. At first, we could not give enough credit to the teachers and all that they do. People saying that "whatever they are paid-it is not enough" and "I don't know how they are able to do anything with a full class of kids-I can barely handle my own". The
citizens and members of this board now have turned their backs on the teachers and school staff and now call them "entitled", "Lazy", and say they "don't want to do their jobs" Let me inform you of what a current, entitled, lazy teacher's day looks like. It usually seems to start at around Sam with
many of those days starting in front of a computer doing reports, lesson plans, and responding to emails from the night before. This lazy teacher then starts teaching from home after getting her own kids started for their classes that she is not able to interact with. These days continue with an abbreviated
lunchtime into the afternoon. Usually there is a brief pause in work being done for dinner and is returned to computer time to work on more reports, lesson plans, and emails until late into the evening. That day is in slight contrast to the normal in classroom day that usually starts between 7 and 730 and ends sometime after 430 only for more lesson plans, emails, and reports in the
evening when she gets home. So if that is what is described as "lazy" I don't want my wife to be anything more of a teacher then, I would never see her again. Yes, teachers are entitled-they are entitled to go back into a SAFE work environment. It is part of the contract that has been agreed upon by them and this board. So for all the plans to continue on this crash course of unsafe environments because people are frustrated does not meet what teachers, staff, and every person wants-a safe work enviroment. But there has been a sudden shift-now the things, metrics, suddenly don't mean anything so please forgive our teachers for being
confused as to why for the longest time, metrics mattered, numbers mattered, and suddenly our Governor has spoken that they don't matter and that is a problem. There is touting of the ability of teachers to be vaccinated by the time schools reopen, when the fact is no-they will not be fully vaccinated by the
timelines that this board has been pushing. The system has not allowed that to happen. This board needs to not follow the governors lead and attack the teachers and staffs of our schools and find ways to support them in doing even better jobs than they have been doing already. I also wonder why this board believes that wearing a mask is not neededl If you want to follow something that the governor has said-wear your damn mask. You will be asking our 1students and teachers to do it all day long in the buildings-so I cannot think of a valid reason that you all do not believe it is meeded. Teachers should have concerns over mask wearing in the classroom-it is proven that it works and to see this board . not wearing masks-is ridiculous. Why is it so important?
Because we are not used to it, so when someone drops something on the floor and someone tries to be polite and help them, they don't think to put it on when they leave their desk and walk within that 6 feet distance without putting one on, as you, Mr. Smith did in this very room during a meeting last fall.
In conclusion, this board and this county need to do better in supporting the people the teachers and staff,-who do make differences everyday in our young people's lives, sometimes in spite of everything around them, in spite of the personal
attacks they receive, and in spite of the political bantering that happens around them. The teachers and staff do this job to make differences, grow better people, and that is really difficult when this board and county citizens turn their backs on them.
As a parent and teacher, I urge the Board to follow the Covid metrics, follow through on safety protocols, and ensure all staff members are properly vaccinated to ensure schools are opened safely. Do it right so it sticks. Support your teachers. They are struggling and they are your backbone.
First, I am the mother of two elementary aged children who attend school on Kent Island and I want to praise their teachers. As I am working from home, I hear snippets of the most wonderful lessons and conversations that take place with both of their teachers and classmates. I am amazed with the organization and creativity they possess to keep a 3rd grader and 1st grader engaged and wanting to learn more. My daughter looks forward to being with her classmates and teachers everyday. She's gaining new math skills and her reading has improved so much since last year. My son adores his teachers as well. He has gained a love of reading this year that honestly surprises me, as he isn't a "sit still" kind of kid. While virtual learning obviously isn't the best model normally, don't think for a minute that our children haven't learned anything in the past year!
Second, I am a teacher in this county and while I want nothing more than to return to face to face teaching, I do have many concerns about students and staff members returning to the buildings in the hybrid model which I will outline below.
-Vaccine distribution- I hope that you saw the overwhelming happiness and relief from teachers upon hearing that we would start to receive our first dose of the vaccine and I hope you understood the frustration and disappointment as those appointments were cancelled and still have not been rescheduled. We want to be with our students!! Beginning the hybrid schedule (and even small groups that have already started) without proper vaccination is a heath risk for everyone. We are SO close to limiting the spread of the illness. Please be patient...I don't want to hear about anyone's funeral because you thought it was OK to have unvaccinated people working closely together with children. While children may not spread it as easily to each other, they can more readily spread it to the adult staff that they work with and others at home.
-Staffing- Since staff members are not all vaccinated yet, I would assume this is still a major issue. Who is going to be physically in the room with students when their "regular" teacher is not in the building due to personal illness, quarantine after exposure to a positive Covid-19 person, ADA leave, or even "normal" personal leave reasons that inevitably occur? Even if the teacher is able to teach virtually, those students must be under the watchful eye of someone. Will staff members be pulled from performing other services for students in the building to cover the class? Will they join another class, making social distancing difficult and crossing cohorts? Those taking ADA leave may not feel the need to take such leave if they have been completely vaccinated. Why not wait to go to hybrid just a bit longer to help with this issue?
-Health Metrics- Do the statistics not matter anymore? Whose professional guidance are you using to make your decisions? Our metrics were on the rise when you decided to shut down small groups in the building. That was reasonably done to keep staff and students healthy. Now that our county's numbers are still extremely high you are calling for the hybrid model to begin. The decision to start small groups and require teachers to teach from the building without being vaccinated does not make sense.
In closing, I ask you...Is the risk worth whatever reward you think will be gained? I think not!
STMS Teacher, KIES & BES Parent
Good evening and thank you for allowing me to speak tonight on behalf of someQACPS staff and students. I am proud to be a QACPS teacher and want nothing more than to be back in the school building with my students. I agree that virtual l earning i s not the best option for an education. However, I do believe it is imperative that we, as aschool system, do not lose sight of the importance of keeping our students and staff healthy. I truly believe that it is negligent to send teachers back into the school building before they have been fully vaccinated. There is one main reason why not doing so will be detrimental to the goal of getting students back in school in person, the substitute shortage.
First and foremost, we have a huge issue with substitutes or the lack thereof. We don’t have even a fraction of the substitutes we had before COVID and even then we didn’t have enough. Who do you think substitutes if an actual substitute is unavailable? Basically, anyone who doesn’t have a class of their own. I am a special education teacher and helping my students reach their full potential is something I don’t take lightly. The idea that I will be moving from room to room as a substitute because there just isn’t anyone else, is unfair to the special needs students I serve. What good am I to those students if I am substituting?
Secondly, without vaccinating our teachers you are taking the chance that they may end up sick and on quarantine for 2 weeks. Who will be there for our students then? And again, who will be substituting when we don’t have nearly enough! Getting a spot for the vaccination clinic is extremely difficult. If you get a slot you literally feel like you won the lottery. I was fortunate enough to be a lucky one today and get my first dose. So many teachers weren’t so lucky. We need to put pressure on the state of Maryland to provide the vaccines needed to safely open schools.
So I am putting this huge burden back on your shoulders. You want schools open? Well, so do I and so do many other parents and educators. But there are problems that have not been solved and we cannot move forward until they are. We need a plan in place BEFORE we open for the issue with substitutes especially. This problem is not going to go away and it is a HUGE issue. Teaching is not a profession where you can take a day off and not have someone come in your place. The students cannot be in a classroom without an adult.
Dear Members of the Board:
I’m writing to thank you, first off, for your decision last month to keep the majority of students and staff home (at least a while longer) while the Covid metrics were peaking. Thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping us safe.
A lot has changed in just a couple weeks. Governor Hogan announced that he wants our school buildings reopened at a hybrid capacity no later than March 1. He cited data showing how schools can, given the resources, operate safely under strict CDC guidelines, and while that doesn’t guarantee safety, it’s no less encouraging to hear. What I wish the governor would talk about is how and when our teachers will be vaccinated.
Because until that happens, I’m still terrified to return to the building, honestly. So are the majority of my colleagues. There’s plenty of reasons for us to be. Last month, for example, one of my 8th graders at Centreville Middle School missed two weeks of school due to Covid; he was hospitalized, according to the parents, and lost 15 pounds before his appetite finally returned. Couldn’t log on to class, couldn’t complete any work, his parents driving back-and-forth from the hospital worried sick. It’s hard to fathom a perfectly healthy teenager suffering like that, until the virus catches one of your own.
That’s why vaccinations are needed now, for all staff, before we rejoin our students inside the classroom.
From what I understand, only a hundred new doses per week are being reserved for QAC teachers. Only a fraction of us have had the first shot. Unless vials start magically appearing, most faculty will still be mortally vulnerable to infection on March 1st. At that point, all it takes is one adolescent tantrum, one mask malfunction, one scrap between students in the hallway for our protocols to be breached. We cannot afford a school day to become a superspreader event, lest teachers find themselves in a position of choosing to protect either their students’ lives or their own.
Understand that I want to return to my classroom more than anybody. I want to educate my students and protect them from infection. I want to help them through this pandemic emotionally and academically. I will show up to the building when it’s required of me, of course, but until I’m vaccinated, it will be like trying to juggle with both hands tied behind my back.
You need healthy teachers to run a school, and we need time to inoculate ourselves. I’m imploring the Board to push back hybrid schooling until all teachers have had the opportunity to receive, at the very least, the first vaccine dose. It may or may not be possible by March 1st, I don’t know, but afford us that time, please, to get the shot, so that we can better protect students, families, and the community at large.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Centreville Middle School
The QACEA executive team and our members have been working with Dr. Kane, supervisors, and principals since March to develop and implement plans and procedures for the safe opening of schools. Opening schools safely and keeping them open has always been our shared goal. We continue to insist that health and safety remain a priority. Regardless of state politics, It is still the responsibility of this school board to guard the health and safety of our entire school community. In the middle of a pandemic, health and education cannot be separate considerations.
QACEA is seeking assurance that the Covid metrics will be monitored, and that if the Covid variant circulates in our community, proper measures will be taken to protect the health and safety of all. While staffing remains an acute problem, it is important that CDC recommendations to minimize mixing of staff and student cohorts be followed. There are other equally important recommendations such as keeping 6 feet of physical distance in the classroom and hallways, enforcing the wearing of masks by students and staff, having the proper supply of PPE and cleaning materials, and keeping Wednesdays reserved for deep cleaning. It is our understanding the school district is working in conjunction with the health department to publish the threshold for Covid exposure that will lead to the closure of buildings. This is crucial information for staff and parents and we urge that it be disseminated as soon as possible. We also seek more transparency with the prioritization of vaccination appointments.
Educators and staff have never stopped working whether virtually or in person. Many educators and staff have been back in school since August with our students. Small groups are underway and we ask that the Board of Education take a measured approach to the hybrid plan, ensuring that science and safety remain an integral part of our next steps. As a school community, we are stronger and safer when we work together.
Karen Fields, President
Queen Anne’s County Education Association
- It is NOT our wish not to be able to walk up to a student and have a face-to-face conversation.
- It is NOT our wish not to be able to sit next to a student or with a group to work with them.
- It is NOT our wish not to have groups of students collaborating together.
- It is NOT our wish to have desks spaced 6 feet apart with all students facing forward working from a computer all day.
- It is NOT our wish to be in the same classroom with students but still have to teach most of them virtually from behind our computers.
- It is NOT our wish to manage the teaching of both virtual and in-person students simultaneously.
- It is NOT our wish to have students eat in our classroom instead of the cafeteria socializing with friends.
- It is NOT our wish to have to wear masks for the in-person students which causes our voices to be muffled for the virtual students.
To Dr. Kane and the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education:
“Be flexible, be agile: adapt.” These were most memorable words spoken by our visionary leader, Dr. Kane during my new teacher initiation in August of 2020. While this year is my first-year teaching in Queen Anne’s County, I am an Eastern Shore native. I was born in Chestertown hospital in 1982 and I am a product of the Queen Anne’s County Public School System. My mother was an educator in our county for over three decades and my father served as a County Commissioner. My entire childhood and young adulthood, I watched my parents pour their hearts, souls and talents into our county.
After graduating from Queen Anne’s County High School in 2000, I attended a highly selective liberal arts school. After graduating from college, I was accepted to Teach for America and began my teaching career in 2004. I taught in South East Atlanta for two years and then became an instructional coach for first- and second-year teachers. I earned my Master’s degree in 2010 while teaching in Anacostia in Washington, DC. Then, I served as a school-based Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in Anacostia. I most recently taught in Talbot County and returned to the classroom in Queen Anne’s County after taking some time off to raise my own children (one of whom is a student at Church Hill Elementary – my alma mater).
I write this letter with a heavy and a hopeful heart. Virtual teaching and learning are challenging. Engaging and inspiring students when you aren’t physically present, teaching difficult math concepts without concrete manipulatives, and daily distractions while learning from home are just a few. And yet, we rise. I rise. My students rise. My daughter rises. Teachers all across the county rise. Every morning. We log on to our Google Meets, we go to Schoology, we participate in lessons, we connect with other students and teachers. We innovate, we adapt, we try our best every single day. Sometimes we fail and we learn. We adjust, we improve, we collaborate. We persist. This is education, whether it is virtual or in person because we are highly trained professionals who love what we do. Most importantly, we love our students. We serve our community.
My father came home from lunch the other day to my daughter having lunch with Ms. Quigly dressed as Chester the cub. He said that Ms. Quigly did a tremendous job engaging all of the students. He said it was the best part of his day. My kindergarten daughter is excelling and is able to write a paragraph and is able to read simple sentences. Her teacher, Ms. Lisboa is doing a tremendous job of teaching the entire class of virtual kindergarteners! My daughter says that art is her favorite special – her teacher has been able to teach her how to create landscape drawings and to draw the cutest little pigeon that you ever did see! Her music teacher showed her class a wonderful zoom performance that my daughter asks to see, “as a treat” almost daily!
My 15 5th grade students have read almost 500 books on Epic! a virtual library of books – this is not including the stories out of our reading textbook, social studies or science reading material or our guided reading books. The 500 Epic! books are concrete proof that my students are developing a love of reading. They are reading not because they have to, or because it is a part of an assignment, they read because they have learned that reading is fun. They write uninterrupted in their journals every day for 5 – 10 minutes about their experiences during the pandemic. They are learning how to create their own primary source document (the journal) that they may share with their own children or loved ones someday. They are also learning how to recognize their wide range of feelings and what to do to help them experience and to move through their feelings. They are learning how to be mindful and what it means to remain virtually present during learning.
Virtual learning is not effective for all children. There are students who benefit from in-person instruction. There are students who benefit from having someone monitor them during virtual learning. I see these as being two different needs. Some students need to be taught content in person. Other students need help regulating. They need someone to help them to identify when they need to take a break. They need someone to help them access tools during said break. They need someone to help guide them back to the virtual content. Some students have already fallen behind according to the Common Core State Standards. Of course students have fallen behind. They are living in the time of a pandemic. We all have experienced trauma that has lasted almost an entire year. We will also heal. One step at a time, together. It is possible for students to make 2 years of academic growth in 1 year. Throughout my work in Atlanta and in DC I’ve even seen students make 4 years of growth in 1 year. This happens when students feel safe, educators feel safe and when our basic needs are being met. It is unreasonable to expect that we can make up for 1 year of virtual pandemic teaching in three or four months of in-person pandemic teaching. We must also not forget that there are students who are thriving.
In this moment as an educator, I can’t help but feel like a pawn in a political game. Leaders at every level seem to have strong opinions. Issues regarding school opening (at any level) feel polarizing. The thing that makes the educators in this county great is that we have each other. Queen Anne’s County schools have always had an excellent reputation. Our county doesn’t offer our teachers the best compensation in the state. We don’t have the most cutting-edge educational technologies. What makes the educational system great in this county is its educators. I see this first hand at my daughter’s school and at the school where I currently teach (Sudlersville Middle School). I see this at every level – teachers, support staff and administrators. In this moment, we have a choice to use our greatest resource. Why not listen to our teachers, our administrators and to our parents? Instead of playing groups against each other, can’t we come together and make decisions that are best for each individual child and educator? Many of the parents with whom I’ve spoken would prefer that their children remain virtual because they have seen how engaged their children are and how much they have learned. Why not continue to allow small groups of students to enter the building based on need determined by parents and educators? Why not allow parents and educators the flexibility to make decisions that reflect a deep understanding of the individual needs of each child?
As a member of this Board of Education, you are responsible for making decisions regarding the education of our students and staff. Those decisions have a direct impact on the physiological and psychological health of our community. At several points this year I have felt how those decisions influenced our children and their parents. It is a great responsibility. Please be flexible. Be agile. Adapt. Think outside of the box. Our children, our teachers, our administrators, our parents, our entire community is depending on you.
Christina JarviParent, teacher, citizen
Dear Board Members,
Dear Queen Anne’s County School Board Members,
This correspondence is to bring to light grave concerns regarding the discriminatory behavior and language displayed publicly by Queen Anne’s County School Board members during the January 6th public meeting. My concerns are directly in relationship to:
- the false claim of political activism,
- the use of the term “diatribe”, fomenting angry Black woman mythology,
- the racial stratification in sharing disaggregated data acknowledging the “achievement gap” without providing any context or relevance to Queen Anne’s County or citing the specific data being illustrated, and
- the perpetuating of other harmful and discriminatory myths including that of the model minority illustrated by board members statement “kicking everybody’s butts” in reference to Asian Americans.
The US Office of Special Counsel issued its July 14, 2020 advisory regarding Black Lives Matter and the Hatch Act in which it has been determined that using the terminology Black Lives Matter is “not inherently political activity” and that the organization Black Lives Matter Global Network is “not a partisan political group”.
Further, there is adequate research to ascribe the harms of perpetuating the stereotype of African American women as aggressive and hostile. The use of such language as “diatribe”, defined in the Cambridge dictionary as “an angry speech or piece of writing that severely criticizes something or someone” as it was used in an interjection during Dr. Kane’s statements is exactly one such example of this Board engaging in such harms. In Wendy Ashley’s article, The Angry Black Woman: The Impact of Pejorative Stereotypes on Psychotherapy with Black Women, she asserts “Successful mental health treatment requires cultural competence and clinicians who are well prepared to navigate the inherent complexities of culture with clients.” While the intended audience for the publication, Social Work in Public Health, where this article has been published are mental health workers, it seems quite logical that cultural competence and preparedness for navigating cultural complexities should be a prerequisite for all professionals serving the needs of the public, especially those that may be considered among our most vulnerable citizens, minority-identity children in public schools.
With regard to the statements made to the “achievement gap”, please, make available the source of data and its relevance to the topic of conversation during the January 6th meeting. I applaud the efforts to increase the communities understanding of the performance disparities among subgroups in Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. However, I find it extremely irresponsible and misleading to the public to propagate data that severely lacks the context and background for meaningful use, especially when presented absent of the socioeconomic indicators that should be a significant part of any conversation addressing disparities in Queen Anne’s County Public Schools data. This is particularly relevant with regard to the statements made about the Asian American population of students, which in QACPS represents around 1% of the population. While nationally the data referenced may reflect an ethnic disparity worthy of discussion, in QA defining a population of fewer than one hundred students as a subgroup who is “kicking everybody’s butt” is ethnically divisive, grossly misrepresentative of the conditions affecting this community and deeply antagonistic of harmful myths of “model minorities”.
While I understand the need to prioritize concerns related to the current pandemic, please, understand that the issues I raise are of absolute relevance to such decisions. The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 across ethnic groups is alarming. It has been discovered that Black and Brown populations are at both greater risk of contracting the virus and of suffering more severe symptoms. Decision-making regarding reopening schools that is void of a holistic view of its effect on the entire population is dangerously negligent.
My requested actions to address the concerns I have outlined are that you publicly affirm your commitment to antidiscrimination as a Board. Additionally, it is imperative that the Board’s policies ensuring equity and the procedures for addressing incidents of discrimination and racism are clearly outlined and made easily accessible to the public. Finally, I request that you consider partaking in accredited education specifically with the intended outcome of improving the cultural awareness and competence of this elected body.
I request that this correspondence is admitted to the record for public comment.
Good Morning All,
I am writing on behalf of my two children as well as all the children in Queen Anne’s County that are falling behind and struggling every day with the all virtual programming. My oldest child is in 4th grade and the other is in 1st at Grasonville Elementary School. The virtual program in the county is lacking. The internet services in this county are marginal at best which has also added to the constant frustration. The QA teachers are absolutely amazing and are doing their best with that they have been dealt; however, the kids aren’t getting the same education no matter how hard the teachers work and attempt to engage with the kids. No 6 year old should have to learn how to type before they can even write their name. I know children who are crying themselves to sleep at night over all of this; mine included. Is there still a plan to get these kids back to even a hybrid schedule? The metrics no longer have the same meaning. The testing is driving the numbers. We need to change the metrics for re-opening. As you can see from my email, I am a full time government employee whose job has been suffering because I am constantly having to get my children on the computer.
I implore you to not be bullied by teachers unions like the Superintendent of Worcester county was. Please listen to the parents, please do the right thing and get the kids back at least on the hybrid schedule previously discussed.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.