BALTIMORE — As students and teachers continue to adjust to returning to the classroom, Baltimore City Public Schools officials detailed a plan to support kids after a challenging pandemic year.
“We thought about this as being a really important moment for us to hone in on our students so that we can be ready for them as plan for them academic recovery," Chief Academic Officer Joan Dabrowski said.
District leaders outlined the plan before city council’s Education Workforce and Youth Committee.
The plan focused on improving school culture as well as nurturing relationships between students and teachers. Another strategy was personalized learning plans to help improve student performance.
“It’s really important that the plan is here are all the things that a student's needs or has interest in, it’s okay now what are we going to do," Dabrowksi said.
City schools will also be expanding their tutoring efforts and support for behavioral health.
“We’re doing everything we can to get more social workers and more clinicians with our students," John Davis, who is the Chief of Schools.
City Councilman Antonio Glover also wanted to know the steps the district is taking to change the culture at city schools. His question was related to the investigation into August Fells. It found former staff members schemed to alter student attendance, grade average, and graduation rates.
City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises said the district has provided training for teachers responsible for grading and put protocols in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
"We have gone deep with allegations when they arise and I think we have demonstrated that those folks, when they are found out it sends a signal that it’s not tolerated. We work with authorities, when necessary," she said. Dr. Santelises added, "it's a combination of sport, a combination of accountability and a combination of clarity of what is acceptable and what is not and following through on that."
During the public comment period, callers were critical of school leaders. One caller was concerned about COVID-19 and the district’s decision to provide a limited virtual learning program.
“It’s not who is going to get COVID, It’s when they’re going to get COVID," the caller said. She added, "our parents do not want to send their kids back into the belly of the beast."
She asked to work with the school district to have more virtual learning options. She went on to say what these kids are experiencing is "educational homicide," stressing the City Schools CEO failed the students.
She said, "when you say a lot of parents wanted their children in schools versus virtual learning... one, that's a lie. Two, we have a lot of parents that reached out to us. I don't understand how your number is still 79,000 when over 2,000 plus parents have moved their kids from the school system to homeschool because virtual learning was not an option.
City Council also passed a resolution to hold quarterly meetings with district leaders. There still needs to be a second reading.