MCPS Administrators Union Asks for “Pause to Plan” and More in Letter to Board of Education

by Patrick Herron

The Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals released a letter today asking MCPS to pause and “take the pulse” of the COVID-19 crisis in MCPS schools to develop strategies to deal with staff shortages, transportation issues, and testing.

In the letter, MCAAP expresses their dissatisfaction with how MCPS is handling the pandemic and states, “locally and nationally, MCPS has always been a school district that others have looked up to as a model. Unfortunately, it is our belief that due to poor communication and lack of a cohesive, consistent plan, we no longer hold that elite status.”

We are asking MCPS to:
Pause to Plan: Pause to take the pulse of the current state of COVID in our schools and communities. This will allow us to develop our strategies related to operations, stafřing shortages and contingency plans.

Collaborate: Include leaders beyond the Executive staff in the conversation when decisions are being made. Those with the “boots on the ground” are the best people to advise on the operational issues and to help with developing a concrete
plan.

Address the Transportation Crisis: If students are not able to access school, this is not equitable. Some families do not have transportation, and walking to school in groups is not safe, or a viable solution. Additionally, students are coming to school over an hour early, and leaving two hours after the school day ends; there is no supervision for students, it is cold, and is unacceptable for students and staff. It is unsafe.

Address and Act on the Staffing Shortage: We need a viable solution. Many businesses are experiencing a shortage of staffing and are facing it by making tough decisions. Restaurants, for example, are closing their doors to the public and changing their operating hours as a result of staffing shotages. We need a plan to really address the staffing shortage. Below are some examples of what is occurring:

—Schools are operating with a high rate of staff absenteeism. In addition, we are operating the virtual quarantine instruction when students are out, and we are covering classes for absent staff members. It is unsustainable, and instruction is not occurring with fidelity.

-Some of these absences are not adequately captured as positions, such as media assistant, paraeducators, lunch/recess staff, etc… are not reportable in the sub systems (they do not get subs). This is causing schools to scramble for coverage and takes away key services such as interventions, special education services, ESOL services. Further, it is impacting staff’s planning time. This is a direct impact on student learning.

-We are operating both the in-person and virtual school. Even with the support of the regional quarantine instructional program, some virtual classes are now serving over 150 students. This is not quality instruction for students, and unfair for the staff who are running it; they are doing their best for students, but it is impossible when the class sizes are over 100, students are in different locations, and the staff member is someone from a school or central office.

-Transportation concerns are also a result of the staffing shortage.

-The deployment of central services staff to schools is a support, however it in no way solves the daily staffing needs experienced throughout the school system and impacts the work of our central office members.

-With the staff shortages, we are also having to combine classes. This is unsafe, as we have a large number of students and staff in rooms, and when one person gets sick, people have to quarantine.

COVID Testing: Provide clear, concise expectations and guidelines. 

Throughout this pandemic, our members have been leading schools and offices with excellence. We stand ready and willing to work with the MCPS Board of Education, interim superintendent, and executive leadership to address the current
challenges we are facing as a school system. Strong leadership matters and makes a difference. We are looking for strong leadership from you. Provide our members with the respect and working conditions they deserve so that we can continue to serve students and families well.

On Wednesday, the Montgomery County teachers union MCEA (Montgomery County Education Association) passed a vote of no confidence in MCPS Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight and the Montgomery County Board of Education.

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