Halethorpe sisters, aspiring teachers achieve honors through decades of schooling — together

The Biddinger sisters have a lot to celebrate. Graduating summa cum laude from University of Maryland, Baltimore County with master’s degrees in early education, 29-year-old Michelle and 25-year-old twins Melanie and Melissa Biddinger have finally completed their academic careers after decades of striving for straight A’s. The girls always felt at home in school, they say. Their mother, Robin Biddinger, worked as a substitute teacher from the time they entered Halethorpe Elementary School, where their grandmother Bertha McManus served lunch in the cafeteria. (Balt Sun)

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After positive results, educators and politicians look to expand social-emotional learning program

Almost a year after the first Frederick County classrooms were introduced to social-emotional learning (SEL) through a social-emotional learning program, leaders in education and politics are looking to expand it. The PATHS program — or Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies — was first piloted in nine classrooms at Monocacy Elementary School during the 2018-2019 school year. The evidence-based program teaches children skills such as self-awareness, self-management and relationship building, and decision-making. Teachers hold PATHS sessions twice a week in the classroom; each session runs about 30 minutes. According to a report published by FCPS in December, PATHS was employed because research and studies showed it “positively impacted behavioral and academic outcomes” of students. (News-Post)

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A broken promise: IEP is contract between Anne Arundel schools, parents of children with disabilities

For a year, a Crofton parent spent thousands of dollars and watched her daughter struggle in school. Alison Hamilton, an advocate for students with disabilities and support group organizer, pushed Anne Arundel’s school system to transfer her daughter Leah to another school that would better fit her needs. “It was extremely frustrating to watch my daughter fall apart while the process ground on,” Hamilton said in an email. Throughout her daughter’s sixth grade school year, Hamilton attended several meetings with the school system to address how the school could not properly address a plan that sets up goals and services for students with disabilities, called an IEP, or an Individualized Education Program. (Balt. Sun)

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Funds for Bus Tracking App in MCPS Budget Proposal

Funding for school bus tracking mobile apps is included in Montgomery County Public Schools budget proposal for the next fiscal year. The $750,000 allocation would fund mobile apps that would “provide real-time [GPS] information for parents and guardians to know the location of our buses,” according to the budget recommendation, released last week by Superintendent Jack Smith. The budget totals $2.8 billion, a 4.5% increase from the current year’s budget. (Bethesda)

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As school resumes today, two Annapolis High teachers talk about their work

Two women returned to Anne Arundel County Public Schools last fall with a mission in mind — provide a more inclusive curriculum and increase diverse representation. Romey Pittman, the sister of Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, and Shannon Crowner of Shady Side are both in the social studies department at Annapolis High School. As classes resume today following the winter break, they talked with The Capital on what they learned in the first half of their first school year — from navigating large classroom sizes to dealing with the death of a student in gun violence to witnessing the love staff members have for their students. (Balt. Sun)

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Montgomery Co. looking to expand early education infrastructure this year

One Maryland county has its sites set on early childhood education in 2020. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is hoping the new year brings steady progress towards something they started last year — increasing the number and types of early education spaces available to county residents. “Last year, we spent about $7 million. We added some seats. We worked with the school system to change part-day into full-day programs that exist today,” Elrich said. This year, he said they are looking to find new sites for the expansion of early childhood programs as well as providers who could fill the new facilities. (WTOP)

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Superintendent in Maryland school system seeks contract renewal

The superintendent of Maryland’s largest school system said Friday he would be seeking another four-year contract, a move that appears to all but assure his continued leadership in suburban Montgomery County. Jack R. Smith, 62, in his fourth year as schools chief in the fast-growing system of more than 165,000 students, said in a letter to employees on the eve of their holiday break that he would request another contract from the Montgomery County Board of Education.“We have made significant progress on behalf of students, but there is still more work to be done,” Smith wrote. “I am deeply committed to continuing this progress toward our shared vision for equity and student achievement.” (Wash. Post)

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School union leaders, citizens push Harford council for greater education funding in fiscal 2021

The start of the next fiscal year is still many months away, but the heads of three Harford school system employee unions — as well as a local teacher and a citizen — made an early pitch to the County Council to increase funding for education and reverse years of damaging cuts.“Harford County Public Schools’ enrollment is larger than it was in 2011, and yet we have 504 — let me say that again, 504 — less adults to support our children’s mental health and educational well being,” Stacey Gerringer, principal of Abingdon Elementary School and president of The Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Harford County, said during the public comment portion of the Dec. 17 County Council meeting. Gerringer appeared with Chrystie Crawford-Smick, president of the Harford County Education Association — the teachers’ union; and Danielle Bedsaul, supervisor of transportation for HCPS and president of The Association of Harford County Administrative, Technical and Supervisory Professionals. (Balt. Sun)

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