Transfer option meetings in Baltimore County elementaries
Last night, I attended a parent meeting at Halstead Academy, a Baltimore County elementary school in the Parkville area. Because Halstead did not make adequately yearly progress this year, and is a Title I school, parents must be given the option of transferring their children to either Carroll Manor or Jacksonville elementaries. A similar meeting was to be held at Riverview Elementary about the same time last night. The two are the only elementaries in the county on the state school-improvement list.
Crowded into a classroom, parents met Halstead’s new principal, Karen Blannard, taking over for Jill Carter, who was transferred to Halethorpe Elementary. It was interesting how much some of the tension dropped once Blannard did a presentation explaining the position the school was now in: Halstead failed to make AYP for its special-education students, but met requirements in all other areas. Blannard noted that attendance, which counts toward AYP, fell short by one-tenth of a point. She and the many teachers present emphasized that they need parents’ help in improving the situation in the coming year.
A few other tidbits:
*Parents expressed some frustration with not being able to choose their own transfer school, particularly as the two choices are about 30 minutes away from their home school. Some also pointed out the different demographics at the choice schools, which do not mirror Halstead’s primarily African-American population. But Lisa Williams, who used to head the district’s Title I office, explained that the two schools are the only options, and that a number of factors go into deciding on choice schools, including the building’s capacity, available resources and transportation.
*The principals from the choice schools encouraged parents to consider that some of the services Halstead provides won’t be at their schools, simply because they don’t have that extra Title I funding at their disposal.
*Children can transfer back to Halstead if they find the choice schools aren’t working for them.
*Students who transfer can remain at their choice schools until fifth grade, but could be on their own for transportation after the school makes AYP for two consecutive years, and gets off the state watch list.
* A number of initiatives are planned to improve next year, including homework clubs before and after school; family nights with a focus on academics; and attendance support and recognition programs, among other things.
Blannard called for another parent meeting — this one a brainstorming session on strategies to address the attendance issue — at the school Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. (babysitting provided).