Three things to know about this week’s Board of Education meeting

By Natalie Adams

The Board of Education for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) conducted their bi-weekly meeting on Wednesday, February 6th. Here are three notable events from the meeting.

1. The new President and Vice President of the board were elected

Former Vice President of the Board Terry Gilleland was elected President of the Board unanimously. He was nominated by Eric Grannon, who had tried to nominate Gilleland numerous times. It was no surprise to Gilleland, who had a speech prepared, or to the rest of the board. In his speech, Gilleland acknowledged the former President’s, Julie Hummer, service before stating that he “[wants] to do what is best for this board,” and “nowhere else can we have a greater impact on our students.”

After his speech, Melissa Ellis stated, “I do believe we need a change of leadership,” in support of Gilleland.

There was a motion to vote and Gilleland was approved 9-0.

Immediately afterwards, the nominations for Vice President began. Unlike the Presidential election, there were two nominations for Vice President. Michelle Corkadel was nominated by Robert Leib and Josie Urrea, the Student Member of the Board (SMOB), was nominated by Melissa Ellis. Urrea’s nomination was expected, but Corkadel’s was not.

Urrea had a speech prepared in which she claimed “I am an equal board member in voice, vote, and value,” as reassurance to fellow board members of her capability.

Even with Urrea’s reassurances, some board members were still concerned with allowing a student power over so much money and so many employees. Also, Urrea’s term as the SMOB would end before her term as Vice President, which would create the need for another election.

Corkadel was surprised by the nomination and stated that she did not intend to create a race. However, she would not decline the nomination.

Questions were raised over the method for voting, which led to Leib withdrawing his nomination of Corkadel. The board approved Urrea 6-1, with Corkadel and Leib abstaining.

2. The Global Community Citizenship class was made a county-wide graduation requirement

There were two motions concerning the class, the first of which was to make a revision to the regulatory language of the proposal. However, to do this, the language must be moved to the policy for the board to amend it.

The point of this revision was to make the class an elective in all county high schools before it was made a graduation requirement. Melissa Ellis stated “I want the students to want this,” as the reason for making the course an elective first. There was concern that students would feel forced into the class if it became a graduation requirement the first year it was introduced.

The board opened public comment, and several parents and representatives of the African American community voiced their opinions before the board voted. The motion failed 3-6.

The second motion was to make the class a graduation requirement throughout the county, starting with the 2019-2020 school year.

It was stated that Global Community Citizenship class is one of the most relevant classes a student could take, since students will be encountering race and inclusion issues for the rest of their lives. Dr. George Arlotto, Superintendent of AACPS, stated that the county would also work to tailor the course to the culture at each individual school.

This motion had less debate among board members and was passed 8-0, with one absence.

3. The Educator of the Month, Employee of the Month, and Volunteer of the Month were announced

Dana Smith, a teacher at Arnold Elementary School, was named Educator of the month. She was introduced by Ellis, who cited her as a respected educational leader. During Ellis’s introduction, Smith’s children, husband, sister-in-law, two colleagues, and Principal, entered the room baring flowers and balloons. Smith was called in front of the panel for a photo op and was presented with a certificate for her service.

Jessica Roos of the AACPS Instructional Data Division was named Employee of the month. She was introduced by Urrea, who described Smith as “a real problem solver,” and always asking what is best for the students and the schools. Roos was greeted by her husband, mother, father, mother-in-law, several co-workers, and two of her bosses, who embraced her and presented her with flowers. She was also called in front of the panel for a picture and was given a certificate and bell.

Richard Watts was named the Volunteer of the Month. Watts volunteers at Pasadena Elementary School every week and was called an exceptional, beloved volunteer by Gilleland. After a picture and the presentation of a certificate and bell, Watts introduced his wife, three brothers, and several teachers who had come out to support him. Watts said “I’m just overwhelmed,” in response to the honor.