A new reading curriculum, a revised code of conduct and teacher bonuses are some of the ways new Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Myriam Yarbrough said she will improve the school system.
She began her tenure this week and detailed at a news conference on Monday how she will keep her word on making Baltimore County Public Schools one of the best districts in the state. The conference was one of the ways Yarbrough is already fulfilling a stipulation in her contract that says she has to communicate more with the community than her predecessor did.
“When we do have difficult challenges that come forward, we certainly will be sharing that information with the community,” Yarbrough said on Monday. “I believe in making myself available, like today, and there will be more opportunities to come.”
Here are three ways the new superintendent says she’ll improve the school system, starting next school year.
Elementary students will get a new reading curriculum
Propped up beside Yarbrough while she stood at the podium in the Towson boardroom was a board titled “Responding to the Needs of Team BCPS,” with academic achievement as the first bullet point. It’s something she said she’d improve when her selection as superintendent was first announced.
Test scores showed Baltimore County performed below the state average. Only 38% of students were proficient in English and 19% were proficient in math. Yarbrough said staff will review academic data from last school year, note any trends and adjust lessons accordingly. She mentioned the new literacy curriculum the board approved in May — one she said was backed by science and research.
“We now are able to bring in a new curriculum for elementary school students, really focused on literacy, and really expand all of our professional learning to ensure that the science of reading is implemented across schools,” she said.
Elementary schools will get safety assistants, and the code of conduct will change
Parents and educators say school violence is a barrier to student achievement. To make learning safer for students, Yarbrough said there’s a plan to have safety assistants help with school security in elementary schools. Those staff members, who screen visitor access and help maintain class attendance, have previously been only deployed in middle and high schools. There might not be a safety assistant at every elementary school, a school system spokeswoman clarified late Monday.
She also wants to revise the school system’s code of conduct so “our consequences are in alignment with the infractions,” make sure parents have a better understanding of those rules, and to apply consequences consistently.
Teachers will get bonuses for filling critical roles
When teachers showed up to board meetings last school year, it was often to address their salaries, teacher vacancies and pay issues. Yarbrough wants to expand Baltimore County’s local, state and national recruitment efforts so the system has a more robust candidate pool for teaching jobs. The recent pay raise for teachers’ starting salaries is the second-highest in the state, according to Yarbrough, and meant to attract more candidates.
Under her leadership, the system will incentivize teachers to work at “high needs” schools or schools that need more staff. The system identified the 33 schools in a June staff update. If teachers choose to transfer to those schools, they’ll get a one-time bonus. Newly hired teachers also get a bonus for signing on. Special education teachers and general education teachers with special education certifications who fill a vacant special education position will get a $3,000 bonus.
In response to pay issues and human resources complaints made by teachers and retirees, Yarbrough said the customer service center created to address human resources issues will be enhanced and a “retiree portal” will be created.