Blueprint board could approve ‘majority’ of Md. school system plans next month

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School Bus(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Maksymowicz)
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board is scheduled to begin approval of local school system’s education plans next month, but how many of the 24 plans will be ready remains unclear.

Rachel Hise, executive director of the board, said during an online meeting Thursday that the agency continues to review plans that include modifications from local education agencies, or school systems, due July 6.

“We’re feeling like we’re very much on track for bringing many, if not all of the LEA plans to the board with a recommendation of approval in July,” she said.

To try and approve plans from all 24 school systems, the board scheduled two meetings from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on July 20 and July 27.

Each plan submitted in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, must document work that school officials have conducted, completed or continue to implement through the 2023-24 school year. All plans must address the Blueprint’s four pillars, or priorities: a focus on early childhood education, hiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers, preparing students for college and technical careers and providing additional resources for students in need.

If a school system’s plan isn’t approved next month and more revisions are needed, officials have until Oct. 1 to submit their plans.

Hise said the October submission coincides with an appeal process for local school officials to use if they disagree with the board’s decision to withhold money for the next fiscal year.

That would only happen if the Blueprint board decided a school system didn’t meet certain requirements of the Blueprint plan.

Board chair Isiah “Ike” Leggett said he wants to ensure there isn’t confusion, so that if a local school system’s plan isn’t approved by July 27, local school officials know their work to develop the plan, so that it can be approved, remains ongoing.

“The interpretation, unfortunately, will be that if you are not included in the approval [process], you’re disapproved,” Leggett said.

“I absolutely understand,” Hise said.

The board also received a review of Blueprint law modifications that were approved this year. There are more than two dozen items state and local education officials must include in upcoming Blueprint plans, on websites and in other documentation.

Among those, the state Department of Education will require prekindergarten Montessori school teachers with a bachelor’s degree to have a Montessori credential either from the Association Montessori Internationale, the American Montessori Society, or a program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.

A few other additions to the Blueprint plan include:

  • Requiring the department of education to establish and maintain an educator recruitment, retention and diversity dashboard by Jan. 1, 2025, including demographics and prospective educators participating in internships.
  • Allowing mental health professionals to receive loan repayment assistance if they have provided services in a public school for at least two years as a school employee or worked with a local health department through an agreement with a local school board.
  • Requiring school systems that are participating in school-wide free lunch programs to provide families an alternative income eligibility form they can access and file online.

In other business, the Blueprint board approved a $202,125 contract with Devaney & Associates of Baltimore County to conduct communications and outreach services through June 30, 2024.

Hise said part of that company’s contract will ensure that a 15% goal for minority business enterprises to participate in some of the work is met. Also, the contract requires the company to conduct at least 15 interviews with stakeholders such as Blueprint board members and local Blueprint coordinators before completing a communications and outreach strategy this summer.

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