MCPS Budget Unveiling
Tonight was a big night for Margaret's office. The school district (MCPS) officially announced their 2008 budget. This is the thing that Margaret has been working on since she was hired, so she's very happy (as is the rest of her office) to get it on the way to being approved.
I wasn't doing anything else, so I decided to stop by. Before I relate my experiences and thoughts, a quick background on MCPS. It is like the 10th largest school district in the nation, has 199 schools (let's just call it 200) and an operating budget nearing $2 billion. Let's compare this to my high school (Wissahickon) which only had 6 schools and my graduating class was about 220 people.
So this thing tonight was huge. I couldn't park at the school because the lot was full (Margaret and her executive parking pass had no such problems). I had to park at the "Economy Parking" and take a bus to the event. Coming into the building there are Rockville High students handing out the program and welcoming me to Rockville. They had real-time translation services. And not just for Spanish, but for 6 different languages (Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, French, Chinese, and ASL). The event was webcast for people who couldn't make it (I'm featured in it for those interested in watching it).
But I was a little disappointed. It was more "State of the Union" than providing any information on what is actually contained in the budget. The superintendent spent most of the night telling everyone how good MCPS is and how it is just going to get better. Honestly, the guy is a very good speaker who seemed at home in front of the microphone and the TV cameras.
But there were some things that surprised me during the speech tonight. The biggest thing is the size of the support staff for teachers at MCPS. They have "Consultant Teachers" whose job is to come into a new teachers classroom and lend assistance and advice. There are continuing education teachers. There is just a whole lot of resources devoted to making the "Front Line" teachers as good as they can be. I find this most amazing because this was so not the case when I was in school. We had a teacher. Sometimes, we had a student teacher. English classes had a "Theme Reader" whose job it was to read our papers for grammar and content.
Honestly, I'm glad to see the changes. I think each resource we provide, whether on the "Front Lines" or supporting staff impacts the quality of education that goes on in the school district. I just wish we school was like this when I was a kid.