News 4 days ago

Cox touts school board's accomplishments

Cumberland Times-News — Greg Larry Cumberland Times-News, Md.

Feb. 16--CUMBERLAND -- Superintendent of Schools David Cox touted the accomplishments of the Allegany County Board of Education as he addressed the audience Tuesday after being granted a new four-year contract.

Board members voted 3-1 with one abstention to renew the contract.

Although he stressed that "much work remains to be done," he said positive developments have taken place during his eight-year tenure.

"I express sincere appreciation," Cox said. "I'm so proud of the many things we have accomplished together by working hard and putting kids' interests first. It is not because of anything I've done; it is because we have worked together."

Cox listed accomplishments since he became superintendent in 2009.

"We have fiber optic connections to all of our schools and we've connected our public libraries," he said. "This board provided leadership in this community when no one else would to do that work.

"We have increased opportunities for all of our students, including increasing the number of Advanced Placement college courses and the number of students who take advantage of them."

Cox's new contract will take effect July 1 and expire June 30, 2021. The salary and benefits package in the new contract will be negotiated in the coming days.

"We have increased our scores," said Cox. "I'm sorry to say, anyone who says that we have low scores doesn't know how it works and it is insulting to the teachers who work every day in a new system and who spent hours and hours of time getting retrained and retooled and have met the increasingly higher standards of the PARCC assessments."

Cox said the new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

"We have, coming out of the ground, a new Allegany (High School) that is 30 years overdue," he said. "It was years of work and that happened because we worked together."

Cox said Allegany County, although a small school district, has three blue ribbon schools and offers many added offerings for students.

"I'm so proud of the many programs we have, but the Chinese Partial Immersion Program is the one that wins awards when it goes to competitions," he said. "The same is true for the Active Learning Labs. It serves as a model. Teachers work hard on that every day."

Cox addressed the steep decline the school system has seen in its rainy day fund balance. The board's general fund dropped from $12 million four years ago to $3 million today.

"We have to work on these very challenging budgets," he said. "If there was a magic bullet to this problem, it would have been found and sold a long time ago."

He said a decline in funding has led to the loss of 230 jobs in the school system, mainly through attrition.

"It requires people doing more than one job and we have many who have stepped up and don't complain," said Cox. "They do it because they love the school system and they love our children."

He also touted the collaboration between the public school system and Allegany College of Maryland and Frostburg State University.

However, Cox said "much work needs done."

"I'm very proud of the work that happens every day in our classrooms," he said. "We have so many amazing and wonderful teachers. I see the time they put in and I see the love and the care. And when students go without things, we have teachers that take of care of that without saying a word. We have schools doing amazing things so kids don't go hungry on the weekend."

Cox said he was charged with "cleaning up" nepotism and cronyism when he was hired.

"Sometimes it calls for a reset of the norms. In doing so, not everyone is going to be happy," he said.

In other news from the meeting, the board is moving forward on plans to conduct a survey to explore the cause of low morale among staff.

Cox said a staff engagement survey needs to be conducted to understanding low morale and increase effective communication.

"I want to reach out to different classification of employees and have multiple focus groups," Cox said. "The board should also contemplate the importance of input that would be gleaned from both parents and students."

Board President Laurie Marchini spoke in support of a survey.

"I think that it's a great idea," said Marchini. "It is part of our goals for this year. I look forward to getting started on that."

The board is also moving forward on plans to form a blue ribbon panel to study various issues, including redistricting. The board wants to focus on boundaries particularly for elementary schools in the city of Cumberland.

Board members also voted unanimously to approve an Aug. 29 start date for students for the upcoming school year.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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