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Marks Asks School System to Revisit Magnet Rule Change

Under new rules, siblings of magnet elementary students won't automatically be given priority enrollment.

County Councilman is asking the Baltimore County Board of Education to reconsider its recently-reworked policies on magnet admissions.

Under a rule change adopted in April, the school system ended the policy of automatically granting magnet admissions to incoming kindergarteners whose siblings already attend the school (starting with the 2015-2016 school year).

Additionally, an unstated policy gave admissions priority to students who live near the school, but Marks said that appears to have changed as well.

"There may be good reasons to make a change in the name of countywide equity and fairness, but there are also solid arguments for retaining the current policy," Marks wrote in the letter to outgoing Superintendent Joe Hairston dated Tuesday.

Towson's lone elementary magnet program is at the . Many of its students live in the nearby Campus Hills neighborhood. Marks expressed concern in the letter that the system disregarded the environmental and social impacts of no longer allowing children from Campus Hills priority to attend Cromwell Valley, and no longer giving priority to siblings of magnet students. Check out the letter attached to this story.

Ending priority enrollment for children from those neighborhoods was a "judgment call," Marks said in an interview, made without "meaningful input by those affected by the policy change."

"My big concern is just the timing," Marks said. "And I don't know why this was done with the superintendent going out the door."

Hairston is set to retire on June 30.

In a on Patch, Cromwell Valley PTA president Tom Irwin said the rule change would inconvenience magnet parents in years to come.

"This means, if you have a child at a magnet school and your younger child is not admitted via random lottery, you will be forced to either take your older child out of the school they've attended in previous years or send your elementary age children to two separate schools," Irwin wrote.

Mypomonkey June 13, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I personally don't see the need for an elementary magnet school in the first place. Switch it back to a regular school and be done with all these issues.
Janna Rice June 13, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Then you don't live in a neighborhood with a failing school. I live in Glendale/Glenmont. This neighborhood was cut out of Stoneleigh in the early 1970's to integrate Halstead Academy. Halstead was failing then and is still a chronic failure today. My child was lucky enough to win a spot through the lottery at CVE and I am grateful for the chance to attend such a successful school with committed faculty and staff. BCPS certainly does need a magnet option when it continues to have a handful of chronic problem elementary schools. Some feel CVE should return to being a neighborhood school, but I feel the quality of the school will suffer, as the key is parental involvement. Many of the neighborhoods surrounding the most successful elementary schools are priced out of reach for many people. CVE is a chance for at least a few kids to go to a great, award winning school. That BCPS would make these changes makes no sense to me and I would appreciate a logical explanation as to why you would split up families like this. Why mess wit something that works so well?
Lily June 13, 2012 at 11:07 PM
If anyone feels so inclined to help we have started a facebook group to object to the rule change. It is very important to the magnet program that families be fully invested in the magnet program. Splitting families between two schools is not the way to do that. The sibling priority placement rule protects the student who is enrolled in the magnet program from the compelling interests parents have in keeping students together for many logistical reasons, from being pulled out of the program prior to finishing it. Separating students causes a hardship for many parents, particularly those who are middle to lower socioeconomic classes. The magnet program in order to work effectively depends on keeping children in the program for the full 6 years of elementary education. It is in the direct interest of the program, the enrolled students, involved parents, and the county to allow the priority placement of siblings. It is not the correct decision to cause a certain hardship to studants, parents and staff of the program in order to cure a theoretical harm of students and families that are not involved and have no intention of being involved unless thier child attends. What good does a magnet program do a child when his chance of finishing it is uncertain? If you wish to join the facebook group here it is: http://www.facebook.com/groups/siblingrule/
Lily June 13, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Also, in regard to the historic walking zone of CVE. It makes absolutely no sense at all for the county to pay money to bus children to an already overcrowded Hampton elementary school when they can walk to CVE. It's a very small number of children and paying for busing in that situation is absurd.
Lily June 13, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Elementary magnet schools are necessary because they act as feeder schools to the higher level schools. Not all elementary schools in the county are equal in performance. Magnet elementary schools extend the magnet opportunity in Middle and High schools to all children in the county by having a complete system which includes elementary schools. They are necessary in order to have a fair and complete magnet system.
Ravnet June 14, 2012 at 10:05 AM
While most in the county could probably care less about this, the concern should be the careless thought process and unannounced method of change from the school Board. If schools are trying to promote parent involvement in the schools, how can that possibly be fostered with forcing parents to send their elementary children to different schools. (The argument that this happens in middle and high school doesn't suffice). In elementary, where much more parent involvement is needed at a much greater level, those families are forced to have multiples of everything ranging from back to school nights, conference days, FUNDRAISERS, holiday concerts and shows. In effect, the school Board is saying we don't want parent involvement. Why as a parent would I want to "gather items for a silent auction fundraiser" for a school my younger children won't attend. Why would I want to help raise money to build a new playground? My guess is this is a first step in eliminating the magnet program, which is fine if that is their intention, but the Board should be up front and honest in doing so rather than making changes such as this that encourage disloyalty to the magnet program.
Mypomonkey June 14, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Magnet schools weren't just created as an alternative to failing schools. They were created with specialized education curriculums (art, science, technology, etc). Considering elementary education is general basics and the foundation for the rest of their educational lives, it doesn't make sense for them to have such specialized subjects, like the middle/high schools do. And as much as I sympathize with families in failing school districts, shouldn't the solution be for the whole school district and not just the lucky few who win a school lottery? As a parent with multiple children, I, too would be annoyed to be inconvenienced by having them at different schools. That said, why should a family who was already lucky enough to win a lottery to special placement, get automatic special placement for another child when their are other students in need? I guess I would also be more sympathetic if I thought all those kids in the magnet school were indeed from other failing school districts. But I know fully well, they aren't. My next door neighbor sends her son there and we currently live in the Stoneleigh school district. Even with the overcrowding issues, Stoneleigh is still a great school. And I also know that she was given a spot because she knew people, not because she won the lottery. So as much as there may be legitimate reasons to keep magnets schools, there is also just as much reason to not give special treatment to those already with one child there.
Michael Middleton June 14, 2012 at 02:21 PM
They may have had more concern if our County Executive had allowed a partially elected board to be enacted, rather than blocking the initiative so he could keep his appointments.
Michael Middleton June 14, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Thanks to David for taking up this issue! I'm not sure what the board is trying to fix or improve here. The lottery system makes the magnet program as fair as it can be. One could argue that the magnet program isn't fair enough, and needs to be done away with. From what I can see the program, while not perfect, works, and does what it was intended to do. I think a board member would hesistate to remove or change a program that produces good results. In the case of sibling preference, it's not about annoyance. CVE is a collection of families who are interested enough to at least fill out and track the application (we knew several parents from the home school who couldn't be bothered to go that far) and be involved in not only their children's education, but the PTA and the school. While the faculty and staff are fantastic, so was the faculty and staff at our home school, and I'm sure the other feeders also. With the technology aspect - the speciality part of CVE's magnet program - I just glanced at Rodgers Forge's page and am actually a little upset. They seem to be getting as much if not more in the way of "tech" than CVE. Your child attending CVE does not guarantee success. As a parent, I could not devote as much time as I do to two schools, when the time I have for one is limited as it is. Forcing families to split their time and efforts between schools does nothing to improve or fix any of the percieved problems with the school system or magnet program.
Michael F June 16, 2012 at 12:26 PM
So if I live across the street from CVE, and I have 2 children at CVE now, and I have 4 more kids that will go there, now all of a sudden they can not. Now the rest will have to be bused to Hampton. Yes, that's logical?
Chimein June 17, 2012 at 01:21 PM
You make a huge assumption that all children come from families with more than one child in the Baltimore County Public School System. By eliminating sibling priority, it makes more openings available for children who do not have siblings. Are you saying that only parents with more than one child are vested in the school and volunteer? It is a sad state of affairs when so many parents are fighting over this one little school that is performing well. Most magnet schools are neighborhood schools as well, in the county. This is an exception. All of this effort put into fighting over sibling priority could be better used toward improving your neighborhood schools so you may feel more comfortable with your child going there. It couldn’t hurt.
Lily June 18, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Chimein, I don't think anyone is saying that single child families don't volunteer. However when a new family enters a school it takes a bit of a learning curve to figure out how things are done and how they should be done to get the best result. It's a significant advantage to a PTA to have families that have stayed with the school for 10-15 years. This issue for the lottery isn't one of setting up a policy that prefers one demographic or another. It's one of access vs sustainability. It would be awesome if the county would expand the magnet program such that everyone who wanted to go could. It's certainly possible. The whole county isn't applying for the magnet program. The only reason this sibling rule is an issue is because people are fighting for a resource that has been successful and so there is more demand. Everyone could be satisfied if the magnet program were expanded so that it had a greater number of seats. I don't see the logic in threatening the stability of a successful program in order to create a false perception of greater access.

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