Maryland State Department of Education

MSDE Bulletin

Keeping You Current on Education Reform in Maryland

February 18, 2000 Vol. 11, No. 3


Gun-related Expulsions Decrease, New Safety Hotline Launched

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend met at Lyndale/Brooklyn Park Middle School in Anne Arundel County earlier this month to release updated gun-related expulsion data and unveil a statewide safe schools hotline.
     New data reveal that the number of Maryland students expelled for bringing a firearm to school has decreased. During the 1998-99 school year, 31 students were expelled for bringing a gun to school — down from 64 in 1997-98 and 73 in 1996-97. A breakdown of the 1998-99 data shows that of the 31 gun-related expulsions, 30 involved a handgun and 1
involved a rifle or shotgun. Five of the 31 incidents occurred at middle schools while the remaining 26 were in high schools. There were no gun-related expulsions at elementary schools.
     “We are very pleased with the progress of local schools in sending the message that threats to school safety will not be tolerated,” said Dr. Grasmick. “When schools are not safe, learning is stunted and children do not flourish. That is why we must work to keep our schools secure and peaceful places to learn and to grow.”
     After the encouraging new data was released, the state’s new safe schools hotline was launched. A student was on hand to place the first call to the State’s safe schools hotline by calling 877-MD-NOFEAR. Calls can be placed anonymously and will be answered by the Maryland State Police Criminal Intelligence Division.

                                   "...threats to school safety will not be tolerated."
                                                                - Nancy S. Grasmick
                                                                State Superintendent of Schools

     AT&T donated $25,000 and promotional materials to the Maryland Safe Schools Interagency Steering Committee
for the hotline.

Students Coordinate First-Ever Statewide Legislative Lobbying Day

     On February 16, 120 Maryland students converged upon the State House chamber in Annapolis, where they were met by House Speaker Cas Taylor and Senate President Mike Miller.

Student Lobbying
     The rendezvous was part of the first-ever Maryland Association of Student Council (MASC) Statewide Legislative Lobbying Day. The students, representing middle and high schools from 16 Maryland school systems, put in practice lobbying skills attained through MASC workshops.
     “In past years, many MASC members received training in the lobbying process, but only a handful actually lobbied the state legislature,” said MASC advisor Catherine McCall. “The students decided to coordinate a Statewide Legislative Lobbying Day to open the experience up to more members.”
     Students spent the afternoon meeting with legislators and distributing MASC position papers detailing students’ stances on bills.

Board Member Nominations
     In early February, MASC held its annual Legislative Session, attended by 582 students representing 112 Maryland middle and high schools. The students nominated two candidates for the 2000-01 State Board of Education student member—Lauren McAlee of Anne Arundel County and Aaron Merki of Charles County.
     After reviewing the nominations, Governor Glendening selected Aaron Merki of Maurice McDonough High School to serve as a voting member. His term begins July 1.

Platform Revisions
     Students also revised the MASC platform during the Legislative Session. The platform details MASC positions on youth representation, peer leadership, education, health and social issues, and the environment. Students added a new plank--student safety and discipline--to the existing platform.
     The new plank outlines MASC’s support for intervention programs for students with behavioral problems and alternative education opportunities for expelled students.
     Regarding discipline, MASC went on record strongly opposing punishing students in school for out-of-school behavior, such as underage drinking.

Many School Systems Seek Weather-Related Calendar Waivers

     Many of Maryland’s 24 school systems are seeking to take advantage of a rare waiver of the state-mandated minimum 180-day calendar, but a number of systems have requested clarification of the waiver process in this year peppered with an abnormal number of weather-related closings.
     At its meeting of February 1, the State Board of Education granted authority to School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to approve waivers of up to four days to systems that were closed on September 16 and/or 17 due to Hurricane Floyd or January 25 and/or 26 because of a winter storm.
     However, systems granted waivers permitting a reduction in the number of school days still must meet the state requirement for minimum number of hours school must be in session during a 10-month period.
     Elementary and middle schools must be in session at least 1,080 hours and high schools must be in session 1,170 hours. Systems applying for waivers must calculate their hours in session, deducting hours for days on which weather necessitated delayed openings. Some time can be made up by extending the school day.
     The state average school day is 6.5 hours, but some systems have average days of 6.3 hours. Three systems—Caroline, Carroll and Wicomico—had average days of 7.0 hours last year.
     As of February 17, waivers had been granted to Anne Arundel (four days), Baltimore City (three), Calvert (three), Caroline (three), Charles (three), Harford (four), Montgomery (two), Queen Anne’s (four), St. Mary’s (four), Talbot (four) and Wicomico (three) school systems.
     There is no deadline for a system to apply for a waiver concerning the four specified dates, but the State Board’s action to date will apply only to the four days cited and not to any days postponed after February 1.

Maryland Teacher-in-Residence Is On The Move

     Ed Silver Jr., Maryland’s first Teacher-in-Residence, has already accomplished more than could have been imagined in the first half of his one-year term in the unique position. But he still has big plans for the second half of the school year.
     Since September, Silver — a former Maryland Teacher of the Year and current helping teacher for Kent County Public Schools — has visited 20 schools in 12 of the state’s 24 systems. The program has enhanced communication between
Maryland teachers and the State Department of Education. Including appearances at conventions, Silver has talked directly with more than 400 teachers and many students.
     “My goal is to go to every school system before the year is over,” said Silver, a former elementary school teacher.

"Talk about getting kids in touch with reality—this is it.”
--Ed Silver
MSDE’s Teacher-in-Residence

     Silver has heard teachers and administrators statewide echo some of the same concerns — high school assessments, student discipline, and the need for the state to recruit high-quality teachers. He has also witnessed some unexpected success stories.
     “I have been amazed at some of the things people are doing in education today,” he said. “I talked with a teacher at Easton High School who is re-conditioning an airplane with a group of at-risk kids. I met another teacher in Talbot County whose cooking class has developed into something that actually caters meals for events in and around the school. Talk about getting kids in touch with reality—this is it.”
      Silver wants to see such successful and innovative programs shared statewide, so that schools can learn from each other. He hopes his position can play a key role in meeting that objective.
     Silver said while visiting Timonium Elementary School in Baltimore County earlier this month, he encountered five teachers from Charles County who also were visiting to learn more about the programs that produced outstanding MSPAP scores last year.
     “I think this is happening more and more due to web site access and people seeing what other people are doing right,” said Silver. “We need to link more schools to other schools. We need to share ideas across the state.”    

MSDE Bulletin
School & Community Outreach Office
Maryland State Department of Education
200 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Web site:

Ronald Peiffer
Assistant State Superintendent

Neil H. Greenberger