April 11, 2024

Regional Leaders Learn ABCs of MD Blueprint Act

Students from public and private high schools tell regional leaders about their pandemic experiences and offer perspectives on educational reform. Pictured are Hayden Kelly of Huntingtown High School, Amira Abujuma of North Point High School, Tanner George of St. Mary’s Ryken High School, and Jordyn Walters of Leonardtown High School.

The Leadership Southern Maryland Executive Program met last month with state and regional educational leaders to unpack the implications of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, legislation passed in 2021 to enhance the state’s public school system.

The meetings were held at the Prince Frederick campus of the College of Southern Maryland.

After learning the ABCs of the legislation from Maryland Association of Boards of Education Director of Governmental Relations John Woolums, LSM participants were briefed on the local implementation plans of Calvert County School Superintendent Dr. Andraé Townsel, Charles County School Superintendent Dr. Maria Navarro, and St. Mary’s County Public Schools Chief Strategic Officer Dr. Jeffrey Maher. Dr. David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, helped participants understand the Blueprint against the background of the broader US educational landscape.

“I was so impressed with the school superintendents and could feel the passion and energy they bring to their tough and often thankless profession,” said SMECO Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Campbell Hawkins. “They gave me hope that the young people in our region can receive the public education they deserve.”

Students from public and private high schools throughout the region offered their perspectives on the education they are receiving and on challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Asked what changes they would like to see in education, all cited better support for teachers. That includes better pay, one of the provisions of the Blueprint, and more planning time for teachers.

“So often we describe young people as leaders of tomorrow, but it is important to recognize that they are leading today,” said LSM Executive Director Sybol Anderson. “The students we met with have keen insight into the challenges and needs of Southern Maryland schools, as do their peers of all ages and backgrounds. I’m glad we got a chance to listen to them.”

Participants learned from CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy, University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland Executive Director Dr. Eileen Abel, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland President Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan about ways their institutions are innovating and collaborating to equip local students for success through post-secondary education to employment and beyond.

LSM got a taste of that innovation and partnership during a tour of Farming 4 Hunger’s Market Garden at CSM. Farming 4 Hunger President and Executive Director Bernie Fowler Jr., and CSM Coordinator of Campus Operations Alan Hemming described the “’planting of the seed’ to harvest” garden experience that feeds the region’s hungry, supplements CSM’s Hawk Feeder pantries, adds pollinator habitats on campus, and provides workforce training and volunteer opportunities for CSM students and the community.

Leadership Southern Maryland’s flagship Executive Program is a nine-month, tuition-based “behind-the-scenes” experience designed to enhance the collaborative abilities of the region’s top senior professionals.

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