Johnny Hawkins Jr.

Minority mentoring, new magnet schools coming to area schools

Superintendent S. Dallas Dance announced in his 2016 State of the Schools that new magnet programs were coming to area schools—welcome news for the more than 1,250 community members, business leaders, students and staff who gathered at Martin’s West on March 23 to hear how the school system is doing and what the plan is moving forward. The program featured various performances and remarks from students.

In his fourth annual presentation, themed “Believe, Rise, Lead,” Dance reaffirmed signature initiatives such as the S.T.A.T. digital learning transformation and Passport elementary world language instruction, and introduced new supports designed to promote equity and academic progress for all students. He also outlined a host of new efforts to meet individual student needs including expanded staffing, services, and supports for BCPS’ growing populations of English learner students and those with severe disabilities.

New Magnet Schools

The county’s highly competitive visual and performing arts program will expand to Milford Mill Academy, and provide students intensive training in music, literature and drama.

A health sciences magnet program will be offered at Old Court Middle School in Randallstown. BCPS will partner with Northwest Hospital for advanced coursework, job shadowing and other interactions between students, physicians and other medical professionals at school and hospital. Those successful in the program will continue to Randallstown High School Academy of Health Professions. More than 450 students applied for the program’s 90 available slots, according to Dance.

Changes are also underway for Woodlawn High School. The county’s first early college high school will launch there in fall 2017. Through this new program, students will graduate with high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

Minority Mentoring Initiative

Male students in Baltimore County Public Schools are more likely to switch schools, drop out and not enroll to college, Dance reported. In grades seven through 12, 48 percent of Baltimore County Public Schools’ African-American males and 31 percent of Hispanic males have been suspended, compared to 23 percent of their white male counterparts.

To address the gender gap, he is implementing a Superintendent’s Minority Male Mentoring Initiative and issued a call to action: “I will be calling on men from around the Baltimore region to further this cause along with me to make it a collective responsibility to wrap our arms around our young men.”

Noting that Freeman Hrabowski, president of University of Maryland Baltimore County, serves as his closest mentor, Dance acknowledged, “I would not be standing here today without the guidance and support of mentors throughout my life.

A full-time mentoring coordinator will ensure all schools share best practices.

Other Initiatives

To ease students’ transition from elementary to middle school and middle to high school, Dance shared that an early entry day will launch this fall. Students will try out their lockers, ride their bus routes and review their course schedules. They will meet their teachers, eat in the cafeteria and tour the school, as well as learn about extra curricular activities.

In the last 10 years, the population of English learners has doubled to more than 5,000 students who are from 106 countries and speak 80 languages, Dance reported. With their graduation rate having declined to 48 percent for the 2015 graduates, while the rate for all BCPS students rose to nearly 88 percent, the superintendent created an English Learner Office and says he will increase classroom staffing and teacher training, and build parent advocacy.

Additional staffing and training, and resources for students with severe disabilities, another group whose population and needs have increased within the school system.

To support students’ social and emotional needs, the role of school counselors will go beyond skills training. More social workers will be placed in the schools and will assist with basic needs such as food, clothing, housing and mental health services.

To view the full presentation, visit

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