June 11, 2018

Dear Parents/Guardians:

We have seen an increase in reports of employee misconduct this year, and I would like to update you on the steps we have taken to uncover employees who might be compromising the safety of our children. In almost every case that has occurred, it was a student or staff member who came forward to express concern about possible criminal acts by an employee.

We believe the increase in reporting is a direct result of more training for employees on how to recognize symptoms of an abused child or the behaviors of someone who is possibly abusing a child. Nationally recognized training was offered to every Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) employee this school year, and is now part of our established training program. For students, we have provided age appropriate lessons in the health and counseling curriculum to help them recognize and report inappropriate contact.

In every instance of misconduct, our first concern has been for the victims. That is why we partnered with the Center for Children almost immediately after learning of the accusations against Carlos Bell last summer. The Center for Children has provided free and confidential services to victims and their families. We continue to partner with the Center for Children to support victims of sexual abuse.

We are committed to keeping our community informed and engaged in our school safety efforts. We have worked hard to be as transparent as we can while still maintaining the confidentiality that is required for the accused offender as well as the victims in these cases. The CCPS website, www.ccboe.com, includes an Investigations page that has the most accurate and up-to-date information we can share.

We encourage students, staff and community members to be a part of our See Something, Say Something campaign. People are responding by reporting suspect behavior. Every concern is fully investigated by the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. On our CCPS website as well as in letters to the community, we encourage anyone with knowledge of inappropriate behavior or wrongdoing to contact the proper authorities. During any investigation of an employee, we reassign the employee to our administrative offices.

Here are a few other steps we have taken to increase student safety and security.

  • We have hired a Director of School Safety and Security. Our new director, Jason Stoddard, has 24 years of law enforcement experience and most recently served as the Commander of Homeland Security and Intelligence for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. He will offer plans for improvements and advice where we need to make improvements. He will also conduct training for our employees, parents and volunteers. The director will work closely with our School Resource Officers, who are valuable team members.

  • We have created a community-based School Safety Advisory Council composed of 27 community members with credentials in security, mental health, cybersecurity, law enforcement, victim services, the military, public safety and other related professions. These dedicated members are joining staff to offer an outside look at our school system and to give us recommendations for change. The group is making short-term suggestions while working on long-term solutions. The council is an independent check on our safety procedures and policies.

  • We require mandatory fingerprinting and background checks for all employees, substitutes, temporary employees, mentors, athletic trainers, coaches and contractors.

  • We have formed a partnership with the Center for Children to offer more access to mental health professionals to help children in need.

  • This week, we launched an anonymous reporting tool on our website to encourage more people to report anything they feel might compromise student safety. The tool is available at http://www.ccboe.com/index.php/see-something-say-something.


We are taking a strong look at all of our processes and practices. We have tightened our procedures and expanded our transparency. Our goal is to increase awareness of inappropriate conduct and how to report it. While cases of sexual abuse or misconduct are reprehensible, we believe that sharing what we can of this information is essential to creating a culture where we work together to keep our schools safe for students and staff.

Thank you for your support of Charles County Public Schools.

Sincerely,

Kimberly A. Hill, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools


Material Distribution requests are no longer being accepted for the 2017-18 school year.  Requests will be accepted for the 2018-19 school year starting September 4, 2018.

How to Qualify for Financial Assistance for the 2018 Summer Enrichment Camps

  • Child(ren) must be registered in a Charles County Public School

and

  • Families must be enrolled in the federally funded meals program to receive Free or Reduced Meals


If you are not enrolled in the meals program and believe you qualify, visit the MySchoolApps website at https://www.myschoolapps.com/.  Once this is completed and verified, you may qualify for financial assistance for the Summer Enrichment Camps.


What is Covered by Financial Assistance

The fee for two camps will be waived for a total of $180.00 for each child that qualifies.  
Weekly camp sessions cost $90.00 each for either an AM or PM camp.  If the total exceeds $180.00, you will be required to pay the difference (limited camps are $100.00/each to cover additional costs). In addition, if your child attends an AM and PM camp during the same week and wants to stay for the free lunch and supervised Lunch Activity Time, there is a $10.00 fee that you must register and pay for. 

IMPORTANT: To receive the fee waiver for the student(s) that qualify, contact Susan Dobbs at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 301-934-7369.

LIVE FROM CHARLES COUNTY
Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) is filming and streaming graduations live on the front page of its website at www.ccboe.com. During commencement, the ceremony will air live and the video will be available on YouTube following the ceremony.  Videos of each ceremony are now available in MP4 format on the CCPS TV website under Special Programs and are free to download.

PARKING LOTS AND DOORS
The Convocation Center parking lots and doors open two hours before each graduation. Police will direct anyone arriving prior to the opening of parking lots to the overflow lots, which are further away from the school. Staff will close the doors to the Convocation Center 15 minutes prior to the start of each ceremony and guests arriving after the doors close are not guaranteed access to the Convocation Center and may be directed to auxiliary seating areas. No guests will be seated during the processional.
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SEATING

Seating is first-come, first-served. However, there are reserved seats for those needing an interpreter or with disabilities. CCPS provides American Sign Language interpreting at all graduations. Please contact your child’s school to make arrangements for this special seating.

TICKETS
All guests, including babies, must have a ticket to be admitted to graduation.

CERTAIN ITEMS NOT ALLOWED
Food and drinks (including water), strollers, balloons, air horns, beach balls and other distracting items are not permitted in the Convocation Center.

PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEO
The school system has arranged for professional photographs to be taken of each graduate as they receive their diploma cover. Lifetouch, the official photographer for the high school yearbooks and class photos, will post photos online at events.lifetouch.com  one week after the ceremony. Graduates also receive a complimentary proof in the mail. A local media company, dbF, is videotaping each graduation and will have DVDs for sale at each ceremony.

CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE
Please turn off or silence your cell phones before entering the Convocation Center. Our graduates deserve your undivided attention during this momentous ceremony.

SILENT ROLL CALL
Students and school administrators expect a Silent Roll Call as graduates receive their diplomas. A Silent Roll Call honors all students and allows for each graduate’s name to be heard clearly and without the distraction of noise while names are being announced.

AFTER THE CEREMONY
At the close of the ceremony, guests should remain at their seats until the graduates and faculty have recessed. Parents should meet graduates in the stadium following graduation. All graduates and guests must exit 30 minutes after commencement allowing families arriving for the next ceremony to enter.

 

The Board of Education of Charles County on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 held a town hall meeting for support staff. About 20 employees participated in the discussion. The following are the top issues presented at the Support Staff Town Hall, with responses summarized by Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) staff.  Issues are included below in boldface type.

Student data technicians are paid on the secretarial scale, but the position includes data analysis and is more technical than the secretary role. Although they are paid on the secretary scale, there is no professional development offered to data technicians. Additionally, user roles in Synergy, the new student information system, are not clearly defined. Data staff at schools manage different aspects of the system and points of contact are not outlined.

Staff is currently working with the Office of Human Resources to evaluate current pay scales for positions. Support staff pay scales are evaluated by staff annually, and adjusted with the availability of funding and through negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union. In 2017, staff was able to negotiate with AFSCME a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all classified scales and grade increases for eligible employees. The adjustment was made across all support staff pay scales. During annual negotiations, AFSCME members work with staff to negotiate appropriate compensation for all support staff members, including student data technicians.

The CCPS Office of Accountability serves as the central point of contact for student data technicians and Synergy, the new student information system. Synergy launched at the start of the 2017-18 school year and Office of Accountability staff worked with principals to develop user role assignments. Staff who manage data in Synergy have participated in several trainings this school year, with the latest training taking place on March 12 about master schedule use. Additionally, staff in the CCPS Department of Student Services worked with Office of Accountability staff to determine appropriate user roles and to identify staff who need system access. A principal or department supervisor can request Synergy access for a staff member at any time, and can modify a user role at any time.

Behavior among students at schools is becoming increasingly more disrespectful and takes away from instructional time. Consequences are minimal and students are able to demonstrate verbal, physical and destructive behaviors. There is a lack of negative outcomes for negative behaviors for students, and it creates a domino effect among children. One staff member indicated she has anxiety and fears about coming to work because she is concerned for her safety.

Behavior concerns among students is a priority for the school system. Staff is working to implement programs such as Aspire, Parent Shadowing and the In-school Intervention Program.  Since all of these programs are in their first year, it will take time for full implementation and data collection to show positive results. In addition, training has been implemented and will be planned in the future for consistent implementation of the behavior matrix as well as training on building relationships and dealing with disruptive students. The last professional development opportunity for instructional assistants was a successful conference on dealing with behavior issues. Consequences for behavior are decided upon by the school administration and are based on the individual student as well as the behavior matrix. Any staff members who have anxiety and fear about a student should speak immediately to the school administration. 

All students should be held accountable for their behavior.  While some behaviors are able to be managed effectively in the classroom, staff are encouraged to bring more serious behaviors to the attention of school administrators.  Consequences are student specific and factors such as the age and developmental level of the student, intent and impact of the behavior and the student’s particular disciplinary history are all considered in determining disciplinary action. When appropriate and possible, teaching of more appropriate positive behaviors is encouraged.

Instructional assistant (IA) pay is low and Charles County Public Schools is losing dedicated assistants to better paying jobs. Several in attendance echoed this concern and indicated they were living at poverty level. Instructional assistants do more than what is required of them with students and deserve better pay.

Low pay for instructional assistants is also a concern for Superintendent Hill and her staff. The budget-planning model again this year proposes additional pay increases for all support staff employees.  Last year, AFSCME and the Board of Education negotiated a 2 percent COLA for all AFSCME employees. The COLA is a way to increase salaries for all employees since those at the top of their salary scale also receive an increase. Superintendent Hill and her staff plan to work with AFSCME staff next school year to study the salary scales and make suggestions and recommendations for improvements.

Instructional assistants should be allowed to follow the teacher’s schedule concerning two-hour early dismissal days. Teachers often leave the building, but IAs have to stay and work the entire day. This is viewed as unfair. Additionally, IAs with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree do not receive a pay raise.

Instructional assistants should contact John Groat to include this initiative as part of AFSCME negotiations. Teacher work schedules are determined through negotiations between the Board of Education and the Education Association of Charles County (EACC). Instructional assistant schedules are governed through negotiations between the Board of Education and AFSCME. 

If an instructional assistant earned an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, they are responsible for contacting the Office of Human Resources to provide documentation so that additional pay can be assessed.

Raises for staff are necessary, but the Board should also explore other ways to help employees balance work life, such as compressed schedules, alternative work locations and also use current employees to fill openings. Conditional contracts are not necessary when CCPS has employees who can fill teaching vacancies. The new employee orientation process was also discussed and town hall participants voiced concerns over too much information being provided up front to new staff.

Office of Human Resources staff launched a strategic initiative in December 2017 that includes a comprehensive review of employee orientation processes to make improvements. Human Resources staff evaluate all applicants for available positions, a process that includes exploring the use of current employees who meet criteria and have the necessary qualifications and work experiences for available positions.

New technologies present challenges for some staff. Staff members and others who moderate trainings move too fast for those who need additional time to process information, especially when demonstrating how to use new computer applications and programs.

Learning about a new technology can be challenging for anyone, especially those needing more time to process what he or she learns. The concern and feedback received from staff at the Town Hall will be used to plan for future technology training sessions where we can remind those presenting to allow for more processing time.  As a reminder, facilitators may not always know they are going too fast so as best practice, employees should ask questions during the sessions and complete the end of training survey. The survey is a good place to ask follow-up questions or get extra help from the instructor. Employees should also let their supervisor and/or school administrators know of an interest in follow-up training. 

CCPS staff also are looking into providing alternative training options such as web-based training where participants can learn at their own pace. CCPS staff plan to incorporate additional time when planning future professional development opportunities. The next training for instructional assistants is scheduled for April 25.  The topic will be technology and participants will be able to select the topic they are most interested in learning more about. Time will be built into the sessions for practice and implementation by the participants.

Has the Board of Education and CCPS thought of developing a set of conduct guidelines when dealing with parents? Often times parents are disrespectful of school staff and get out of control. Staff are looking for policies or rules that outline guidance for staff when parents become problematic or threatening.

Any CCPS employee who encounters an issue with a parent, student, volunteer, colleague or any other school visitor should immediately contact a school administrator or department supervisor for assistance. School resource officers can be utilized in helping staff to work with problematic visitors or conflict situations. Staff members are encouraged to immediately ask for assistance from a school administrator or the resource officer if they are ever in a situation where they feel unsafe and/or threatened.

There is still concern among IAs of their use as substitutes. Many work in specialized programs and when they are pulled, it hurts student progress. Additionally, students are not respectful to substitutes and when IAs substitute, they have no access to Synergy to take attendance. Some schools allow IAs Synergy access while subbing, and others do not provide access. They are not able to take attendance because they cannot access the new system, and are not able to complete referrals in the system due to no access. Substitute coverage is lacking in certain schools because of continuous behavior issues.

All instructional assistants have access to a Synergy password that should be utilized when taking attendance. CCPS staff continuously meet to discuss ways to improve the recruitment and retention of quality substitute teachers. In the past year, Office of Human Resources staff improved substitute training, increased substitute pay and offered an incentive for teachers to substitute on their planning time. Students, however, must have a quality “teacher” when staff is out. Instructional assistants are often the best person to provide a quality day of instruction even though staff are aware of the conflict it causes. Principals have been instructed to rotate the coverage schedule so no one instructional assistant is relied upon more often than others. In addition, CCPS executive staff are meeting with principals to discuss the needs of a regionalized program. In the future, substituting will be part of the essential job functions when instructional assistants are hired.

Temporary IAs are not given years of service credit. When a temporary employee, such as an instructional assistant, is hired in a permanent position with CCPS, they are not given credit for their temporary service.

Currently, temporary instructional assistants are receiving credit for years of service as a temporary IA.  This practice was changed a few years ago therefore staff should call the Office of Human Resources with specific questions about their salary levels.

Secretarial staff present at the meeting expressed concern over the lack of support in school main offices, and the need for additional secretaries. Students are reportedly sent to school main offices with behavioral issues and there is not enough staff to monitor these students and manage the phones, visitors, teachers in need of help, etc.

At the end of each school year, CCPS staff review the needs of each school, building and center to determine needs for additional supports. Through an extensive staffing process, staff determine additional needs for the coming school year and work to ensure all schools, centers and buildings are equally staffed to support projected student enrollments and staff member totals. At any time throughout the school year, school administrators and department supervisors can submit requests for additional staff needs through the Applitrack system. In order to ensure equity among schools and departments, a CCPS staffing committee reviews all requests.

Support staff are concerned about their ability to attend meetings for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Staff questioned what the AFSCME union does for them and what members should value.

Most support staff members are eligible to join AFSCME and pay required dues; however, the negotiated agreement between AFSCME and the Board of Education applies to all CCPS support staff employees. A copy of the negotiated agreement in place for the current school year, 2017-18, is posted on the CCPS website at http://www.ccboe.com/myccps/images/pdfs/documents/AFSCME2017-18.pdf. AFSCME members who pay dues are eligible to attend monthly meetings held after work hours and participate in discussion among members.

Support staff members who are interested in learning more about AFSCME, including how the union uses paid dues to support its functions, should contact John Groat, AFSCME president, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. AFSCME board members are volunteers and not permitted to conduct union business during their work hours. Interested support staff members can learn more about AFSCME at https://www.afscme.org/.

IAs who work in Title I schools are required to have additional training, including an associate’s degree or a ParaProfessional certification, but are paid the same as employees in the same position at non-Title I schools.

There is no pay differential for teachers or instructional assistants working in Title 1 schools.  Instructional Assistants are eligible for pay increases if they receive advanced degrees or pass the ParaProfessional exam.

Safety concerns were raised among maintenance and operations staff who travel from building to building and are not aware of possible lockdowns or other safety situations.

Maintenance and operations staff have been advised to check in at the main office as their point of access into a building instead of entering a side or back entrance with their swipe access cards. This ensures they will know whether a building is under a lockdown or conducting a drill. 

Technology staff, including computer analysts (CAs), are not paid enough and the department experiences constant turnover. Staff with technology backgrounds often leave for better paying jobs. This is problematic because there is constant training of new staff and current CAs are required to handle new training while managing ongoing equipment repairs, help desk requests and demonstration of technology in classrooms for staff who are not aware of how to use it.

The CCPS technology department has addressed pay issues among staff by creating leveled positions. The department has Computer Analyst I, Computer Analyst II, Computer Analyst III, Network Engineer, Network Engineer II and Lead Network Engineer positions to enable for growth within the department. The technology department also employs computer interns to assist computer analysts who are assigned to support multiple schools. Technology staff is currently working with the Office of Human Resources to evaluate current pay scales for positions.