THE HUB - Feature Article

  • Eradicating hate and bias: Let’s talk about it

    Posted by George Arlotto, Ed.D. on 11/20/2019

    The data – both quantitative and anecdotal – is clear: Reports of hate and bias are on the rise in Anne Arundel County.

    One need look no further than the State of Maryland 2018 Hate Bias Report compiled by the Maryland State Police, which cites more reports from our county than any other jurisdiction in the state.

    According to our own school system data, there were 244 reports of bias motivated behavior in the 2018-2019 school year, almost three times more than the year before. While some of that increase can be attributed to an enhanced awareness and an emphasis across our school system on reporting such behavior, the fact remains that these incidents are occurring – not just in our schools, but across our society as a whole – at an alarming rate.

    Tackling this issue requires honesty from everyone involved in every sector not just to recognize the underlying issues, but to be willing to confront and correct the causes. We must admit, first and foremost, that hate is a learned behavior and that bias is a shared mindset. Our children are simply not born with hate in their hearts.

    We all learn to navigate society by reacting to what we see and experience, tempered with the personal values we have adopted. When we model values that fail to honor humanity, we have failed our youth.

    Interwoven through all of that, however, especially as it involves our children, is the erosion of communication skills. Quite honestly, our children have lost the ability to communicate with each other, in large part, I believe, because adults have done likewise.

    No one under the age of 25 has lived without a smartphone. Today’s teens have never lived in a world without iPhones, whose 2007 debut came 15 years after the first smartphone. They have grown up largely communicating with their thumbs on a glass screen scarcely bigger than an index card. While technologically amazing, the format imparts no wisdom, logic, direction, or common sense. Reactions to thoughts and statements are conveyed instantly by emojis devoid of the voice inflection, facial expression, and humanity that accompanies in-person conversations.

    So how do we stem that tide? How do we help our children learn to engage in meaningful and thoughtful discussion that can lead not to universal agreement, but to acceptance and understanding? How do we help our children build a better toolbox to react to the breadth of situations they will encounter?

    That’s the impetus behind our Global Community Citizenship course, which is a graduation requirement beginning with this year’s ninth-graders. We need to help children learn how to engage in civil discourse instead of hate-filled discord brought about in many instances by a simple lack of understanding.

    That’s also the impetus behind revisions to our middle school advisory lessons, which are aimed at helping students build better relationships, manage their emotions, solve problems, and make responsible decisions. It’s the impetus behind the implementation of Second Step in our elementary schools, which promotes the development of foundational social-emotional skills and strengthens students’ ability to self-regulate, have empathy, and resolve conflict in a meaningful way. And it’s the impetus behind Project Unity, an effort to develop school days that provide students with intentional outlets to express kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

    No school system, however, can accomplish this task in the 19 percent of each week we have students in our classes. Meaningful communication – teaching our children to actually dialogue – will only help bridge this mammoth divide if we are all dedicated to do so.

    There is a huge difference between communication and conversation. We must commit ourselves to teaching our children the latter.

    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@aacps.org.

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  • 34th Annual Excellence in Education Event to Honor 55 Top Teachers in County

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 11/7/2019

    Fifty public school teachers and five independent school teachers will be honored on Thursday, April 16, 2020, as Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the 21st Century Education Foundation celebrate the 34th annual Excellence in Education banquet at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum.

    The Excellence in Education event will culminate with the announcements of the 2020 Anne Arundel County Public and Independent School Teachers of the Year. The Public School Teacher of the Year will represent the county in the Maryland State Teacher of the Year competition.

    AACPS has had two of the last three Maryland Teacher of the Year winners, Teresa Beilstein of South Shore Elementary School (2020) and Josh Carroll of South River High School (2018). AACPS Teachers of the Year have also been finalists for Maryland Teacher of the Year in each of the last five years and in seven of the last nine years.

    The following AACPS schools have educators nominated this year:

    • Annapolis High School: Tema Encarnacion
    • Arnold Elementary School: Nikki Carleton
    • Arundel Middle School: Charlene Smith
    • Bates Middle School: Heather Carter
    • Benfield Elementary School: Kristie Young
    • Bodkin Elementary School: Jaclyn Cockcroft
    • Broadneck High School: Matthew Bem
    • Brooklyn Park Elementary School: Nisa Morris
    • Brooklyn Park Middle School: Emily Davis
    • Center of Applied Technology-South: David Fawley
    • Central Elementary School: Lynette Gibson
    • Central Middle School: Lauren Walker
    • Crofton Elementary School: Doreen Fischetti
    • Crofton Middle School: Devan Dugan
    • Crofton Woods Elementary School: Diana Curtis
    • Davidsonville Elementary School: Tamela Fidyk
    • Georgetown East Elementary School: Brianne McNallen
    • Glendale Elementary School: Lindsay Breach
    • Hebron-Harman Elementary School: Nicole Williams
    • Jones Elementary School: Amy Insley
    • Lindale Middle School: Erin Kane
    • Linthicum Elementary School: Kelsey Kramer
    • Lothian Elementary School: Jessica Ort
    • Magothy River Middle School: Leslie Watson
    • Marley Middle School: Hope Turner
    • Meade Middle School: Robyn Williams
    • Monarch Global Academy: Tamiko Gomez
    • North County High School: Theresa Bange
    • Northeast High School: Everett Reese
    • Oakwood Elementary School: Frances Collins
    • Old Mill High School: Carrie Witham
    • Old Mill Middle School South: Anna Preston
    • Pershing Hill Elementary School: Scott Armstrong
    • Point Pleasant Elementary School: Lisa Elliott
    • Quarterfield Elementary School: Patrick LaVelle
    • Riviera Beach Elementary School: Patrick Wensyel
    • Severn River Middle School: Stacy Kearns
    • Shady Side Elementary School: Jennifer Sturgell
    • Shipley’s Choice Elementary School: Angela Miller
    • Solley Elementary School: Michael Schemmel
    • South River High School: Robert Tompkins
    • Southern High School: Briana Gresko
    • Southern Middle School Marina Thompson
    • Sunset Elementary School: Jessica Phillips
    • Tracey’s Elementary School: Stacy Taylor
    • Tyler Heights Elementary School: Ryshelle Weaver
    • Waugh Chapel Elementary School: Mollie Dwyer
    • West Annapolis Elementary School: Kelly Fortune
    • West Meade Early Education Center: Robin Suda
    • Windsor Farm Elementary School: Kasey Kennedy

    The following independent schools have educators nominated this year:

    • Annapolis Area Christian School: Christopher Deterding
    • St. Martin’s Lutheran School: Jennifer Zichelli
    • St. Mary’s Elementary School: Laraine Olechowski
    • St. Mary’s High School: Camille Baumann
    • St. Paul’s Lutheran School: Tedd Griepentrog

    Semifinalists will be announced in late December. Finalists will be chosen from that group and announced in late February or early March.

    Businesses and organizations interested in sponsorship opportunities should click here or contact Carol Ann McCurdy at cmccurdy@aacps.org or 410-222-5829.  Ticket information for the event will be available in January.

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