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New superintendent outlines goals for Baltimore County Public Schools

It’s a new day for Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). At least that’s what one of the attendees — Council Chair Julian Jones — announced at a press conference Monday.

Superintendent Dr. Myriam Yarbrough talked about her vision and goals two days into her four-year tenure as head of the school system. Board Chair Jane Lichter, County Executive Johnny Olszewski and other leaders joined Yarbrough’s official kick off at district headquarters.

As in her listening sessions, Yarbrough outlined her four focus areas, with student achievement topping the list:

  • Academic achievement
  • Infrastructure
  • Safety and climate 
  • Highly effective teachers, leaders and staff

“Our core purpose is increasing achievement for all students,” said Yarbrough.

Earlier this year, Maryland State Department of Education’s School Report Card rated 23% of Baltimore County schools as below average.

Yarbrough says she believes using a data-driven approach would yield better results.

“It includes identifying trends in student performance,” she said. “Revising and, or creating lessons and formative assessments, and implementing a new literacy curriculum professional development for all of our elementary teachers.”

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said he trusts Yarbrough to lead all 111,000 students in the system, which includes his daughter, a rising second grader.

“My first real interaction with Dr. Yarbrough was around bus shortages,” said Olszewski. “Dr. Yarborough was leading for BCPS, working with us to develop solutions. We saw other jurisdictions struggle. We came together and we found solutions. Since that day, I have continued to find Dr. Yarbrough to be a collaborative, inclusive, open leader.”

Yarbrough said some of those solutions — i.e. higher pay for employees, creating low barriers to entry for high demand occupations like school bus drivers — will continue. She said the incentives will retain current teachers and support staff.

The school system also has one of the highest starting salaries for new teachers in the state. Yarbrough said attracting new teachers will help not only with student achievement, but also with other goals such as creating a welcoming climate in the schools.

BCPS — which is one of the largest school systems in the nation — has growing needs. At recent listening sessions, overcrowding was a common concern. Yarbrough said her transition team is considering a "systematic approach" to address that issue.

Jane Lichter, board of education chair, acknowledged the many challenges facing the school district, adding the board fully supports Dr. Yarbrough in her new role.

“We believe in Dr. Yarborough's leadership,” said Lichter. “This urgent work requires that we all come together. The Board of Education is looking forward to working closely with Dr. Yarborough to build upon the strengths and ensure that all BCPS students are able to reach their highest potential.”

Julian Jones, chair of the Baltimore County Council, said he has worked with Yarbrough before, and has been impressed with her “can-do” attitude.

“We have 100% confidence in your leadership,” said Jones. “Nothing is more important to us, here in Baltimore County, than the education of our youth. We feel confident that you're going to get things done. You're not going to accept second best. This is a new day, a wonderful day at BCPS.”

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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