Dr. Raymond Bryant answered about 10 questions on a wide variety of topics in just about 20 minutes this morning at the HCPS administration building in Bel Air. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but he covered a lot of ground with a reasonable amount of detail.
Leaving aside the review of Bryant’s background, which are in the official bio and the links below, here’s a rough recap of the Q & A as it happened. Both questions and answers are paraphrased, except when quotations marks are noted.
Q. Referring to your bio, what sort of special education reform did you enact in Washington, DC?
A. A special education charter school was created to provide services to students and to decrease litigation over special ed services in the district. The school is called St. Coletta.
Q. The state of Maryland is struggling with the cost of private placement for special education students; do you see this kind of charter school as a potential solution here?
A. It worked in D.C., but I would “have to ask a million questions to know” if it would work in Maryland.
Q. Why did you leave the Elmira, NY school district?
A. I resigned to look for new opportunities. In Elmira, some of our schools had not made AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress]. Now all schools are in good standing with the state. [see link below for more detail]
Q. What sort of initiatives would you expect to bring to HCPS?
A. That would depend on what we decide. My passions include early childhood education. In Chemung, New York we visited hospitals when a child was born, (with parental approval) to provide a support system for families and then followed up upon request to provide optional, ongoing supports to improve school readiness.
I am also passionate about supports or safety nets for students. For example, providing “after-school credit recovery” for students who may have struggled in a course, but who were trying to learn the material. These students could take an “Incomplete” and take the class after school to stay on course, so they didn’t “lose hope”. Another example: evening high school for single moms or students who work and others who could not attend school during the day.
Another passion is using data. For example if a program is supposed to improve attendance, we measure attendance. Look at the “concrete”… “we did this and this was the result we got”. In Elmira, the state test results were not made available in a timely way, so we purchased a program to score the tests ourselves. The scores provided data we could use ahead of the state reports.
Q. What kind of leader are you?
A. Collaborative, I build relationships in the community with businesses, law enforcement and others. I support staff and hold them accountable. I am accessible – I have an open door policy. I am visible. Lots of parents won’t attend a school board meeting or a PTA meeting but they attend their child’s events; a soccer game, the school play. Parents have approached me at these events saying: Aren’t you the superintendent? I have a question….
Q. What is your position on some of the controversial programs in place in Harford County such as Everyday Math and the block schedule?
A. Of the two high schools in Elmira, one high school had the block schedule and the other had a traditional schedule. The school board wanted the block schedule so we changed. I think it does give more options and opportunities. Teachers also need to be trained for 80 minute classes; class time should be meaningful, not “filler”. Regarding Everyday Math, I would look at the data.
Q. What have you done in the past that has worked to retain experienced teachers and to bring teachers to areas of need?
A. We shared resources, matched principals’ talents with the needs of the community. Built some flexibility into contracts such as longer days, longer summers. New hires were each assigned a mentor who helped them in the early days and met with them regularly. Some mentors were in the school building for ongoing support, others were outside the building, for example to provide curricular supports. New teachers want to spend more time in the building and less time in inservice. Ongoing professional development was on three levels; teachers planning their own hours, principal-planned and system- wide.
Q. In Harford County, and in the rest of the country, there are large percentages of high school graduates who need remediation when they enter college. How would you or have you addressed this apparent disconnect?
A. In high school, the ACCUPLACER test was brought in to assess students early on, followed by remediation. Also, reading teachers were brought into the high schools for students who were struggling in their regular classes due to reading problems. In earlier grades, focus on school readiness, writing, etc. We used a “data wall” to assess students.
Q. What’s a data wall?
A. Literally a wall posting the test scores of every child in the building, color coded by where they were in terms of achievement. So we could see the needs and shift resources.
Here’s Bryant’s official bio, put out by HCPS:
Dr. Raymond Bryant
Dr. Bryant received his Doctor of Philosophy, Educational Administration from the University of Maryland. He serves as superintendent in Elmira, NY. Prior to becoming superintendent in Elmira, Dr. Bryant served as associate superintendent for Special Education Reform, Washington, DC, associate superintendent, director of special education services, principal, coordinator of special education, teacher and speech pathologist. Dr. Bryant served 18 years as an educator in Maryland and brought the concept of Judy Centers and student service learning to Elmira. He is a member of numerous educational and community organizations including The United Way, the Chemung Chamber of Commerce, Council for Exceptional Children, and American Association of School Administrators. Dr. Bryant has testified on special education before the Maryland Legislature, the Thornton Commission, and Congress. He was recognized by the Montgomery Collaboration Council. He has taught at the university level including, Gallaudet, James Madison, and George Mason.
And some links of interest: