Meeting with MCPS Interim Superintendent

Walt Whitman Students are working with robotics team from across the country and the county to push for changes in school policies to make starting and running robotics teams easier.  As part of that push we have learned a lot more about how the school system operates and who has the ability to make some of the changes we are asking for.

Over the summer several teams met with the Montgomery County School Board and the Montgomery County Council.  Here is what we asked for;

  • Classify FIRST as a sport and remove cost barriers to access school resources
  • Support addition of teacher stipends for robotics coaches
  • Support and fund hosting Robotics events in MoCo

In asking for the things above we learned the following;

  • Montgomery County does have a path for club sports to transition to varsity
    • The School Board would not support classifying robotics as a sport
    • The school board recommended we also talk to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) about making robotics a sport at the state level
      • The MPSSAA also has a path for classifying robotics a sport at the state level, but requires 40% of all MPSSAA schools to participate before taking any action
  • Costs that teams incur when using school buildings for team events come from Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) policies
  • Teacher stipends are still in the budget
  • The county is interested in funding an FRC event
    • A staffer from County Councilman Hans Riemer’s office has been extremely helpful is identifying funds for the 2016 event
    • We will be submitting a council grant for the 2017 event
  • School Board Members and County Council members are very supportive of the program and are willing to help in any way they can

Based on this first round of conversations the Montgomery County FIRST teams have decided to meet with state level education officials and state level elected officials to learn more about some of the state level programs. But before we do that we have been working to learn more from the Montgomery County School Board and the Interim Superintendent to learn how to best proceed. Last week we followed up with the school board and learned a good bit.  So, next week we will be meeting with Larry A. Bowers  who has been with Montgomery County Public Schools for 37 years, serving in a variety of leadership positions throughout the district. For the past 16 years, he has served as Chief Operating Officer. He will serve as interim superintendent until June 30, 2016. We are interested in some very specific things;

  • Would the School System recommend the ICB waive CUPF fees for robotics
  • Would the School System be willing to recognize Robotics a sport
  • Would the School System provide guidance for school business managers on how to give robotics programs the same purchasing power as athletic programs
  • Could teams get access to tools in the School System warehouse or get the School System to repair the tools already in the schools

Once we are ready we are going to collaborate with teams across the state and push state level leaders to make mentor based after school STEM programs a bigger part of their education solution. These efforts are being led by FRC Team 1111 and MD FIRST and are tentatively scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.



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