Monday, January 25, 2010

Preschool Targeted by "Ill-Prepared Proposal" Is County's "Best-Kept Secret"

In the second evening of hearings at the Montgomery County Board of Education on Jan. 20, Maria Dudish got a standing ovation for her emotional testimony. Please take the time to read this and then tell the Board why Dr. Weast's plan is a bad idea. Email

"My name is Maria Dudish, and I want to tell you the best kept secret of this whole budget process. The best kept secret I am referring to is the value that the school system gets for its money from the Montgomery Primary Achievement Center.

"With all of the cuts you will need to discuss and make during this budget year, you are very fortunate to have this cost-effective, time-tested, and outcome-driven program for our county’s youngest citizens with moderate to significant needs.

"I am the mother of Tara, age 26, who has intellectual disabilities and autism. She attended the MPAC program at the ages of 3 and 4. When Tara went into a MCPS kindergarten at age 5, because I had a social work background, I began working at MPAC as the family coordinator. That was over 20 years ago.

"With the many cuts you will need to make to many high-quality programs, do not dismantle this comprehensive Early Childhood Program, MPAC, that has given you so much value for over 35 years with experienced professionals like me.

"With the many cuts you will need to make, do not dismantle MPAC, a program that excels at serving families, a key component of a successful early intervention program.

"With the many cuts you will need to make, don’t dismantle a program, MPAC, that excels in communicating with our parents and gives them a head start, from the very beginning, at closing the achievement gap. Let me give you some statistics. Out of 75 families at our school, 44 percent qualify for Medicaid and 79 percent of our students are of minority status.

"With the many cuts you will need to make don’t dismantle a program, MPAC, that offers a variety of opportunities for preschool children to interact with their typical peers. MPAC has over 40 children without special needs at our Silver Spring site who play and learn with students from MPAC.

"Dr. Weast, do you know who we really are? On behalf of our families, our staff, and our students, we invite you and your early childhood administrators to come and visit us. Most of the administrators making the realignment proposal have never been to our school, and those that have, have not visited in the recent past.

"We have elected you, the members of the school board, to be good stewards of our taxes. We depend on you to use these funds wisely and in the best interests of all of our children. At a time when you are watching the costs of every program in the system, you have the responsibility to retain one of the best values MCPS has. We are efficient and we are effective. You have heard that from many of your satisfied constituents. Do the right fiscal thing. Yank this ill-prepared proposal. Be the watch-dog that we depend on you to be. Stop the realignment of 36 preschoolers -- and the transfer of non-public funds for this new initiative."

Testimony from Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 is now available on the Board of Education's website.
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