District 7A Delegates “Year End Highlights for 2023” Part 2

District 7A Delegates Ryan Nawrocki and Kathy Szeliga have submitted their Year End Highlights for 2023 as they look forward to the new year and the 2024 Legislative Session. Here is Part Two of Three –

MSDE Superintendent Gone

In a surprising turn of events earlier this year, the Maryland School Superintendent announced that he would not be seeking a renewal of his contract.

Mohammed Choudhury was appointed in 2021 to lead the Maryland State Department of Education in the midst of the pandemic, as well as the historic rollout of Maryland’s Blueprint for Education.

While Superintendent Choudhury has been acclaimed as a brilliant educator and champion of equity, he struggled in this position of leadership.

Many MSDE employees spoke out against his unwillingness to collaborate and his ineffective leadership style.  Also, the Accountability and Implementation Board tasked by the General Assembly to monitor the effective rollout of the Blueprint had been at odds with the Superintendent more than once.

All of these frustrating examples just pile on top of the ultimate scorecard for an education leader – the test scores of Maryland students.

You may remember back in January 2023, when the MCAP scores were released on MSDE’s website, it became evident that schools had reached new lows especially in the subject of mathematics.  In fact, it was discovered that 23 schools in Baltimore City had zero students proficient in math, and 17 schools in Baltimore County had two or fewer students proficient.

We spoke out immediately and demanded that Baltimore County address these shocking results.   Unfortunately, our efforts were met with excuses and a recurring punt of responsibility upon the new Blueprint rollout to rectify these problems.

Shortly after these conversations, investigative reporter Chris Papst released a shocking news report from Fox45.  He revealed that MSDE had removed the test scores of failing schools and replaced them with an asterisk. It’s now impossible for parents, educators, and policymakers to compare test results from year to year.

We are hopeful that the interim Maryland State School Superintendent will do a better job with transparency and leading Maryland’s public schools to improved educational outcomes.

Dr. Carey Wright was appointed in October. She is a native Marylander. She was the Mississippi Superintendent for nine years and is credited with Mississippi’s rise as a national leader in literacy instruction and outcomes.

She implemented successful education reforms that increased graduation rates and improved national test scores faster than nearly all other states.

The education of ALL students across our state is a top priority for both of us. We will keep pushing for transparency and accountability in education to make sure your kids and grandkids get the education they deserve.

Back River Victory

Eastern Baltimore County and the Chesapeake Bay had a huge win this past year.  The beleaguered Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant made headlines again as Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works agreed on a consent decree with the Maryland Department of the Environment and Blue Water Baltimore, who sued the City for years of negligence at the plant.

The consent decree will settle both lawsuits and include corrective actions to make repairs, in addition to stipulating the payment of fines and fees and additional administrative actions the City must perform.

The consent decree sets civil penalties against the City in the amount of $4.57 million to be paid to MDE for violations at both the Back River and Patapsco plants and $400,000 for reimbursing Blue Water Baltimore for its legal fees.

Our district borders the Bay, our state’s most precious natural resource.  This news comes as a sigh of relief for many of our residents who have been frustrated and distraught by the lack of urgency in addressing these violations.

With the plant in disrepair, high bacteria levels in the Back River prompted warnings to residents to avoid contact with the water in the spring and summer of 2022.

The episode frustrated waterfront community residents, who were forced to avoid water recreation, sowing mistrust in the city’s ability to run the plants effectively.

Remember in March 2023, when the EPA tried to strongarm Baltimore City and County into accepting this shipment of toxic waste from Ohio?  This was unconscionable, especially since the infamous Back River Plant had a two-alarm fire in February 2023.

We knew the plant had seen frequent sewer overflows into the river.  Thankfully, our voices were heard, and thousands of residents joined us in signing a petition against the movement of the toxic water.

Now, just months later, we see another win for the residents of Eastern Baltimore County and the Chesapeake Bay with the announcement of steps being taken to inform the public and create safety measures at the plant.

We fully support these measures moving forward and will continue to work to protect your waterfront, the Chesapeake Bay, and the tributaries that flow into it.

Benjamin Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later Eastcountytimes.com in 2022.