Ten weeks of summer: Magnet Programs prepares for 2014-2015 school year

 

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When the students start sporting shorts and sunglasses, Baltimore County Public Schools shuts down for the summer, right? Not quite.

Of the school system’s 18,783 employees, 1,032 work in the BCPS central offices. While some of those 1,032 employees hold 10-month positions, most central office staff hold 12-month positions and spend the summer months preparing for the next school year.

For each of the 10 weeks of summer, a 12-month central office employee will answer a series of questions about his or her staff’s preparations and projects for the 2014-2015 school year. This week, Blake Lubinski, an intern in the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, interviewed Bryan Stoll, supervisor of the Office of Magnet Programs.

Blake Lubinski: “What is the history and structure of your office?”

Bryan Stoll: “The Office of Magnet Programs was re-created in 2002 in response to an external audit that recommended the centralization of the magnet application and admissions process. At that time, the Magnet office was headed by the coordinator of Gifted and Talented (GT) Education. Because of the misperception that magnet programs were intended only for GT students, the Office of Magnet Programs was separated from the Office of Gifted and Talented in 2011. In 2014, the Office of Magnet Programs has been placed in the Office of Educational Options within the Department of Innovative Instruction.

“Currently, the office consists of a supervisor, specialist and resource teacher. During the application and admissions process, additional temporary staff are brought in to assist with the processing of applications and the input of data from the evaluations.”

BL: “What are the responsibilities of your office?”

BS: “In addition to providing support and leadership to the magnet programs and the schools that host them and to serving as a conduit of information about magnet programs and the admissions process, the Office of Magnet Program coordinates the marketing and recruitment for the magnet programs, manages the magnet application and admissions process and assists the schools in conducting the magnet assessments.”

BL: “How do those responsibilities change during the summer?”

BS: “Typically, the summer months are used to prepare for the next application cycle. Applications and brochures are updated and revised as necessary; assessment materials and guidelines are reviewed and updated; applicant and admission data is reviewed and evaluated in order to assess and adjust marketing and recruitment efforts; and marketing and application materials are printed, packaged and distributed to the schools and public libraries. In addition, the office provides support to schools and offices involved in magnet program planning and development and in curriculum review and revision.”

BL: “What projects did your office have planned for this summer?”

BS: “In addition to the normal preparatory activities for the upcoming application cycle, the Office of Magnet Programs has been working with an outside vendor, Firefly Digital, Inc., to develop an online magnet application. Not only will parents be able to submit a magnet application online starting September 2; parents applying to secondary programs will be able to schedule their assessment appointments, receive updates and reminders, and monitor the status of their child’s application. When the admission decisions are made, parents will be able to go online to see the admission status for each program to which they have applied and they will be able to accept or decline placements from that site. For parents who might not have access to a desktop computer or laptop, the online application will be accessible from most mobile devices.”

BL: “What are your office’s goals for the upcoming school year?”

BS: “We are working to increase awareness of the magnet program options and enhance communication with key stakeholders – parents, students, schools and the community.”

BL: “How is your office preparing to meet those goals?”

BS: “In addition to the annual Magnet Expos held in Timonium each fall, the Showcase Events hosted by each school with a magnet program during the month of October, and the distribution of magnet application and marketing materials to every school and public library, we will be providing information in the local community newspapers and hosting two Magnet Application meetings. The first meeting is at Milford Mill Academy on Tuesday, September 16, and the second meeting is at Kenwood High School on Thursday, September 18. At the two Magnet Application meetings, we will provide information about the magnet application and admissions process – including the new online application process – and answer any questions that parents or students might have.

“We are also working closely with the Office of Special Education and the Office of Equity and Cultural Proficiency to develop strategies for reaching out to underrepresented populations of students in our magnet programs and ensure they have the information they need in order to access our magnet programs.”

BL: “What is your office most looking forward to this school year?”

BS: “We are very excited about the possibility of moving from a paper application process toward an online application process. While we recognize that there might always be a need for a paper application option, the online system is expected to dramatically increase the ease with which parents can apply to the magnet programs and enhance our ability to communicate and share real-time information with our parents, students, school administrators and other stakeholders.”

Looks like we’re all in for a big year! Summers like these just go to show that there’s no such thing as a “slowdown” for Team BCPS!

 

Parents will be able to access the online application beginning at 12 noon on Tuesday, September 2, from the Office of Magnet Programs’ Web site. The online application will be available to parents until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 25, 2014. In order to access the online application, parents will need an active email account. Parents with questions about the magnet application, assessment and admissions process should call the Office of Magnet Programs at 410-887-4127.

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