Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell announced the #BePresent initiative on January 30 in Annapolis. The initiative aims to enhance relationships between parents, caregivers, local businesses, school system alumni, and community members with the school system to improve school safety, strengthen communities and improve operations.
In front of an audience of community members, school board members, and local and state elected officials, Bedell explained the rationale for the initiative as a means of welcoming the community into the schools by providing more adult presence. Other speakers included the garrison commander of Fort Meade, Colonel Michael Sapp, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and Anne Arundel County Board of Education President Joanna Tobin — all of whom spoke about the importance of community and parental engagement within our school system, especially as we continue to recover from the isolation of the pandemic.
In a national climate of increased violence at schools and a disturbing uptick in incidents involving weapons at schools on pace to double the totals from the 2021-2022 school year, #BePresent will provide an additional set of eyes and ears in hallways and cafeterias, while allowing the community to strengthen their relationship and connection with our schools.
As a lifelong school and community organization volunteer, including regular shifts this year at Severna Park Middle School as a volunteer lunch custodian, I applaud this effort. The #BePresent initiative will build upon existing volunteer programs in schools where they already exist and build new programs where they’re absent in our county system. Volunteers will work in collaboration with, and at the direction of, school administrators. All volunteers will be required to complete a background check process before participating in the initiative, which will not include a presence in classrooms, nor will any volunteer be asked to deliver instruction or administer student discipline. Instead, volunteers will be asked to contribute to a positive school environment and rapport with students.
Specific protocols for the program are still being finalized. Messages about how to become involved in the #BePresent program will be sent to families and posted publicly soon on www.aacps.org. I hope each of you will consider participating as your schedule and individual circumstances allow. As always, I am available at 443-534-2660 or email@example.com.
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