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The Harford County Public Schools Superintendent’s Cultural Proficiency Council, a group of diverse community leaders and parents who meet monthly, kicked off its series of Diversity Network meetings March 13 at Aberdeen High School.

Nearly 100 community members, faith-based leaders, sorority/fraternity representatives, parents, administrators and teachers engaged in discussions to identify strategies which will positively impact student achievement, according to a school system press release.

This year, according to the release, the Cultural Proficiency Council is focusing on increasing communication, establishing relationships and building partnerships between community stakeholders and the school system with the goal of eliminating the achievement gap among all students. Based on trends in testing data, a special focus will be placed on eliminating the achievement gap for African American male students.

The Diversity Network meetings were organized to begin working toward the council’s goals and those at the session were invited to join, if they haven’t already.

Community leaders attending included School Board President Mark Wolkow, Superintendent Robert Tomback, Pastor Nathaniel Johnson and Cultural Proficiency Council Chair Joyce Byrd. Members of Tomback’s staff present included Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Instruction Roger Plunkett, who shared data relating to the achievement gap in reading and math among Harford County Public Schools students.

Plunkett challenged the community to focus on raising expectations, empowering youth and serving as heroes or role models for students to emulate.

Following the data presentation, small group sessions allowed participants to share their views relating to barriers in engaging parents in the educational experience, as well as partnership opportunities to provide students with real-world application of their studies. All suggestions and concerns will be reviewed with the Cultural Proficiency Council to create recommendations for the superintendent.

The March 13 meeting was the Þrst of a three-part series. Additional meetings have been scheduled for April 20 and May 18 to follow up on recommendations, concerns and questions that grew out of the Þrst meeting. Both will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Center for Educational Opportunity at 153 Paradise Road in Aberdeen.

The Superintendent’s Cultural Proficiency Council is also recruiting new members. Its next meeting will be April 15 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Center for Educational Opportunity.

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