22 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher
MONTGOMERY COUNTY HAS A LOT going for it—
and our extraordinary public (and private) schools are
near the top of the list. Our public school system is
consistently ranked among the best in the country, and
there is widespread political support for the high taxes
that are required to make it as good as it is.
According to a 2013 Census report, Montgomery
County spent more per pupil than all large school
systems in the country other than New York City, Boston
and Anchorage. ;e current $2.46 billion school budget
is nearly 50 percent of the overall county budget.
;e school system is also one of the county’s biggest
selling points for getting businesses to come—or stay—
here. ;e county generally doesn’t have as attractive a
business environment as some nearby counties (e.g.,
Fairfax County), so the quality of our schools plays an
But Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is
facing a dizzying array of challenges that could make it
di;cult to keep the system at an elite level. In our cover
story for this issue, contributing editor Louis Peck raises
questions about the future of our schools.
;e most immediate challenge is overcrowding.
Schools in 12 of the county’s 25 clusters are above 105
percent of capacity. With enrollment increasing by
around 2,500 students each year and state assistance for
school construction spending failing to keep pace, the
problem will continue to worsen—and class sizes will
continue to grow.
Another significant problem is competing priorities.
Much of the enrollment growth involves students who
face academic challenges because they are living in
poverty and/or because English is a second language
in their household. MCPS is rightfully committed to
providing those students with a quality education and to
closing the “achievement gap” between them and other
students in the system. But doing that—and maintaining
the quality of education for higher achieving students—
will be di;cult and expensive.
;ere’s no doubt that new MCPS Superintendent Jack
Smith has his work cut out for him.
Peck’s story, “Still the Best?” begins on page 122.;
A CHILD’S LAST YEAR at home before going o; to
college is fraught with di;culties for the child and the
parents. ;ere’s the stress of the college application
process (and waiting for acceptances), the seemingly
inevitable case of “senioritis,” graduation, Beach Week
(for those of us, like my wife, Susan, and me, who are
crazy enough to let our kids go), the build up to ;e Drop
O;, and then ;e Drop O; itself.
For parents, the year is filled with a mixture of pride
and despair—although despair definitely wins out as you
drive away from the campus. (Truth be told, Susan and I
had figured out how to lessen the sadness by the time we
dropped o; our fourth and last child for her freshman year
at the University of Florida. Within two hours, we were
sitting poolside at a resort with gin and tonics in hand!)
For some time, I’ve wanted to run a story in the
magazine that chronicles the last year at home for a local
student and his or her family. Writer Julie Rasicot agreed
to take on the assignment. In her story “Letting Go” on
page 190, Rasicot recounts her daughter Emily’s last year
before heading o; to William & Mary in August 2015. For
parents who have already been through it, the story will
bring back many memories. For those who aren’t there yet,
it will provide a valuable (and emotional) preview.
IT’S TIME TO VOTE in the Best of Bethesda
Readers’ Poll! ;e annual survey is available on
BethesdaMagazine.com through Sept. 21. You can pick
your favorite restaurants, stores, salons, gyms, doctors,
schools and more. When you participate in the poll,
you’ll automatically be entered in a drawing for a $250
gift card to a 2016 Best of Bethesda-winning restaurant.
;e results of the poll will appear in our January/
February “Best of Bethesda” issue.
I hope you enjoy our September/October issue.
to our readers
STILL BEST IN CLASS?