Calvert County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Daniel Curry and his “baby.”
Prince Frederick, MD – Since becoming Calvert County’s superintendent of schools in 2014 Dr. Daniel D. Curry has frequently shown a spark of creativity in his remarks to graduates at the system’s commencement ceremonies. Last year he read from a children’s book and a previous year he used quotes from the avant-garde musical “Hamilton.” For his 2018 address to grads, many people, mostly parents, feel Curry pushed the envelope much too far. The four graduations—Patuxent, Huntingtown, Calvert and Northern high schools—were held at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro and were well-attended. Additionally, each ceremony was live-streamed on the Internet.
During his address to Huntingtown High School, Curry stated, “one thing that will reunite all of you—you are all mammals, you are all humans and 80 percent or more of you will have one thing in common as you pass through adult life—you are going to make babies.” The superintendent asked the students to pretend to ask the person next to them if they would like to have a baby with them and pretend to have a baby on their lap. As he continued, Curry used a stuffed baby Yoda as his child. He then made a pitch for the future parents to pledge to be engaged in preparing their children for learning by the time they reach kindergarten age. Calvert County Public Schools has embarked on a new initiative focused on significantly raising the number of children deemed “ready to learn” by age 5. Statistics show 48 percent of the county’s 5-year-olds are not learning-ready.
As well-intentioned as his remarks may have been, they were not well-received by commencement attendees and others who saw the address on their computers.
“It would be one thing if he was teaching a class for new parents, but a bunch of 17 and 18 year-olds?” One poster on a local Facebook page stated. “Totally inappropriate! He needs to issue an apology to the graduates and the parents.”
“It was very weird and my kid took nothing away from it, which is a shame,” another parent posted.
“Off the wall, very weird, wasn’t happy with it at all,” commented another parent.
A woman named Christina sent an email to TheBayNet.com voicing her displeasure, calling Curry’s speech “bizarre. I have a special needs son who received his diploma this year. There were also other special needs kids who received their ‘certification of completion,’ which is not an actual diploma but instead completed their schooling. What also upset me is that my special needs son has told me he never wants to be a parent. So now he had to listen to Curry talk about having babies? And during the speech Curry told the graduates to look at the person next to them—who were complete strangers to my son since he took different classes—and be told by Dr. Curry to look at the person next to them and say ‘I like you’ and ‘let’s have a baby.’ The more I think about it the more irritated I become.”
TheBayNet.com contacted each member of the Calvert County Board of Education to see if they had any reaction to Curry’s address and the public’s reaction. Only Board President Tracy McGuire had responded as this story was being filed. “Dr. Curry took a big risk to make a big point to young people, likely future parents about the intellectual needs of 0 to 36-month-old babies and how important those years are for brain development,” McGuire stated. “Dr. Curry’s choice for props and audience engagement were ill-considered and offended many in attendance. The controversy overshadowed his message that 48 percent of Calvert County kindergarteners are not ready for school when their parents enroll them and children can be ready if parents will do five basic activities with their 0-36 months old babies.”
“My focus was that 80 percent of our grads, though they may be doing 1,000 different things, will eventually become parents and the importance of parenting for school success,” said Curry in a statement sent to TheBayNet.com. “I made some references to making babies to try to be funny. I learned the morning after the first two graduations that many didn’t appreciate the references and joking about making babies in the future. Made them uncomfortable, some said. I modified the message for the second two speeches keeping the parenting message but dropping the jokes about making babies. I apologize to those who didn’t find the humor in my message.”
While the graduations were live-streamed and video-taped, only one ceremony, Huntingtown High School, is being circulated on social media. A check of the CCPS web site shows no archiving of the ceremonies. Parents and students were given an opportunity to order a DVD for purchase.
“I threw away the DVD order after the speech,” said a parent posting on Facebook.
Not all of the social media comments were scathing. One man posted, “I’m sure he was trying to be innovative and original. Can’t we show the man a little grace?”
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org