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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, January 10, 2005

Questions regarding these Board Highlights may be directed to Don Morrison, Director of Public Information, 410-588-5203.

At the business meeting on January 10, 2005 at the Center for Educational Opportunity the following actions and discussions took place.

General Public Comments

Christine Snyder, representing the Citizens Advisory Committee on Special Education, said she supported the special education budget as well as the entire school budget as presented. She said she saw how students with special needs struggle and urged the Board not to give up on those students.

Old Business

Action Items

By a unanimous 6-0 vote, the Board of Education approved items on the Consent Agenda including Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards; Approval of Semi- Annual Paper Contract; Approval of Audio Visual Equipment Awards; Minutes of November 8, 2004 and November 22, 2004 Board Business Meetings.

New Business

By unanimous vote, the Board approved the appointments of Gwendolyn Benjamin-Jones and Renee Lynette Villareal as instructional facilitators - elementary.

The Board of Education considered three charter school applications. The Maryland Public Charter School Law became effective July 1, 2003. The law which is codified at Section 9-101 et seq. of the Education Article of the Maryland Annotated Code provides that both local school boards and the Maryland State Board of Education may authorize the existence of Maryland Public Charter Schools. The first charter school proposal to be considered was that of the Dr. Ben Carson Public Charter School. Speaking on behalf of the proposal were Dr. Tim Daniels, Denise Beck, William Kincade, Judy Meno, Michael Whisman, and Dan Anderson. Each expressed his/her role in the application of the Dr. Ben Carson Public Charter School. Chief of Administration Jay F. May and Coordinator of Governmental Relations Kathryn Carmello presented information on the review of the application by the HCPS Charter Review Committee. Mr. May and Mrs. Carmello outlined several required parts of the application which were missing and other inconsistencies in the proposal. Mrs. Carmello said the application reflected an innovative and creative plan but there were some inaccuracies, contradictions and incomplete portions of the application. Board member Mark M. Wolkow suggested the application be resubmitted at a later time with corrections so that the proposal could be looked at more favorably. Mr. Wolkow moved and Board Member Lee Merrell seconded the superintendent's recommendation that the application by the Dr. Ben Carson Public Charter School be denied. The Board voted unanimously to support the motion.

The second application was that of the Eagles' Wings Academy Public Charter School. Mrs. Carmello said this was a good application showing a lot of thought and that a relationship had been developed with the organization. However she said information had changed during the time of the application process. She said the application showed there would be a "ground up" construction of the facility to house the charter school completed by August 2005. Mrs. Carmello pointed out that charter schools must meet the same criteria as public school systems in the state of Maryland involving the Interagency Committee for School Construction; and that it would not be possible to complete the review/construction process by August 2005. Dr. LaMont Turner who submitted the application told the Board that he is "not against" a 2006 opening and would work to develop the necessary changes in the application. The Board took no action on the proposal.

The third of the charter school applications involved the Restoration Alternative Academy Public Charter School. Pastor Nathaniel Johnson, who submitted the application, told the Board his organization had developed a strong working relationship with the Harford County Public School system over the last four years involving the provision of services to students suspended for more than 10 days. He introduced Marshear Marsh, a member of the Restoration Academy Board, who expressed her appreciation for the relationship that had developed between the school system and the academy and her support for the proposed charter. Mrs. Carmello said the academy would use the Harford County Public School curriculum and had asked for a minimal number of waivers including the use of vans rather than school buses, a request that cannot be granted because of the state law requiring the use of school buses to transport students. Mrs. Carmello said that the academy is proposing to use a portion of the Center for Educational Opportunity building and that it would be a component of the alternative education program. Mrs. Carmello said if the opening of the school could be delayed until 2006 it would be possible to put necessary improvements to the CEO building into the school system capital improvements plan or to use dollars from the Maryland State Department of Education Planning Grant to the Restoration Academy for improvements to the facility. She said "plan B" would be the identification of another facility. She added that the academy would serve students from grade 7-12. Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas said the Restoration Academy had a "proven track record" with the school system. Board Vice-President R. Robin Rich asked if the Board could withdrawal its approval if the Restoration Academy did not meet one or more of the conditions established for the approval. Mrs. Haas responded in the affirmative. Acting on the motion of Mrs. Rich and Board Member Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. the Board voted 5-1 (Mr. Thomas dissenting) to conditionally approve the application for a possible opening in the 2006-07 school year.


Director of Special Education Ann-Marie Spakowski and members of her staff presented information about the Harford County Infants and Toddlers Program which serves children from birth to age 3 that have diagnosed conditions with high probability of developmental delay. Mrs. Spakowski said that one of her goals is to combine the infant and toddlers program with the child find program which would expand the program to offer services to children with special needs birth through age 5.

Superintendent's Report

Mrs. Haas told the Board that changes were coming for assessments given to Harford County Public School students as a result of No Child Left Behind mandates. She said plans are being made to substitute Algebra for Geometry as a high school assessment. She added that the Maryland School Assessment will be using tenth grade English rather than ninth grade Reading/English as both the high school assessment and MSA requirement in that area. Mrs. Haas called upon Director of the Budget James M. Jewell to discuss a recent article in The Aegis alleging that the school budget had increased by 78.3% in the last five years. Mr. Jewell said the budget had actually increased by an average of 5.51% per year during that period for a total of 27.55%. He said had the budget increased by 78.3% the school system would have an additional $118.7 million. He called much of the article "entirely incorrect."

Board Comments

Student Representative to the Board Kathryn Smith said she was glad to see the charter applications and the fairness in which they had been evaluated. She also said information was beginning to reach students about the elimination of the Certificate of Merit diploma and that the students would be petitioning the Board and had contacted the media about their displeasure concerning the action. Mr. Thomas urged Ms. Smith to carry a message back to the students that they would be wasting their time petitioning the Harford Board but should instead send their petitions to State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick where the decision had been made.

Mr. Wolkow said he was confident The Aegis would correct their mistake on the budget increase in the "same font size and location" of the original article. He thanked the Harford County Public School Budget Office for the answers they had provided to his inquiries about the budget. He added that January is reading month and he would be reading in the schools.

Mrs. Rich thanked Mrs. Carmello for her work with the charter school applications noting that, once approved, the Board will be responsible for the charter schools. She noted the Board would attempt to fund results of the teacher negotiations in good faith and then try to get the funds for which they negotiated. She added that she hoped "those who hold the budget purse strings" will look favorably upon the request.

Mr. Fidler said, as a resident of the county, like others, he felt like "hollering and screaming and probably appealing" when he received the property assessment. However, he said that like the school budget "we need to play catch-up" when it comes to property assessments. He said "we have had it too good for too long." He said that he only wished that it was possible to have a check mark which would indicate the dedication of property tax to the Board of Education. He added that he hoped the assessments could be used as a catalyst for the "needs based" budget.

Mr. Thomas said there would be an executive session held this Saturday, January 15, 2005 following the budget work session to discuss negotiations. He said the Board would appeal capital projects not fully funded to the Board of Public Works on Wednesday, January 19, 2005. He mentioned that earlier in the day he had been part of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education legal services meeting. He said a goal of MABE will be to increase the amount of state funding for school construction projects from the current $100,000,000 to $250,000,000 per year over the next four years. He thanked Mrs. Carmello, Executive Director of Elementary Education Patricia Skebeck and others with the charter school review process. He said that many jurisdictions in the state are looking to Harford County as a leader in the process, adding that "we are second to none in Maryland."

Meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

This document contains a summary of issues that came before the Board of Education of Harford County and actions taken by the Board at the public business meeting at the meeting date referenced on the document. These are not official Board-approved minutes. Board minutes are not posted on the HCPS web site because of the time lapse that occurs between the meeting, their preparation, and ultimate approval by the Board.
For copies of approved Board minutes, please e-mail