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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, May 9, 2005

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

At the business meeting on May 9, 2005 at the Center for Educational Opportunity the following actions and discussions took place.

General Public Comments

Barbara Yost, Nancy Schorr, Robin Testerman and Joanne Crosse, members of the Harford County Education Services Council, addressed the Board. Mrs. Testerman who is a school nurse at Aberdeen High School and Vice-President of the Harford County Education Services Council thanked the Board for changing the health technician designation to teen nurse effective July 1, 2005. Ms. Yost, secretary at Prospect Mill Elementary School and President of the Harford County Education Services Council thanked the Board for its support.

Natalie Weeks representing the Harford County Cultural Arts Board said the organization provided between $75,000-$80,000 in grants for education in the arts. She said she had attended the initial meeting about a possible performing arts/art magnet school that past Friday and said she had several concerns. She said it was a "wonderful idea" and is consistent with arts programming in helping students to find their desire and vision; however, she said the current plan to locate the magnet school at Havre de Grace High School because it has several classrooms available and is under-enrolled is "not enough to warrant the school there." She said there are consistent needs for the arts rather than fragmenting it into visual/performing arts at several schools which has been discussed.

Consent Agenda

Acting on the motion of Board Member Lee Merrell and the second of Mark M. Wolkow the Board voted unanimously to approve items on the Consent Agenda including Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards; Approval of School/Organization Sponsored Project - Aberdeen High School Storage Building; Approval of Awards for Career and Media Center Furniture and Shelving at North Harford and Approval of Ethics Panel Position - David L. Brond.

New Business

Action Items

Board Vice-President R. Robin Rich addressed issues coming out of the Harford Business Roundtable hosted Education Leadership Conference held on May 3, 2005. She said such an event is "virtually unprecedented in Harford County" and was intended to be the kickoff for governmental, community, business and educational groups working together. Instead, she said media reports on the conference centered on the comments of one board member. She called an arrangement where public school systems would be under the direct control of local government "un-American." She said that public education was set up to be operated on a local level absent of politics. She said there is no debate that there needs to be cooperation with those who control funding but for that group to have control of education is "not what we as Americans" desire. She said it is the antithesis of what public education is all about which is that all should have a part in the product - all must be partners.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Wolkow and the second of Ms. Rich the Board voted unanimously to award a package for spray fireproofing at the Patterson Mill Middle/High School to Diamond Engineering for the sum of $183,000.

Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich and the second of Board Member Salina M. Williams the Board voted unanimously to adopt a new student admissions policy. The policy includes guidelines on caretakers and kinship care.

Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich and the second of Ms. Williams the Board voted unanimously to approve a new policy on education of homeless students in Harford County. The policy reflects the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as well as a Maryland state regulation found at Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 13A.05.09 which contain provisions formulated to ensure that all homeless children have equal access to free public education, including preschool education, comparable to that provided to children who are not homeless.

Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich and the seconds of board members Thomas L. Fidler, Jr., Patrick L. Hess, and Ms. Williams the board voted unanimously to award a contract for Fallston Middle School improvements to North Point Builders, Inc. in the amount of $2,619,000. The supervisor of planning and construction Kathleen Sanner told the board that the bid exceeded the amount set aside for the project but that $950,000 needed to complete the work will be requested to be reapportioned from the county in the Patterson Mill Middle/High School project and the state share of the John Archer roofing project. She said the proposal will be submitted to the county council for approval. She mentioned that the work will provide a better flow of student traffic by connecting the two student hallways. She added that the project will include the construction of an extended corridor/lobby to connect the new multipurpose room addition to the existing locker rooms. She said the work would be completed in summer 2007.

Superintendent's Report

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas said that the Interagency Committee for School Construction was to meet that afternoon and that the school system should be informed soon if there is any additional money for capital projects to be made available from the state. She said that Harford Glen Outdoor Education Center has been named a "green" center, signifying its commitment to environmental education and that the center will be part of a celebration to be held at Catonsville Community College on June 1st. Mrs. Haas mentioned that the 2nd Harford County Council Budget Meeting is scheduled for May 12 at 7:00 p.m. at Havre de Grace High School. She said only 5-6 people showed up at the first council budget hearing last week. The superintendent also discussed the state board ruling on charter school funds issued recently. She said it was intended to be a clarification of funding guidelines initiated by an appeal by a charter school. She said the state board guidelines mandate that charter schools receive in advance all funding that would be commensurate with the number of students multiplied by the per pupil expenditure in that subdivision; including money for free and reduced price lunch students, PreK students, special education students, Title I and Limited English Proficiency students, regardless if that charter school has students in those categories. "We give them the money and they reimburse us," Mrs. Haas said. "Using that formula we would turn our budget over to other public schools and they would provide the services." Mrs. Haas said she has "very grave concerns" about this process and is beseeching the Harford County Board of Education to work with other boards in the state and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education to adjust the funding mechanism to be more workable. She said while some charter schools are proving successful around the country "the trend is not good." She said we tentatively have a charter school set to open for the 2005-06 school year. Mrs. Haas said Baltimore City and Prince George's County are considering going to court over the guidelines. Mrs. Haas mentioned that services like providing curriculum and others that are done centrally would not be considered; and that there would be "two sets of rules - one for charter schools and one for all other public schools."

Board Comments

Mr. Wolkow said he had attended several outstanding school events in recent weeks including the Harford County Teacher of the Year Banquet, Minority Achievement Awards, the annual NAACP Banquet, Employee Service Recognition Banquet, Education Leadership Conference, the Harford Scholar Awards and the Edgewood High School Honors Assembly. Mr. Wolkow concurred with Ms. Rich's early comments concerning the Education Leadership Conference. He said it was a "landmark event" that was three years in the making and participation was incredible, with excellent discussion and an outstanding speaker." Mr. Wolkow called it a fantastic first step. However, he said he was "quite annoyed" with the local media which centered its attention on the comments made by one board member rather than reporting on the real issues which were brought up at the conference.

Ms. Rich mentioned the Board had scheduled an annual retreat at the CEO building from 9:00 - 2:00 p.m. on June 18, 2005.

Mr. Fidler mentioned he had attended the Bel Air High School Honors Assembly noting that he had heard many expressions of "tear this place down" reflecting on the current building housing Bel Air High School.

Mr. Thomas said the Board is working diligently with the local govenment on alternative financing mechanisms for the school capital budget. Reflecting on the "mischief" done last week by someone at C. Milton Wright High School he said the act of attempted arson was "reprehensible" and that he hopes the students are caught and punished severely adding that as a taxpayer he is outraged by their action. On the Education Leadership Conference Mr. Thomas said he echoed the concerns of Ms. Rich and Mr. Wolkow that the media had focused exclusively on his comments. He said the media had not grasped the significance of the event and that he is hopeful that it will be the first of several subsequent meetings including county and state officials. He said the meeting had "set the stage locally" for the work of the Ehrlich Commission on School Reform which has scheduled a May 25 public hearing at C. Milton Wright High School. Mr. Thomas said he "can't be more supportive" of Superintendent Haas calling her an outstanding superintendent who deserves to be Superintendent of the Year; however, using the analogy of Harford County in1964 prior to integration he asked whether the status quo should have been supported without reservations at that point. He said his comments were intended to focus on restructuring, not looking at individuals. He said he believed as an American we all have a right to decent and that he was offering a different perspective. Mr. Thomas said he was "very concerned" about the state of public education. He said that there were many examples of the freedom to act by local boards being taken away by legislative action or State board pronouncements. He mentioned there were 250 bills on education in the Maryland General Assembly this year asking if there is "that much wrong" with the public schools. Mr. Thomas said he was "very, very, very" disappointed that his comments had been construed to be anything but supportive of the Harford County Public Schools but he said he cannot support the status quo, and that we should be thinking outside the box to improve education. "If we continue ten years from now as we are, we will be less of a success" Mr. Thomas said. He pointed out that until 1997 the Board had no annual goals and objectives. He pointed out that prior to former Superintendent Jeffrey Grotsky there was no formalized superintendent's evaluation and there had been no Board Retreat before 1997-98. He said that at one time Board meetings were held in the superintendent's office. Mr. Thomas said he is looking forward to an ongoing dialogue on school reform and "appreciated the perspective" of his fellow board members. Mr. Thomas pointed out that on May 16th there will be a work session on the comprehensive secondary school reform initiative and that the board is scheduled to meet in public session on June 13 and 20 with the intent of passing the 2006 school budget on June 20.

Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich and the second of Mr. Fidler and Mrs. Williams the meeting was adjourned at 8:10 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