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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, October 24, 2005

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

At the business meeting on October 24, 2005, held at the Center for Educational Opportunity building, the following actions and discussions took place:


The Board recognized Bel Air High School Biology Teacher Mary Y. Procell for having been named one of Maryland's two finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Math and Science for 2005-06. The award, which is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation, has two finalists eligible to be chosen from each state and four territories with the winners in each subject area announced in the spring. Winners receive $10,000 and an expenses paid week in Washington, D.C. where they meet leading government, education, and business officials. They also receive an expenses paid trip to Disney World. Mrs. Procell is a 16-year teacher who reaches her students with a combination of fast-paced, high-energy teaching and empathy for their condition as developing young adults.



Acting on the motion of Board Member Patrick L. Hess and the second of Board Member Salina M. Williams, the Board unanimously approved items on the Consent Agenda including: Monthly Report on Personnel; Approval of General Legislative Positions; Minutes of August 8 (business), August 10 (work), and September 12 (business) Meetings; Approval of the Havre de Grace Activity Center Lease; and Proposed Resolutions on American Education Week, National Educational Support Personnel Day, National Family Week, and Impact Area Aid Assistance.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Hess and the second of Mrs. Williams, the Board unanimously approved the immediate ordering of 44 contractor buses and 14 Harford County Public School special needs buses; and authorized the hiring of six additional HCPS drivers and six additional HCPS attendants for the 2006-07 school year. Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas told the Board the school system had received a letter from the County's Director of Administration Loraine Costello pledging the county's support for the bus request filed prior to the beginning of the FY 07 school year.



The Board received a presentation on the FY 2005 school system operating and capital budget audits from Malcolm Taylor of the Clifton Gunderson LLP firm. Mr. Taylor said his was a "very good report" about the school system's finances, noting it was an "unqualified clean report" that was being filed. He noted that the $2.7 million fund balance represented a less than one percent surplus in the $296.6 million school system operating budget. Mr. Taylor said that none of the Board's accounts was overspent. He said there were no reportable conditions in the management letter issued by his firm. He did say there were two "minor" situations to be brought to the Board's attention - one involving the monitoring of collateral banks hold as being "slightly under collateralized; and the second was the overstatement of accrued leave. Neither, Mr. Taylor said, representing a significant breach of accounting. Board President R. Robin Rich congratulated the school system's Finance Department on the excellent manner it handled the public's money, noting that having a fund balance of less than one percent "is a good thing."

Chief Financial Officer John M. Markowski provided the Board with a report on the first quarter of the FY 2006 school finances. He said the report, which covers the time period from July 1 through September 30, 2005, represents only one month of activity during the school year. Mr. Markowski said no projections would be made until after the end of the second quarter on December 31st. He noted the Finance Department was watching closely the health insurance accounts and that the cost of fuel and utilities, if they continue their current level or worse, will necessitate a budget adjustment later in the year.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jonathan O'Neal and members of his department presented the Board with a report on teacher recruitment and retention for the period from October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2005. Mr. O'Neal said it had been a "record breaking" season with 419 teachers hired - a 61 percent increase over that which was hired last year (the school system was funded to add 162 new teaching positions this school year). He said the 93 percent retention rate for teachers is the best in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Members of his department noted the 1,320 applications received is a recent high for the school system, pointing out that school system recruiters had visited 19 states in an effort to find qualified teachers to fill the HCPS positions. Mr. O'Neal noted that only 11.1 percent of Harford Public School teachers are not listed as "highly qualified" under the Federal No Child Left Behind definition. That figure is the fourth best among the state's 24 sub-divisions, he said. The Human Resources report shows that the majority of those teachers leaving the school system did so through retirement.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Gerald E. Scarborough presented the Board with an interim report on the status of the Phase II curriculum guides while providing insight on state and federal mandates that have impacted the curriculum development locally. On March 15, 2004, the Board had received a comprehensive report on the status of curriculum materials. The action plan presented at that time included information identifying the review/revision process for all curriculum models.

Supervisor of Social Studies George Toepfer presented the Board with a status report on the State Curriculum in African American History. He pointed to the Maryland State Department of Education's development of state curriculum designed to coincide with the groundbreaking for the Reginald F. Lewis Maryland Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Toepfer said the curriculum was piloted last year in the Harford County Public Schools by a middle school and an elementary teacher. He said the scheduled implementation of the curriculum had been compromised by MSDE's cancellation of two planning meetings for the effort this past summer. The curriculum in its final version was received here in mid-September, too late to be infused into the Harford Social Studies program. Dr. Scarborough and Mr. Toepfer said they will continue to monitor the implementation of the curriculum closely.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations Joseph P. Licata presented the Board with a report on enrollment and capacity for the 2005-06 school year. Mr. Licata said the 40,212 September 30, 2005 enrollment was 124 students below projections and 108 less than the enrollment on a similar day in 2004. He said analysis of the data shows the decrease in elementary enrollment is attributable to a declining birth rate and the impact of the phasing in of the rollback to September 1st of the date for entrance into kindergarten. He predicted that elementary enrollment will hover around 99 to 101 percent of capacity during the next five to seven years; middle school enrollment will trend to 90 to 93 percent of capacity and high school enrollment will peak in 2006 with a slight decline then taking place. Mr. Licata said the impact of the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) that could bring upwards of 10,000 people into Harford County over the next five years, will have an impact on enrollment in the local schools. The Assistant Superintendent reviewed initiatives currently underway to decrease over crowding in schools, and reviewed the options open to the Board in balancing enrollment among schools. He identified Deerfield, Emmorton, Joppatowne, and Youth's Benefit elementary schools as those which bear watching in the area of enrollment to capacity. Also, Aberdeen, Bel Air, C. Milton Wright, Edgewood, and Fallston high schools were noted as being at or over capacity with projections for the situation to worsen over the next number of years. Mr. Licata suggested to the Board that critical issues such as the opening of Patterson Mill Middle/High School in 2007, the increase of the capacity of Bel Air and Edgewood high schools to 1600 when they are modernized, and the impact of BRAC will bear watching in the coming years. Board Past President Robert B. Thomas, Jr. elicited agreement from Mr. Licata with his assertion that redistricting will become an every year proposition in the local schools. Dr. Haas said that after the expected October 29th endorsement by the Federal government of BRAC plans, various entities impacted by the expected increase can come together and jointly plan for its impact. Mr. Thomas suggested that the Board needs to start thinking about plans for another new high school now.


Dr. Haas said a renewed emphasis needs to be placed on finding bus drivers and substitute drivers, noting a field trip had to be cancelled that day in order to provide a driver for a regular run. She said finding substitutes across the board is tougher because of the low unemployment currently existing. She provided congratulations to the local professional development staff who will be the sole presenter at the upcoming CEASOM (curriculum) conference for 500 people, noting the presentation on Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Dr. Haas said that on October 26th, the school system would get its first round of comments on the 2005 master plan submitted to MSDE. She noted that the 'highly qualified' designation is a difficult concept since its definition differs from a teacher being fully certified.


Board Member Lee Merrell urged the school system to come up with more innovative solutions for the many challenges it faces.

Mrs. Williams praised school newsletters which are delivered to the Board, particularly noting the quality of the Ring Factory Elementary School publication and its recognition of summer readers. She noted her attendance and that of Board President Rich at the St. James Church presentation given by WBAL-TV education reporter Tim Tooten recently.

Mr. Thomas said this would likely be his last business meeting, anticipating his replacement would be appointed by the Governor soon. He said he would attend the Town Meetings scheduled for this week. Mr. Thomas thanked the Superintendent and her staff; the bargaining units; and others for the support they had provided to him in his 10 years on the Board. He said some of the criticism leveled at the school system over problems that have arisen during the modernization of North Harford High School are "unfair," noting similar problems encountered at other comparable projections such as Francis Scott Key High School in Carroll County in 1998-99. He said the reality is that the Glendening Administration directed under its "Smart Growth" plan that, where possible, buildings be reconstructed on the same footprint where they stood. Mr. Thomas added that contractors who make mistakes need to be held accountable since it is taxpayer money they are squandering. He urged the public to pay close attention to the promises made by office seekers in the upcoming 2006 election campaign. He wished Ms. Rich and the school system well, noting that complaining about the necessity for redistricting is futile. Mr. Thomas said it had been a "distinct honor and pleasure" serving on the Board.

Student Representative to the Board William R. Garrett congratulated Mr. Thomas and expressed his appreciation to the presenters during the evening, echoing Mr. Merrell's suggestion that creative ways have to be found to solve problems.

Board Member Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. thanked Mr. Thomas for his service, adding he feels the public has "not heard the last" from Mr. Thomas. He said, in his fulltime job in commercial real estate, the next 90 days will be exciting, noting the county is "poised to grow in an unprecedented" way as a result of BRAC. Mr. Fidler said it is "time to start planning" to be pro-active rather than reactive. He suggested planners should "over-guesstimate" rather than be caught unprepared because of the coming growth.

Mr. Wolkow said he had attended the Edgewood High School Homecoming, the County's Edgewood Roundtable, and the Greater Edgewood Foundation gala, noting that each was very successful. He said the gala was attended by more than 150 people and raised $7,000 for the support of Edgewood area schools. Mr. Wolkow said the highlight of the evening was the moving recognition of honored teachers.

Ms. Rich thanked Mrs. Williams for her attendance at the St. James Church event and the North Harford High parent conference last week. She said she is not sure if MSDE realizes what their decisions do to local school systems when they implement changes without conferring with the county school authorities. She reviewed the intent and format for the upcoming Town Meetings, pointing out that they were the next step in the process begun last spring by the Education Conference. She noted the November 28, 2005 release of the Superintendent's Advisory Committee on Balancing Enrollment's recommendations for the Patterson Mill Middle/High attendance area and related changes. The Board President noted that, when the Board moves its meetings to the new Administrative Center in January, it will need to set the example for a wellness program by eating healthful snacks at Board meetings rather than candy.

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:35 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