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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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

The following actions and discussions took place at the Wednesday, June 28, 2006 business meeting of the Board of Education of Harford County which took place in the Board Room of the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, located at 102 S. Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, Maryland. The meeting had been postponed from its originally scheduled Monday, June 26, 2006 date due to predicted heavy rain and possible flooding in the Harford County area during the evening of June 26.

Call to order

Board President R. Robin Rich called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m. and noted that Board Vice President Mark M. Wolkow and Board Member John L. Smilko had unavoidable conflicts and were excused from being at the meeting. Board Member Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. moved the agenda be adopted as submitted, Board Member Lee Merrell seconded the motion, and the Board voted unanimously to approve the motion.


Three sets of Board Recognition ceremonies were conducted. The first involved receipt by the Harford County Public Schools of the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Comprehensive Annual Financial Reporting (CAFR) for the second consecutive year. The award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and was earned by the Finance Department of the Harford County Public Schools.

The second set of Recognitions involved recognition of HCPS custodial crews for their excellence during the previous school year. As part of the Custodial Training Program, the Facilities Management Department conducts bi-annual inspections of each of the 51 HCPS school buildings. Awards are presented to the top three scoring elementary schools, and, one each, to the top scoring middle and high schools. Facilities Management Director Patty Jo Beard presented the awards to custodians and principals/designees from the following schools: Elementary - First Place - Dublin, Jarrettsville, and Norrisville elementaries; Runners-up - Ring Factory, Emmorton, Bakerfield, John Archer, George D. Lisby at Hillsdale, and Fountain Green elementaries. Middle - First Place - Havre de Grace and Southampton middle schools; Runners-up - Bel Air, Fallston, and North Harford middle schools; and Most Improved - Edgewood Middle School. High School - First Place - Fallston High; Runners-up - Harford Technical, Havre de Grace, and Edgewood high schools; and Most Improved - Joppatowne High School.

The third set of Recognitions went to 2005-06 winners of the Simon A. McNeely Award, symbolic of excellence in the area of Physical Education teaching. The statewide awards are presented to up to two teachers in each Maryland sub-division annually by the Maryland Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (MAHPERD). In Harford County, the awards went to 29-year Harford Technical High School Physical Educator Karen L. Hamilton; and seven-year Emmorton Elementary School Physical Educator Melissa L. McCrea. Mrs. McCrea is a 1994 graduate of Bel Air High School where she was a track and field standout. She currently coaches sprinters in that sport at her alma mater while conducting an exemplary physical education program at Emmorton Elementary. Mrs. Hamilton taught and coached at Edgewood Middle/Edgewood High, respectively, for 24 years before moving to Harford Tech five years ago and introducing a number of lifetime fitness activities to the students there while coaching the Cobra field hockey team to its best record ever this past school year.


Scott Farley, representing the Bel Air Elementary School PTA, submitted a letter to the Board from which he discussed two issues - the first involving the prospective increase in Harford County population and resulting increase in school enrollment from the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) initiative, expected to bring as many as 73,000 people to the county in the next several years. Mr. Farley, on behalf of the BAES PTA, requested a six-month delay in disposition of the former school system Administration Building at 45 E. Gordon Street in Bel Air (in December, 2005, Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas had recommended the building be razed to make room for playground, parking lots, and a bus loop to serve the neighboring Bel Air Elementary School), which is due to come before the Board for action at its July 10, 2006 meeting. Mr. Farley said the school's PTA had been left out of discussions between the Town and the school system. Board President Rich, noting action had been due to have been taken on the Superintendent's recommendation at the June 26 (postponed to June 28) meeting, said the latest postponement had been due to the fact a Bel Air Town government proposal had been received by the Board on June 22 and the Board had not had the time to consider the proposal.

Toby Merriken said that her granddaughter had graduated from the Alternative Education program (Center for Educational Opportunity) this past year after having encountered some personal problems that threatened to prevent her from receiving her diploma at her home school. She said her granddaughter is enrolled at Harford Community College this fall. "Had it not been for the Center, none of this would happen," she said, expressing her "heartfelt gratitude" to the many "very dedicated people" at the Alternative Education Center, and noting her hope the program will be a "permanent fixture" in the future, providing the opportunity for many similarly "troubled students" to complete their high school program.

Cindy Mumby, President of the Bel Air High School PTSA, brought up the issue of the size of the auditorium at the planned new Bel Air High School. She said using the new Aberdeen High School as a design model is "a great idea," but added "one size doesn't fit all" when it comes to an auditorium. She said the planned 540 seating capacity in the Bel Air High auditorium is not nearly adequate in supporting the performing arts at the school and for other purposes, noting a capacity of 900 would be more reasonable. She said ways of expanding the size of the auditorium need to be addressed, such as taking away some of the 4200 square feet dedicated to the stage which, she said, consumes 45 percent of the auditorium space. She said two letters by the Town government to the school system concerning joint use of the auditorium as a school and cultural arts center had not been addressed. Mrs. Mumby added she is concerned about plans to bring a Medical Science magnet to the school, noting that any program that increases the enrollment at the school needs to be looked at closely. She said the PTSA had been "left out" of the planning process and urged the community be brought into the planning.

Lynn Perry, a member of the Bel Air community, said she had two students currently at Bel Air High and one who had recently graduated from the school. She said there is a need for a swimming pool and an expanded wrestling/aerobics room at the school; and noted the weight room/conditioning room is not large enough to safely accommodate students. Mrs. Perry noted there appeared to be "no logic" in the proposed size of the auditorium, expressing her opinion that the proposal to use the expanded gymnasium for parent meetings, meetings of the entire school, or other large meetings is not a viable option.

Heather Reems, Director of Communications for the American Educators organization, said the nationwide group, formed in 1994, is a "non-union alternative" to the Harford County Education Association, which now represents Harford teachers. She said the group is the "largest non-union" organization representing teachers in the country with more than 275,000 members in all 50 states. She said the group "seeks to increase respect" for the profession without making contributions to political campaigns, adding that the organization provides legal and professional services to teachers with $2 million in liability insurance; and that it awards scholarships to teachers in pursuing their professional development. She noted the organization has "an intent to collectively bargain" and does not see itself as a competing with existing unions.

Joe Voskuhl, principal of Bel Air High School, apologized to the Bel Air High PTSA for not having involved them more extensively in the planning process, noting that, since the school was to be a copy of the Aberdeen High prototype and referencing the tight timeline to get Education Specifications done for the building. He said he continues to believe there is not a need for a larger auditorium and that there is a need for the stage to be the size it is proposed. Mr. Voskuhl said a 530 to 550 seat auditorium is ideal for school dramatic productions and for meetings that would be conducted for individual grade levels or classes. He said new equipment will make the wrestling and weight rooms more efficient and the school's third gym could be used for wrestling practice, adding that there will be room for cheerleaders to practice in a gym for the first time and x-aerobics will have adequate space. He noted that "every inch" of the expanded main gym will be used and said it his opinion that the school system could not justify to funding authorities the building of a larger auditorium that would sit idle for most of the school year.


Noting that this would be her final meeting as Board President with the end of her year in that position, Ms. Rich reviewed the operation of the Board for the 2005-06 period. She noted the "workflow timeline" that had been printed early in the school year and was on display throughout the year reminding Board Members of their major initiatives - countywide redistricting, strategic planning, and the budget - for the year. She complimented her colleagues for their "interpersonal skills, tenacity, and grit" needed to address the often controversial issues "in a highly politicized environment." Ms. Rich pointed to the Founding Fathers who realized that an educated public would be necessary for the continuance of a democracy, and noted that public education fulfills that purpose. "Our public schools turn no child away, we teach everyone in a fair and equitable environment," she said. Ms. Rich noted that, with the institution of comprehensive reform in the high schools, it is now time to turn the focus on the middle schools, adding, "we can't afford to lose one child." She said the Board's execution of its fiduciary responsibilities cannot obscure its major job, that of educating youth as exemplified by the "beaming graduates" who annually receive their diplomas from Board members. Ms. Rich noted Superintendent Haas and her Senior Staff are "among the most hardworking professionals" with whom she has ever served, adjusting to serve with each new Board President with "a great deal of diligence and grace." She thanked the Board for its diligence and "thoughtful and rigorous debate" of the issues and said it had been a "distinct pleasure" to serve with a "great bunch of people." She took particular note of her "best friend," husband Bill Watters, who was in the audience, who had supported her through the often difficult times of the preceding school year.



Acting on the motion of Board Member Salina M. Williams and the second of Mr. Merrell, the Board voted unanimously to approve items on the Consent Agenda including the Monthly Report on Personnel; the 2006 Educational Facilities Master Plan; the Transfer of a School Bus Contract; the Award for Fire Alarm Maintenance, Service and Inspection Contract; the Contract for Removal of Asbestos Containing Material at the Center for Educational Opportunity; Affirmation of a Student Appeal Decision; Award for 4x4 Backhoes; Minutes of the April 24 and May 8 Board Business Meetings; Award for Library Materials for Patterson Mill Middle/High School; Contract for the Purchase of Computers; and Designation of Exclusive Representative for the Non-Certified Supervisory Employee Unit.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Board Member Patrick L. Hess, the Board voted unanimously to approve a proposal for Post Employment Benefits, establishing a schedule of benefits for those employed by the Harford County Public Schools after July 1, 2006 who provide ten, 20, or more than 30 years of service.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Mrs. Williams, the Board voted unanimously to approve the proposed Educational Specifications for Joppatowne Elementary School's replacement building. Presented by Supervisor of Planning and Construction Kathleen Sanner, the program was a "dust off" of a previous plan for the modernization of the building, which had been completed several years before. Mrs. Sanner said the "base document" had been expanded, especially in the light of implementation of full-day kindergarten. She said the new school would involve the blocking off of Barksdale Avenue as a through-street and it will connect the kindergarten building with the main building. She noted the new, expanded school would include air conditioning throughout. Mrs. Sanner said schematic designs and an architectural contract for the building will be brought to the Board prior to September 1, 2006. Joppatowne Elementary's modernization is one of several projects identified by County Executive David Craig for funding. Asked by Mr. Merrell, Mrs. Sanner said the new design will provide for access to the school office immediately upon entry by visitors by "bumping out" the administrative section of the building at the entrance. In answer to a question from Mr. Fidler, Mrs. Sanner said the expanded part of the building would occur first, and students would be moved one wing at a time as the modernization is completed.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Hess and the second of Mr. Fidler, the Board unanimously approved the deletion of a redundant item in the Athletic Legislative rules involving use of tobacco. Supervisor of High School Physical Education and Athletics Forest Wiest and Executive Director of Secondary Education David Volrath told the Board the ban on the use of tobacco and resultant consequences for its use by student-athletes is already covered by school system rules involving tobacco. They added that the deletion of the item from the Athletic Legislative rules would in no way lessen the penalty on student-athletes for such use; and noted there is not a similar entry on drugs and alcohol in the document - the use of both of which by all students is covered in school system guidelines. Mr. Volrath noted the contributions of Mr. Wiest over the 39 years he has been a teacher and administrator in the Harford County Public Schools. Mr. Wiest's retirement is effective July 1, 2006.



Acting on the motion of Mr. Hess and the second of Mrs. Williams, the Board voted unanimously to approve the Comprehensive Maintenance Plan as required by the Maryland State Department of Education to be submitted to MSDE. The document contains plans by the HCPS Facilities Management Department to complete maintenance efforts at the various school buildings in the Harford County Public School System during the coming year.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Hess and the second of Mr. Merrell, the Board voted unanimously to change from AP3 to AP4 (twelve-month employee) the status of Gerald Mentz as Assistant Principal at North Harford High School in light of the announced plans to retire of current NHHS AP4 Assistant Principal Christina Reynolds.


Mr. Volrath presented a proposed change in the Wireless Communication Device Board Policy that would allow high school students to possess cell phones on their persons - so long as they were concealed - during the school day (rather than the current policy of having the cell phones stored in lockers or student automobiles). The proposed policy change also spells out penalties for use of the wireless communication devices during the school day. Mrs. Williams noted that, during her visits to Aberdeen High School, she has often told students to put their cell phones away. Mr. Fidler noted that more than 88 percent of cell phones are now camera ready and added there are no provisions in the proposed policy on penalties involving using the cell phones as cameras. Mr. Volrath noted such use is covered in other areas of the student discipline code. Mr. Fidler added that cell phones are capable of text messaging and that area needs to be considered in the policy. He also pointed to the use, especially by elementary students, of emergency pagers. Mr. Fidler noted the policy will be up for comment by the public prior to its being addressed by the Board at its August 14th meeting.

Mr. Volrath presented the Board with information on magnet programs. He said magnet programs are part of the comprehensive secondary school reform effort to create smaller learning communities, encouraging "more dynamic and connected programs of study." He talked about "technology driven coursework" and noted off-campus experiences, use of the Internet, college, and e-learning are all part of the equation aligning programs of study with student interests and talents. Mr. Volrath said accelerated learning magnets (such as the Science-Math Academy) as well as magnets intended for the more general school population are possible. He said there are system-wide magnets (such as Harford Technical High School) or school-based signature programs. He said magnets need to be planned based on where the "workforce deficiencies are" and where the community interest is. Mr. Volrath said magnet programs must be driven by the interests of local partners, such as the medical science magnet and the support of the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. Bel Air High Principal Voskuhl, who was part of the presentation, said he feels the Medical Science magnet would be the next logical step for his students, providing them with good-paying entry level jobs out of high school or the basis for further education leading to professional careers in the field. He said "it's time to move forward - we owe this to our children - we have to be great." Mr. Voskuhl pointed to surveys he had conducted with students and parents showing an interest in the potential Medical-Science magnet. Ms. Rich said the issue of what type of magnet (if any) will be placed at Bel Air High School would likely come back to the Board at its August 14th meeting. She noted that Mr. Volrath does not have the authority to explore the potential magnet with Upper Chesapeake Medical Center without Board direction. Ms. Rich noted the Board often hears from individual constituent groups but not "from the larger number" of Bel Air parents.

The Board received a quarterly update from Mrs. Sanner on Construction Projects. As part of the discussion, the Board explored issues involving the proposed Bel Air High School replacement building. Mrs. Sanner said August would be the latest the Educational Specifications for the school could be delayed and still meet deadlines. She said 56 seats could be gained by reducing the size of the stage in the auditorium. She said a total of up to 800 seats could be created in the auditorium by extending it into green space between the school and parking lots, at a cost of $2 million. In response to Mr. Fidler, it was determined the 423 spaces (combined with 90 spaces at the neighboring church) are "more than adequate" in relation to other high schools in the area. Mr. Fidler discussed a 1500 to 2000 seat performing arts center, noting that while such a center would be a worthwhile facility, "Bel Air High School may not be the place." In answer to Mr. Hess, Mrs. Sanner said the auditorium could be expanded without holding up the entire school project by building that facility last. Dr. Haas said conversations with the County government had centered on a certain amount, sufficient to build the high school with a traditional auditorium. She said her position is that such an expansion could not be accomplished in a timely manner. Ms. Rich said the county needs a community center, "but we're not in a position to build that" at Bel Air High School. She noted that any delay at Bel Air High could back up the ensuing Edgewood High School and Joppatowne Elementary School projects. "I hope the Board does not allow itself to forget its commitment to the students," she said, adding that she has grown "tired of the Board of Education wrestling with everybody's needs - we're in the business of building schools." She noted that some have challenged the Board on coming up with a new plan for every school and, now, it is being criticized for the use of a prototype.


Dr. Haas talked about the start of summer school and noted Wayne Thibeault, newly appointed principal of Patterson Mill Middle/High School, is in the process of exploring the issues of school colors, mascots, and other areas of the school. Dr. Haas said he will be involving the community in such recommendations. The Superintendent credited Don Morrison and Teri Kranefeld from the Public Information Office in their coordination of the recent trip of five HCPS personnel to the Relocation Fair at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. She noted about 2,000 people attended the fair with approximately half of them stopping by the HCPS booth. Dr. Haas reviewed several pieces of legislation which came before the Maryland State Legislature and resulted in the creation of task forces to study issues. Among them was HB 206 Juvenile Services bill; HB 613, School Health Coordinators; HB 1200, automated external defibrillators, noting that three alternatives are being considered costing up to $235,000 per year to have 15 of the devices available at all times in high schools; HB 1495, requiring a Positive Behavior program to be instituted in cases where elementary suspensions reached a prescribed level (HCPS does not come near that level); SB 146, a task force for school safety in which four teachers from each system are to participate; and HB 353, a bill about teacher/administrator to student sexual contact, filling a loophole that had existed in that area. Dr. Haas said the defibrillator issue is the one which most impacts the local schools. In answer to Mr. Merrell's question, Dr. Haas said we have never had a situation where a defibrillator would have been needed.


William R. Garrett, the outgoing Student Representative to the Board of Education (2005-06), said his opportunity had been one where he had many "magical experiences." He said his time in the Harford County Public Schools (Mr. Garrett graduated from Harford Technical High School on June 2) had been very positive. He pledged not to "lose touch with my roots in Harford County." Mr. Garrett will attend the Johns Hopkins University in the fall.

Mr. Fidler complimented Ms. Rich on her "mild mannered approach" which allowed Board members to "dialogue, debate and argue a little bit" during the past year, making the Board more productive. Ms. Rich, in reviewing upcoming Board meetings, said her time as Board President had "been a pleasure."


With no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:20 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