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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, July 10, 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 during the regular business meeting of the Board of Education of Harford County held in the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, 102 South Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, on Monday, July 10, 2006, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m., acting as presiding officer during the annual leadership transition meeting. Acting in accordance with Article 3, Section B1 of the Board of Education of Harford County bylaws, Dr. Haas called for nominations to serve as President of the Board during the 2006-07 year. Board Past President R. Robin Rich nominated Mark M. Wolkow, who had been serving as Board Vice President during the preceding school year. Board Member Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. seconded the nomination and the Board voted unanimously to elect Mr. Wolkow as President for the coming year.

Mr. Wolkow provided remarks in accepting the position, relating Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as a template for situations facing the Board in the immediate past and in the upcoming year. He thanked his wife and two daughters for their support and listed the challenges that face the Board, especially as it tries to provide leadership in relationship to the Federal 'No Child Left Behind' act, a measure he said "seeks to brand every public school as failing." Mr. Wolkow pointed out that, for at least the next six months during a trial period, the Board meetings will be cablecast by the Harford Cable Network on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month (Comcast Channel 21/Clearview Channel 7) beginning at 8:00 p.m. He saluted Ms. Rich for her "ethical and professional" leadership of the previous year and pledged to do all in his power to uphold the high standards of the Board.

Mr. Wolkow called for nominations for the office of Vice President. Board Member Salina M. Williams nominated Mr. Fidler and the motion was seconded by Board member Patrick L. Hess. The Board voted unanimously to elect Mr. Fidler to the position for 2006-07.

Dr. Haas administered the oath of office to Jennifer L. Cook, Harford Technical High School rising senior, who will serve as Student Representative to the Board for the 2006-07 school year. Ms. Cook said she was "excited about working with such fascinating people."

After reviewing the guidelines for those citizens wishing to speak to the Board (three minutes for individuals and five minutes for those who are duly appointed official representatives of groups), Mr. Wolkow opened the floor for public comment.


Cathi Peters, newly elected President of the Harford County Council of Parent/Teacher Associations (HCCPTA), congratulated Mr. Wolkow and Mr. Fidler on having been elected to their new positions and introduced other newly elected officers of HCCPTA. She pledged her organization to work for the best quality education possible, noting that the national PTA is the oldest and largest child advocacy group in the country; adding that it is an active force in Harford County and Maryland with a longstanding partnership with the school system.

Jennifer Handlin, Vice President for Legislation of HCCPTA, said she advocates permitting middle school students to possess cell phones on school property, affording them the same opportunity for safety allowed high school students under the policies of the Harford Board of Education.

Del. Susan McComas provided the Board with information she said she had received just the preceding Saturday on a performing arts center at a Howard County public high school and suggested a similar arrangement should be created by enlarging the size of the Bel Air High School auditorium when the school is replaced (due to open in 2009). She said such an enlarged auditorium would be a "win/win" situation for the community, the Town of Bel Air, and the school system.




The Board voted unanimously to accept the Superintendent's recommendations on items listed on the Consent Agenda including the Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards, Monthly Report on Personnel, a Contract Covering Photo Copiers, an Award for Data Video Projectors for all Secondary Schools, an Award for Science Textbooks for Nine Middle Schools, and an Award for Science Textbooks for Five High Schools.


Jay May, Chief Administrative Officer for the school system, told the Board that he and Board Member John L. Smilko had met on four occasions with preservation interests from the Town of Bel Air concerning the future of the former school system administration building at 45 E. Gordon Street in town. He said three alternatives had been sent to the Board on June 22 and added the Superintendent has recommended those proposals be read and reviewed by the Board.

Donna Stiffler, who identified herself as a candidate for the House of Delegates and a mother and former teacher, implored the Board that it think about the "safety of the children" of Bel Air Elementary School in relation to those who would occupy the 45 E. Gordon Street building should the Board decide to declare it surplus and turn it over to the County government for disposition. Ms. Stiffler said the Board has the right to place restrictions on the types of organizations that could use the building during school hours.

Ms. Rich said the situation is a "difficult one" in that the Board would not have any authority over the building if and when it is declared surplus. She reminded her colleagues that, in order for them to declare it "surplus" they must declare that the school system does not now nor ever will have use of the building or property at 45 E. Gordon Street. "Our first responsibility as a Board is to make sure we're doing the best thing for the students and school system," she said.

Mr. Fidler said the letter received from the Town on June 22nd expressed interest in the building from several parties but contained "no detailed information and made a lot of assumptions" that did not include a commitment for development costs. Mr. Fidler moved the school system hire a licensed engineer to provide detailed plans on how the property could be incorporated into that of Bel Air Elementary School while permitting the Town of Bel Air to submit economic details on its proposals. Ms. Rich and Mrs. Williams seconded the motion which was amended to provide the documentation should be turned in to the Board by October 1, 2006. The amendment passed unanimously. Board Member Lee Merrell said the material the Board has received from the Town raises many questions, in particular where the money would come from to make the plans a reality. He mentioned a proposed exchange of property with the HAR-CO Maryland Federal Credit Union but said it was "not a complete package." The Board voted unanimously to approve the amended motion to, as Mr. Fidler said, express "our best efforts at good faith in continuing the discussions with the Town of Bel Air" about the issue.



Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Gerald E. Scarborough and Executive Director of Secondary Education David A. Volrath presented the Board with an update on the progress of the Comprehensive High School Reform program, due to be implemented extensively at the outset of the 2006-07 school year. Dr. Scarborough, joined by Supervisor of Social Studies George Toepfer, discussed the implementation of a Ninth Grade Transition course, intended to ease the movement of middle schoolers into high school during their freshman year.



Assistant Superintendent for Operations Joseph P. Licata presented the Board with the Use of Facilities Policy, which is required for their review on an annual basis. Mr. Licata said there were no essential changes in the policy, but also presented the Board with Administrative Procedures, which do not need to be approved by the Board. The procedures are implemented by the Superintendent through the school staff. Mr. Licata called the few changes proposed in the procedures "clerical cleanup" issues. He said the most significant changes involve the use of school buildings by "commercial" organizations, where such use would be approved on a yearly basis for a maximum of two years. He said other issues related to the use of the school buildings by higher education institutions would be looked at to see if there was a need to refine some of the memoranda of understandings. Mr. Merrell said he did not realize that churches are equated with commercial enterprises. He said he feels two years is not a sufficient time for a church to be able to locate and establish its own location. Dr. Haas said some churches have used the Harford County Public Schools' building for up to nine years. She said there has not been a "cap" on such use and the reason for establishing a limit is to encourage churches they need to be cognizant of working toward the end of finding their own location. Mr. Merrell said he has "no problem with setting a limit - it just needs to be longer." Mr. Fidler and Mr. Wolkow expressed their views in agreement with Mr. Merrell. But, Ms. Rich said the Board should not become involved with setting procedures. Dr. Haas said the "message of the Board is loud and clear - five years seems to be a good round figure" when it comes to use of school buildings by churches. She said she would inform the Board of changes to procedures in that area via their weekly memo.


Mr. Licata, along with Supervisor of Planning and Construction Kathleen E. Sanner, discussed with the Board its impending need to establish the FY 2008 HCPS Capital Budget program at its first meeting in September. Mrs. Sanner said the critical issues of site acquisitions for two elementary schools and one middle school have to be addressed. She said the coming impact of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) movement that will add thousands of new residents to the county as a result of the shift of Federal employees to Aberdeen Proving Ground in the next five to seven years will be significant. She reviewed the points in the proposed plan including the need for the school system to participate in the Harford County Fiber Optic Network, an upgrade Director of Technology Andrew Moore said could cost the school system $142,590 per month to connect 18 secondary and 30 elementary schools to the system. The issue of an expanded Bel Air High School auditorium prompted Dr. Haas to say "we need that check $2 million to $2.5 million) tonight - we cannot continue to hold Mrs. Sanner and her office hostage." She said those who have expressed an interest in an expanded auditorium "don't have access to the money - it's my recommendation the Board made a decision to build that school with the size of the auditorium (as originally suggested at 540 seats)."

Mr. Fidler reminded Board members that the $500 million listed in the school system's long-range capital plan is in "today's dollars" and the cost of construction has been increasing at four percent per month in recent months.

Ms. Rich moved the Bel Air High auditorium be built at the 540 seat level as originally proposed. Mr. Hess seconded the motion. But, Mr. Fidler said he had been appointed to meet with the Town on the issue of a performing arts center and had done so, leaving that meeting the previous week with the "ball in their court" in finding funds for the project. He said he "respects the desire to push along" the project but could not support the motion that night in that it would pre-empt the Town's efforts to show where the money could be found. Mr. Hess said "people come in at the 11 th hour to stop the project - we can't wait - we need to make a decision tonight."

Ms. Rich said she understands the concern that the item was not listed on the Board agenda for the evening, but added that it has been a topic of discussion for several months and expressed her exasperation that the opening of the Bel Air High School $75 million project prior to the 2009-10 school year could be placed in jeopardy by the size of the auditorium.

The Board voted 4 to 3 to defeat the motion. A follow up motion and second by Mr. Fidler and Mr. Smilko, respectively, to hold a special meeting to decide the issue of the auditorium size to be held on Wednesday, July 26, 2006, was approved unanimously.


Dr. Haas told the Board that within "a month or so" an electronic kiosk would be installed in the school system administration building just outside the Board Room which would allow for Educator Hall of Fame members and other important school information to be made available to the public. She pointed to a "great article" in the Baltimore Sun which picked up the full text of the recent ASCD position. Dr. Haas noted the County Executive has expressed his desire that astro-turf fields be installed at Bel Air, Patterson Mill, and Edgewood high schools as the first phase of installing such fields at all Harford County Public high schools. Dr. Haas noted the program will be in cooperation with the County Parks and Recreation Department. She made note of the second and fourth Tuesday airings of the Board of Education meetings and noted the Board would soon begin a "paperless" forum where essential material would be displayed on computers at their dais. Dr. Haas also said Board agenda items would begin to be displayed on the school system's website on the Wednesday or Thursday prior to public business meetings. She added the school system had received formal notification that the American Music Conference has named the Harford County Public Schools music program as one of the 100 best community music programs in the country.


Mrs. Williams thanked Aberdeen High School for providing a tour of the school to the reunion of the Class of 1976 (of which she is a member) recently. Mr. Fidler said Bel Air High School's auditorium is "not the answer" for a complete performing arts center but, if enlarged, would provide the opportunity for some performing arts, adding "together, we can figure something out." He also congratulated Mr. Hess on his reappointment to a five year term on the Board. Ms. Rich congratulated Mr. Wolkow on having been named Board President and added her congratulations to Mr. Hess. She pointed out that, even though, as reported in the local newspaper, there had been just six graduates of the Center for Educational Opportunity (Alternative Education) program, 12 others had elected to go back to their regional high schools to graduate; and that 302 students in grades seven through 12 had received education services at the school in the previous year. She noted that six students at the school had received college scholarships, adding the school has made a "huge difference in the lives of hundreds of students." She noted students at the CEO are "not incorrigible and they are not throwaway students." Ms. Rich said the true essence of 'No Child Left Behind' can be seen in what is being accomplished at the center. She noted the Alternative Education program has "been years and years in the making," and said the only issue is that previous Boards had not instituted the program five, ten, or 20 years sooner.


With no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:40 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