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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, November 13, 2006

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

During its Monday, November 13, 2006 public business meeting, beginning at 7:00 p.m., held in the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, 102 South Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, Maryland, the Board of Education of Harford County engaged in the following discussions and took the following actions.


A special recognition ceremony was held to reveal the mascot and school colors for the new Patterson Mill Middle/High School due to open in August, 2007. Principal Wayne Thibeault introduced students who have been identified as students at Patterson Mill next year when it opens as a grade six through ten school. The students presented a visual account of the voting process that had been conducted among their peers at the various elementary schools and Bel Air Middle School who will be students at Patterson Mill Middle/High. The students explained that "Huskies," "Lions/Pride/Monarchs," and "Phoenix" were the finalists for the mascot with colors matching each of the possible mascots. The students revealed that "Huskies" with black, silver and teal accent were the winners. The Board provided its support for the student choices.


Elena Everett commented on the upcoming redistricting, noting that students who are currently in the ninth grade and will move to a new school next year are "at a disadvantage." She said siblings split between schools will also work a hardship on those families.

Larry English said it his belief that the movement of students to Bel Air High School was done to provide an over capacity situtation that would improve the school system's chances of getting state funding for the rebuilding of the school. He said the redistricting plan was "not forward thinking." He alleged that at least a part of the Board's action was to "punish the outspoken."

Mike Feinour said he was "disappointed and angry" with the Board's actions in redistricting that will have his daughter, now a freshman at Fallston High School, be moved to Bel Air High School next year. He said the movement of students to Bel Air High which will be at 115 percent capacity with 15 portable classrooms, when there is room at Fallston High School "defies logic." He mentioned that Bel Air High will have no outdoor athletic facilities during the time the new school is being constructed. Mr. Feinour said he had been told that boundary exception requests for such students would be favorably received, but now that is no longer the case.

Sandy Krause noted that Board President Mark M. Wolkow said the redistricting was done "in the best interest" of all students. She said it is the developers who will benefit since the case is stronger to have a new school built if the school is over capacity. She complained that there had been on "open communication" in the process.

Christine Feinour and Leah Pewoha, both freshmen at Fallston High, said high school is an "exciting time" and that the prospects of both of them moving to Bel Air High is "more than stressful." They said they are involved in numerous sports and other extra curricular activities and that moving will separate them from their friends. Ms. Feinour and Ms. Pewoha said both had grown up in Fallston and feel a part of the community.

Rich Pfingsten said the redistricting had been a "lose/lose" for the school system and students, alleging the Board of Education had been responsive to the development community. He said he believes the underlying reason for the move of students from Fallston to Bel Air was to create an overcrowded condition at Bel Air High, leading to obtaining funds for the rebuilding of that school. He urged the Board to approve boundary exceptions to allow students to stay in Fallston.

Jennifer Handlin, vice president for legislation with the Harford County Council of PTAs, said the group's mission is to support children. She said on November 16th, the HCCPTA will host a forum with elected officials and members of the Board of Education at North Harford Middle School.



Acting on the motion of Board Vice President Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. and the second of Board Member Patrick L. Hess, the Board voted unanimously to endorse items on the Consent Agenda including Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards; Award of Contract Award on Music Equipment; Award on Tractor, Mower Equipment.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Filder and the second of Past President R. Robin Rich, the Board voted unanimously to endorse the proposed policy on the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). The action puts into policy the procedures which have been followed for some time by the Harford County Public Schools related to requests for information under MPIA. Board Counsel Patrick Spicer explained that the school system provides various business documents to the public as a matter of course. The MPIA policy sets up a formal procedure for the public to obtain other documents which are not routinely released but which the public is entitled to receive, upon request. The policy provides a fee structure for staff time and photocopying.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Hess and the second of Board Member John L. Smilko, the Board voted unanimously to support the Superintendent's recommendation that 403b employee plans be provided through a sole provider -- Lincoln Financial Group. For several years, the Internal Revenue Service has had draft regulation revisions concerning the employers' responsibilities for tax deferred annuity programs under the IRS code. Twenty-four request for proposals were sent to vendors with 12 responding. John Markowski, the school system's Chief Financial Officer, presented the Board with the Superintendent's recommendation, based on the evaluation of a group led by Bolton Partners' Mike Beczkowski. Mr. Markowski said the sole provider model will 'go live' on March 1, 2007 to allow for new hires who have been prevented from plan enrollment to participate as quickly as possible. Also, employees who submit a retirement letter committing to retire in the current school year prior to March 1, 2007 will be allowed to remain in their existing plan, with payroll contributions, until June 30, 2007.


Acting on the motion of Mr. Hess and the second of Board Member Salina M. Williams, the Board approved negotiating teams that will conduct bargaining talks with the associations that represent Harford County Public School employees. Jeff Fradel, of the HCPS Human Resources office, said the teams would negotiate salary, insurance, and language with the Harford County Education Association; salary and insurance reopeners with the Harford County Educational Services Council; and bargain an original contract with the new "fifth unit" group.


Coordinator of Safety and Security Robert Benedetto presented the Quarterly Safety and Security Report to the Board. Mr. Benedetto noted that his mission statement from "will one day be incorporated" to "incorporated" into the daily fabric of school life. He said everything that is done in the school system now -- from construction to the daily operation of the schools -- takes into consideration if it will make the schools more safe for students and employees. Mr. Benedetto discussed some of the measures being undertaken to enhance safety and security in the school system. The Safety and Security Coordinator discussed efforts by the school system to combat the influence of gangs and to maintain an awareness on the issue.


Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas reminded the public that the Board meeting agenda and exhibits are posted on the school system web site ( and will no longer be printed and available at Board meetings. She said the exhibits will be available the Friday prior to the meetings and those who would like hard copies should print them prior to coming to the meetings. Dr. Haas asked Director of Public Information Don Morrison to discuss the Alert Now rapid phone notification system which allows the school system or individual schools to contact parents by phone involving emergency or informational issues. The system allows groups of parents to be called with a pre-recorded message. Mr. Morrison said the system has worked well in providing an information link to parents. He also discussed the "Our Public Schools" radio show which is broadcast on WHFC-FM (91.1) each Wednesday during the school year at noon. Dr. Haas listed some of the topics which have been discussed this year. Director of Technology Drew Moore discussed the Maryland State Department of Education's new "race codes" for students, listing Hispanic as an ethnicity. Mr. Wolkow said the new system is a federal requirement. Dr. Haas said the new MSDE science test will be implemented this spring. She said there is a computerized and paper/pencil version. She said the test will be given to students in grades five and eight. Dr. Haas noted that there will be a two-hour early student dismissal the day prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. She reported on her attendance at the University Council for Education Conference in Texas. She said the conference pointed to many of the things currently being done in the Harford County Public Schools, including the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in ways to improve services to students and others. She said that Patricia Skebeck, David Volrath, Gerry Scarborough, and Jackie Tarbert are providing cyclic modules to all adminstrators, noting the "huge turnover" in the administrative ranks within the next three to five years. She said she felt the Harford County Public Schools are on "the cutting edge" of school reform and mentioned that it was thrilling to work with some of the most famous researchers in education.


Mrs. Williams urged the public to visit schools during American Education Week and congratulated the students on their work to create a mascot and colors for the new Patterson Mill Middle/High School. Ms. Rich said, with the election in the past, it is now time for all elected officials to put their campaign rhetoric in the shed and get about the business of making conditions better for citizens. Mr. Wolkow said the upcoming HCCPTA meeting was a "golden opportunity" for the public to sit around a small table and discuss issues with elected officials and the Board. Mr. Wolkow said a survey is being conducted to help determine if the televising of Board meetings will be continued. He noted that the Board took a vote to begin high school 15 minutes earlier was a vote they did not want to take, but one that was necessary to make the transporting of students possible. He said the Board and the school system will be studying the issue to see if a better solution can be adopted at a later time. He said Mr. Merrell attended the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) legislative meeting where federal relations were discussed. Mr. Wolkow said he looked forward to working with the newly elected officials and to continue building relationships.

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:43 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