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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, December 12, 2005

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

At its Monday, December 12, 2005 business meeting, the Board of Education of Harford County took the following actions and held the following discussions:

The meeting was called to order by Board President R. Robin Rich at 7:00 p.m. Board member Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. moved discussion concerning the disposition of the Gordon Street and Proctor House school system central offices in Bel Air be removed from the agenda and addressed again in February, following the wishes of the Bel Air Town Board of Commissioners. The Board unanimously approved the motion. Board Vice President Mark M. Wolkow moved and the Board approved the removal from the Consent Agenda the item entitled Approval of Board Code of Conduct Policy. Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Board Member Patrick L. Hess, the Board approved the amended agenda.

RECOGNITION

The Board recognized the contributions of artwork from those students who took part in the 2005 Holiday Greeting Card contest. The annual event has art students at all grade levels eligible to submit artwork to be judged with the winner having his/her artwork used as the cover design for the greeting card sent by Board Members and the Superintendent each year to friends and associates of the school system. This year, a second card design was selected to be used as cover art for the invitation card to an open house at the new Harford County Public School Administration Building, located at 102 S. Hickory Avenue in Bel Air. Each year, the Board invites the winner(s) to come to a Board meeting to present an autographed copy of the card to each Board Member and to receive a citation from the Board. This year, Jessica Siler, a junior at C. Milton Wright High School; and Joppatowne High School sophomore Felicia Garay-Stanton (holiday card and invitation card, respectively) were honored by the Board in recognition of their artwork being selected as the cover design for the two cards.

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENTS

A series of citizens appeared to speak about the proposed countywide secondary school redistricting plan which had been submitted on November 28, 2005 by the Superintendent's Technical Advisory Committee on Balancing Enrollment. The plan is due to be reviewed with the public during a series of public meetings in December and January; followed by public hearings hosted by the Board. The scheduled calls for the plan (or an alternate) to be acted upon by the Board in March or April.

Mark Lotz, a resident of Edwards Manor whose neighborhood is one of several to be part of Phase II of the redistricting of students living north of Rt. 23 from Southampton Middle/C. Milton Wright High School to North Harford Middle/High prior to the start of the 2007-08 school year (Phase I, those Forest Hill Elementary School students living south of Rt. 23, was completed in 2002 with Phase II to be delayed until the North Harford High School addition/modernization project is completed, now scheduled for the 2007-08 school year). Mr. Lotz said the proposed change does not reflect any options. He pointed to increased busing costs and length of the commute to North Harford schools. Mr. Lotz said Southampton Middle projections show available capacity at that school, adding that some residents of the area in which he lives had sent their children to North Harford schools on boundary exceptions anticipating the redistricting, but had returned to the Southampton/C. Milton Wright schools. Board President Rich urged those to speak on the issue not to disparage another school. Mr. Lotz presented an alternative plan to the Board excluding Edwards Manor from the Phase II redistricting.

Larry English, who lives in the Forest Lakes community which would be redistricted from Fallston Middle/High to Bel Air Middle/High under the Technical Advisory Committee plan, said the charge to the committee was to move as few people as possible. He pointed to projections showing Bel Air High to be at 123 percent of capacity by 2007. He presented a petition he said contained 750 signatures of area residents opposed to the redistricting of the area and complained that insufficient time had been provided for a complete study of the plan.

Amanda Mathis, a ninth grader at Fallston High School, urged the Board not to adopt the proposed change of the Forest Lakes area to the Bel Air secondary schools. She said "Fallston is my home" and that she does not know anyone in the Bel Air schools.

Madeline Gottschalk, a resident of the Forest Lakes area, said there are two major flaws in the recommended redistricting plan. The first concerns the condition of the Bel Air Middle (1961) and Bel Air High (1950) buildings. She pointed to alleged health and safety issues with those buildings. She said the second has to do with the increased travel distance for busing to Bel Air. She suggested Bel Air High students be moved to the new Patterson Mill Middle/High School, due to be completed in 2007, and Bel Air High be left empty until the anticipated replacement of that building is finished.

Caitlin Ortolani talked about the school spirit at Fallston High, noting that students represent "more than a blue line on a map."

Paul Klara of Jarrettsville said he disagreed with the Technical Advisory Committee's proposal to split the Jarrettsville area and send some of the community from North Harford High/Middle to Fallston Middle/High. He said there was no consideration in the plan for the potential impact of the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) which is predicted to bring thousands of new residents into the county.

Mike Feinhour of the Forest Lakes community said he had not been able to get specific numbers from the Technical Advisory Committee. He said, instead of disrupting the Forest Lakes community, the committee should have considered better use of the Patterson Mill capacity. He said the plan destroys many "feeder" school relationships and added his support for delaying any move of students into Bel Air High until that rebuilding project is completed.

Elmore Smoae commented about the proposed block schedule due to be instituted in the high schools next year. He said no data had been presented to support the change and that it could impact Advanced Placement scheduling. He urged the system to allow principals to decide the best schedule for their schools.

John Jones, president of the Harford County Education Association, publicly thanked the Board for its participation in HCEA's recent legislative session. He said the teachers' association will be particularly interested in pension reform, due to be one of the hot topics during the 2006 Legislative session in Annapolis.

OLD BUSINESS

ACTION ITEMS

Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Board Member Salina M. Williams, the Board unanimously approved remaining items on the Consent Agenda, including Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards; Approval of Contract Award for Installation of Two Rotary Screw Chillers at Joppatowne High School; Approval of Supplemental Education Services Agreement for Magnolia Elementary School; and Approval of Minutes for the September 26th, October 10th, and October 24th Board Business Meetings, as well as the October 17th Board Work Session.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Wolkow and the second of Mr. Fidler, the Board voted unanimously to support Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas' recommendation that the new school system administrative offices to be located at 102 S. Hickory Avenue in Bel Air, be named the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building. (Following its earlier action, the Board postponed a decision on the disposition of the 54 E. Gordon Street - Proctor House - and 45 E. Gordon Street central school offices until February, 2006.)

Acting on the motion of Mr. Wolkow and the seconds of Mr. Fidler and Mrs. Williams, the Board voted unanimously to adopt a Visitors Policy. The proposed policy had been presented to the Board at its November 7th meeting along with procedures by Board Counsel Patrick Spicer. The procedures had been modified following staff and Board input in the interim. Several Board members said they had some issues with the recommended procedures, but Ms. Rich reminded them that the Board does not have responsibility to approve procedures, that being the responsibility of Superintendent Haas. She said with 51 buildings in the school system, procedures will not work equally at all buildings.

SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT

Dr. Haas invited Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Gerald Scarborough and Executive Director of Secondary Education David Volrath to discuss eight parameters involved with the Comprehensive Secondary School Report Plan (CSSRP). When the report was completed, Ms. Rich said the CSSRP had been started three years ago and that the Board had adopted the proposals (including an eight period block schedule) on June 27, 2005. She said it is the Board's intent that the plan be implemented as scheduled beginning with the start of the 2006-07 school year. She noted the turnaround has been a "rather short timeline" and complimented school officials and teachers in making preparations to make the plan work.

BOARD COMMENTS

Student Representative to the Board William Garrett said the passionate presentations of the speakers discussing impending changes of the redistricting plan had "touched" him, adding that with change comes adversity. Mr. Fidler commented on a recent newspaper article in which students were quoted as being supportive of changes in eligibility making requirements more stringent. He commented on the frustration of parents seeking answers to questions about redistricting and noted the school system has committed to posting the answers to "frequently asked questions" on the system website. Board Member John Smilko noted the volume of work ahead of the Board during December and said the system is seeking constructive advice on the redistricting issue. Mr. Merrell said the Board's instructions to the Superintendent's Committee on Balancing Enrollment had been to get all secondary schools under capacity using the addition of the 1,600 seats provided by Patterson Mill Middle/High School. Mrs. Williams said she had recently attended the Aberdeen High School Dance program presentation, noting that more than 200 students are taking part in the program and that the school auditorium had been packed for the program.

Mr. Wolkow said he had recently attended the Maryland Association of Boards of Education during which State Interagency Committee for School Construction Executive Director David Lever had said there were more than 400 requests for school projects seeking funding in the 2007 fiscal year amounting to $1.2 billion. He noted that last year, the state funded $250 million in requests. He recounted several of the other issues on which MABE will be working in the upcoming session, most notably pension reform. Mr. Wolkow said the state is learning that implementation of Charter Schools is difficult, adding that it is imperative to "make them work" once they been approved.

Ms. Rich recounted the dates for the public meetings involving the proposals of the Superintendent's Technical Advisory Committee on Balancing Enrollment - December 21st at Fallston Middle School; January 4th at Joppatowne High School; and January 11th at Havre de Grace High School. All meetings are scheduled for 7:00 until 9:00 p.m. She said the Committee will present the plan with its several options and seek public input/testimony for improving or enhancing the proposals. She reminded that the meetings are not public hearings. Instead, the Board will hold public hearings in February.

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:04 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 Lynn.Sweatt@hcps.org