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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, March 20, 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 Board of Education of Harford County meeting held on Monday, March 20, 2006, at the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, 102 S. Hickory Avenue, Bel Air.

Recognition

The Board officially posthumously inducted into the Harford County Public School Educator Hall of Fame two former longtime principals. Inducted were Walter H. Davis and Everett L. Cook. "Professor" Davis was principal of the combined Havre de Grace Elementary/High Schools for 31 years, from 1920 through 1951. He also served as Bel Air High School assistant principal from 1907 to 1909 and was a guidance counselor at Havre de Grace High for five years from 1951 through 1956. He was known both as a strict disciplinarian with high expectations for students and faculty and a person with a caring spirit who helped many young people to find their way. He passed away in 1981 at the age of 95, still providing his enlightened service to the community of Havre de Grace. Mr. Cook, an Army and Navy veteran, made the decision to work for a degree en route to becoming an educator at the age of 36. He became the first graduate of what was then Harford Junior College in 1959 and later served as a fifth and sixth grade teacher at two Aberdeen-area elementary schools before being named principal at Darlington Elementary, a post he held for 15 years from 1968 through his retirement in 1983. Mr. Cook was beloved by his staff and his community, providing his calm style of leadership and his genuine love for children. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 79.

The Board officially recognized those Harford County student-athletes and HCPS teams that won state and regional titles during the winter 2005-06 season. The Harford Technical High School wrestling team, coached by Gary Siler, was recognized for having won the 1A/2A Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSA) championship. Individually, Mike Long at 130 pounds, was honored for having won the state title at that weight class. In addition, Paris Williams of Aberdeen High School was presented a certificate for having won the girls state indoor track and field 500 meter run. Three Harford Technical High School wrestlers were honored for having won regional titles and the Harford Tech team was similarly honored. Also, the C. Milton Wright High School cheerleading squad was recognized for having won the North Regional championship in that sport; and several Harford swimmers were noted for having won state/regional championships. Continuing a tradition begun two years ago when the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference (UCBAC) was formed, sportsmanship awards were presented to the teams in each division of the UCBAC voted by their opponents as displaying the highest degree of sportsmanship. Recognized were Edgewood High's wrestling team (Susquehanna), Fallston's girls basketball team (Chesapeake), and Joppatowne's boys basketball team (Chesapeake).

OLD BUSINESS

ACTION ITEMS

Acting on the motion of Board member Patrick L. Hess and the second of Board Member Salina M. Williams, the Board voted unanimously to approve items on the Consent Agenda including: the Monthly Report on Personnel; Appointment of Patrick P. Spicer as Alternate Representative to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) Legal Services Association (LSA) Directors; approval of a proposed resolution on the Week of the Young Child; approval of a Contract for Engineering Design Services for the Bel Air Middle school Air Conditioning Project; and award of contract for Computer Equipment.

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENT

Patricia Smith of Fallston, speaking as Youth's Benefit Elementary School PTA president, told the Board that a dangerous situation exists at Rt. 152 in front of the school. She said there is a blinking yellow light at the driveway leading to the school but that a crossing guard had been reassigned by the Sheriff's Office from that area to the Fallston Middle/High schools last spring. She said she had witnessed many "close call" accidents at the site but the PTA has not been successful in getting the crossing guard restored to the site. She asked that, since the institution of a full-day kindergarten program at the school next year will increase enrollment by 10 percent, that the Board put the cost of a crossing guard in its budget. However, Board President R. Robin Rich said a crossing guard is not a legitimate school budget item. Ms. Rich asked the Superintendent to explore the process of getting a traffic control (red) light installed at Youth's Benefit Elementary.

Rich Pfingsten of Forest Hill commented on House Bill 1626, which would change liquor laws as they apply to proximity to a school site, asking that the Board take a stance against the proposed law.

Dorothy Ellis, a freshman at Bel Air High School, asked that the Board not support the proposed phasing of eleventh and twelfth graders to be located at Patterson Mill Middle/High School in 2007. She said splitting the Bel Air High School student body in such a way (with ninth and tenth graders remaining at Bel Air High) would work a hardship on sports, academics, and school spirit.

Tina Janouris, president of the Harford County Council of PTAs, thanked the Board for its work on behalf of students, staff, parents and the community. She said the officers of the HCCPTA acknowledge the Board for its efforts to redistrict students in dealing with overcrowding of several middle/high schools in the county.

Cindy Mumby, accompanied by fellow members of the Bel Air High School PTSA Executive Board, said they were present to underscore their support of the original redistricting phasing plan which would keep all Bel Air High students together. She said committing to the phasing without having worked out details is not a viable option. She said conditions at Bel Air High have been overcome with the spirit of the school, but separating the student body would work a hardship on that spirit.

ACTION ITEMS (CONTINUED)

The Board entered into a discussion about its Student Dress Code Policy, as prescribed in the policy for an annual review. Director of Student Services Steve Lentowski presented the policy, telling the Board the Superintendent recommended the re-approval of the policy as written. Mrs. Williams said she felt the policy as it applies to young women revealing their midriffs was not being uniformly enforced by schools. David Volrath, executive director of secondary schools, said principals enforce the codes "as best they can" but that many students use "gamesmanships" in pushing the limits of the code, adjusting the length of their garments depending on the situation. He said that removal from classes or suspension from school for students who do not adhere to the dress codes may be counterproductive. He pointed out that clothing designers create styles that are popular but may not be in tune with the dress code policy. Mr. Lentowski pointed out that students are not allowed to wear t-shirts or other garments which advertise products such as tobacco/alcohol which are against school policy. Superintendent Jacqueline Haas said baggy trousers is a continuing issue but defining what is acceptable or not is problematic, especially since students can adjust the length of the garment depending on the situation. She implored parents to work with the schools in making sure the clothing their children wear to school is in concert with the dress code policy. Board Vice President Mark M. Wolkow said one way to get around the controversy is to prescribe uniforms. Board President Rich reminded her colleagues that the school system has a "voluntary" uniform policy which is as far as the law and court decisions will allow the system to go. Mrs. Williams moved and Mr. Hess and Board Member Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. seconded, that the policy be altered to better define what is meant by baggy pants. The Board voted unanimously to have Mr. Lentowski form a group to include high school principals in making suggestions for how the policy could be changed.

Prior to Dr. Haas and others providing an update on legislation pending before the General Assembly, Larry English spoke to the Board as a citizen living in the Forest Lakes area. He urged the Board to oppose HB 1626, which removes the 1,000 foot buffer between a business that sells alcohol and a school. He said the Board "should not act as the Department of Planning and Zoning nor the Economic Development Office," instead, taking a position "in the best interest of children."

Dr. Haas recommended support for SB 638, which would deny access to buildings and ground of public schools to those required to register as a child sexual offender. She recommended support for HB 1294 which would impose recordation and transfer taxes on the transfer of real property with a value of $1 million or more; requiring specified amounts of local recordation taxes to be dedicated to school construction for fiscal 2007 through 2010. She recommended the Board take no position on HB 318/HB 442/HB 575, video lottery terminals. The Superintendent recommended the Board oppose SB 946 which would divert money from school systems by targeting tax credits for businesses that provide scholarships to students/teachers. She recommended opposition to HB 519 which would require local school systems to teach about the Philippine-American War, Dr. Haas noting that this is an example of the Legislature imposing on school systems what should be taught. She recommended opposition to HB 954 which would increase the number of school days and school hours gradually to a point of 210 days and 1.260 hours by 2009-10. Dr. Haas said the goal is laudable, but there are not sufficient funds to make it happen. Acting on the motion of Mr. Wolkow and the second of Mr. Hess, the Board voted unanimously to support all of the Superintendent's recommendations.

The Board of Education had requested information on the impact of its decision last year to make eligibility requirements for extra-curricular activities more stringent by dropping the number of 'E's' a student could have on his/her report card from two to one and still be eligible to participate in the activities. Supervisor of High School Physical Education and Athletics Forest Wiest told the Board that the impact had been substantial. The Board has expressed its intention to have the policy further strengthened beginning in the fourth quarter of this school year (impacting athletes and others taking part in extra curricular activities next fall) from one 'E' to no 'E's'. Mr. Wiest said, when Cecil County took a similar step in 1994, it took two years for the number of ineligible students to "stabilize." Mr. Wolkow said the results are "depressing." Mr. Fidler added the results are a "huge disappointment." He added the Board had expected a "learning curve" as students became aware of the more stringent policies but "never this dramatic of a downturn." Mr. Wiest said the number of appeals of ineligibility had increased along with the number declared ineligible. He described the basis of the appeals as being "special circumstances" such as a death in the family, divorce, or other issues "out of the student's control." Mr. Fidler said that he would not vote to rescind the direction the Board is headed "even if it means losing a football season" when an insufficient number of athletes could be eligible. Mrs. Williams added that she agreed with Mr. Fidler and inquired about the appeal process, learning that it was a two-step initiative with an appeals committee reviewing the student request and the principal having the final say. Responding to Mr. Wolkow's question about when the Board needs to take an action that would either leave the number of failing grades at one or continue with it's intention of going to zero, Ms. Rich said the Board would need to take an action soon to reverse the process, if that is its intent. William R. Garrett, student representative to the Board, said he was "glad to see this Board feels strongly" about going to a no 'E's' eligibility policy. He reported that the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils (HCRASC) strongly supports the 'zero tolerance' eligibility policy. Dr. Haas said students are facing other issues such as having to pass the four High School Assessments (HSA's) in order to get a diploma. "If they are not motivated to learn, failure to get a high school diploma will have consequences that are lifelong."

NEW BUSINESS

The Board accepted public comment on the proposed balancing enrollment/redistricting issue, having announced previously that it intends taking action on a redistricting plan that would provide an attendance area for the new Patterson Mill Middle/High School and, potentially, balance enrollment at other secondary schools in the county on April 3.

Mark Lotz of East Jarrettsville Road said the Board should revisit its 2002 action in which it announced its intention of instituting a Phase 2 redistricting of students in the Forest Hill area from Southampton Middle/C. Milton Wright High to North Harford Middle/High. He said the area to be redistricted is the most dense of all the North Harford attendance area and the quality of childrens education would be impacted by the move.

Sandy Krause of Churchill Downs Court in Forest Lakes asked that the Board not approve the proposal of the Superintendents Technical Advisory Committee on Balancing Enrollment to move secondary students in that area from Fallston to Bel Air schools. She said the plan ignored feeder schools, the potential impact of BRAC, and public input. She pointed out that the County Executive has expressed his view that no students should be moved into Bel Air secondary schools until the rebuilding of Bel Air High is completed. She pointed to the example of the commitment of the Board in 2002 to the Phase 2 North Harford redistricting as proof that redistricting done too far in advance is not wise.

Sue Parks of Regent Drive, representing the Bel Air Middle PTA, thanked the Board for changing its plans to install air conditioning only during the summer (she was later corrected by Ms. Rich and Dr. Haas that, while as much work as possible will be done during the summer, there will be work done during the school year). She voiced the support of the original phasing plan for Bel Air High/Patterson Mill, saying that having eighth graders at Bel Air High would not be a good idea.

Ashley Parks, a ninth grader at Bel Air High, said moving juniors and seniors out of the school as the revised phasing plan would do would hurt the reputation of the school, cause traffic accidents, force teachers to commute between the schools, negatively impact high school sports, and create other problems for the school.

Larry English said the basing of a redistricting plan on the possibility that construction of Bel Air, Aberdeen and Edgewood high schools would be completed in 2009 is not wise. He recommended that, other than those students to go to Patterson Mill Middle/High, all other recommended redistrictings be postponed from being acted upon on April 3.

Carl Vogel of Applewood Drive said he opposed the current proposals for redistricting, especially the phasing plan which would put 50 years of tradition on hold for two years at Bel Air High. He noted that most construction projects are not finished on time.

Bob Mumby, president of the Parsons Ridge sub-division and a resident of Rolling Knoll Drive, said all six neighborhoods bordering the Patterson Mill Middle/High School property are opposed to the phasing plan that would send juniors and seniors to the school beginning in 2007. He said the plan would double the number of student drivers and almost certainly cause injuries from accidents. He said the communities had been working closely with the school system to prepare for the eventual impact of student drivers, but the new phasing plan would undermine that work.

Rich Pfingsten of Forest Hill said the moving of 3,600 students is far too many, noting that reducing school enrollment below the Countys 105 percent Adequate Public Facilities (APF) threshold would open those communities to more development. He urged that only the decision required to form an attendance area for Patterson Mill Middle/High be undertaken on April 3.

Mary Kate Keesling of Bayonne Court said she is very concerned about the potential of increased traffic in the area of Patterson Mill Middle/High. She said the theme of minimizing the number of student moves has been recurring among public comments and urged the Board take a prudent wait and see attitude on unnecessary student moves.

Brittany Welsch of Huntington Place, a senior at Bel Air High, said her four years at the school have been a great learning experience and said she would like a similar experience for her three younger siblings something that will not happen if the school is split along the lines of the new phasing proposal.

In keeping with its promise, the Board held an open discussion about its views on the redistricting. Ms. Rich said she and Mr. Hess have been working on a plan that would rescind at least a portion of the proposed move of Jarrettsville area secondary students from North Harford to Fallston. Mr. Wolkow said he agrees it is preferable to move fewer students, if possible. Mr. Fidler said he had requested a written statement from County Executive David Craig about funding for Bel Air High/Edgewood High construction projects and said he has an issue making a decision when the school system is not under construction or even the design process for the two schools. He said the Board, by design of the funding stream for new schools, has to be reactionary and that a half billion dollars is needed to solve the issue of too many students and too few schools. He said the letter from Mr. Craig said the proposed funding for the two school projects is in his capital budget, but that the Board needs to see County Council approval that the money would be available to allow for the two replacement schools to open in 2009. He said the system is broke and no one wants to deal with redistricting, especially in an election year. He added that, unless something drastic is done, the Board will be back in three to four years in the same redistricting situation it now finds itself. Mr. Fidler said he supports the original phasing plan for Bel Air High. Ms. Rich said she, too, is leaning toward the original phasing plan. Mr. Wolkow and Assistant Superintendent for Operations Joe Licata (head of the STAC group) along with Chief of Administration Jay May, went through a chart showing advantages and disadvantages of the two phasing plans. Board Member Lee Merrell said he believes the original phasing plan is the better of the two, noting that not one public comment has been expressed in favor of the new plan. Board Member John L. Smilko added his support to the original plan, adding that the Board is stuck in redistricting hell and will remain their forever because it is a situation beyond the groups control given growth in the community. He said the Board and the public is in this mess because nothing was done by previous county governments to address the issue, urging the public to address their concerns with elected officials.

Given the lateness of the hour, the Board agreed to postpone Item F Possession and self-administration of medication policy; and Revision to student possession, use, or transference of controlled dangerous substances, medicines and alcohol policy to a subsequent meeting.

SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT

Dr. Haas announced Harford Technical High Schools Robotics team had been part of a group of schools to come in first in the recent Robotics competition, but needed $5,000 to be able to enter the next level of competition. She said that a recent attempt to work with parent groups at Prospect Mill Elementary School to come up with a consensus on how to deal with the over-capacity situation there had not developed such a suggestion. She said, absent such a proposal, she recommended to the Board that it direct her to approach the County Executive with a request for funds to build ancillary spaces (no classrooms) including space for physical education, bathrooms, and therapy rooms to address the situation. She said when classroom space had been added about 15 years ago, no additional core areas had been added to the building. She said the project would be similar to ones carried out at Southampton and Fallston middle schools. Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Mrs. Williams, the Board voted unanimously to support the Superintendents recommendation. Dr. Haas said the school system has been working for some time with the Harford County Health Department on a cohesive action relating to the potential for a bird flu pandemic. She said Health Officer Andrew Bernstein will pay for a flu vaccine mist for students through a company that supplies the mist; and the school system is being asked to explore options to find funding for adult vaccine. Dr. Haas recommended that the Board direct her to bring back those options to the Board for final action. Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the seconds of Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wolkow, the Board voted unanimously to endorse the Superintendents recommendation.

With no more business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 10:00 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