Skip Navigation Links

<< Back to Meeting Highlights Archive

HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

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

The Board of Education of Harford County met in a special meeting on Wednesday, July 26, 2006, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room of the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building. The sole action item on the agenda was a Decision on Educational Specifications for the Auditorium of the Bel Air High School Replacement. Board President Mark M. Wolkow was absent due to an unavoidable conflict and Board Vice President Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. served as chair of the meeting.

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENTS

Matt Frieswick, a graduate of Bel Air High School who said he had taken part in the drama program there as a student in 2004-05, said the arts are important, mentioning plays, music assemblies, drama assemblies, senior events, and other performances that take place in the current auditorium, which he said has a 900-person capacity. He said any capacity lower than that would not make sense for students.

Terry Hanley, Chairman of the Bel Air Town Board of Commissioners (Mayor), said he was representing the Town in speaking to the Board. He said the Town is looking forward to working with the School Board in connection with an enlarged Bel Air High School auditorium. He said the Town realizes the increased seating (540 to 800) does not make the auditorium a cultural arts center and that the Town understands students at the school have first priority on its use. Mr. Hanley said the Town also understands any use it would make of the auditorium would be under the facilities use guidelines and that it would pay any appropriate fees. He said he was "overwhelmed" by the support from citizens for the enlarged auditorium and had been assured that nothing the Town has proposed would impact the construction schedule. Mr. Hanley personally thanked Board Vice President Fidler for "standing up and taking up for the Town of Bel Air" in connection with the expanded auditorium. The Mayor said he was hopeful any "cost savings" in the $2.5 million that will be provided for the auditorium expansion could be used for "enhancements" to the facility.

Board Member Patrick L. Hess asked Mr. Hanley to define "enhancements." Mr. Hanley said the Town had hired a consultant to provide information on improvements that could be made to the backstage area, but, in response to Mr. Hess' question, said, if no money is left over from the expansion of the facility the "Town would be fine with the 800 seats."

Mr. Fidler apologized for any confusion created by a mistake on the original agenda as printed, noting that the night's business was strictly confined to the auditorium and that the complete Educational Specifications would be brought to the Board at its August 14th meeting. In answer to his question, Supervisor of Planning and Construction Kathleen E. Sanner said the increased seating can be accomplished by changing the footprint of the building in moving the music suite and the black box theater about 15 feet toward the school parking lot. She said there would be no improvements to the back side of the stage which will already have two dressing rooms and a back stage area. She said, after a suggestion from the community, the stage will include a mobile dance floor that can be rolled onto or off the stage for dance performances.

Mr. Hess moved the Board accept the change to the Educational Specifications reflecting the increase from 540 to 800 seats in the auditorium. The move was seconded by Mr. Merrell and Mrs. Williams.

Board Past President R. Robin Rich reminded those present the change will not impact the space for other educational purposes.

Mrs. Sanner said the increased size of the auditorium will have an impact on the size of the mechanical equipment which can be accomplished by "bumping out" the back wall of the auditorium. She said adjustments will be made with the "way the lobby interacts with the administrative area," but that no educational spaces will be smaller.

Board Member John L. Smilko asked about the permitting process and Mrs. Sanner said it is moving appropriately through the Town Board of Appeals.

Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline C. Haas said the Educational Specifications to be presented to the Board on August 14 will describe the various aspects of the school. She said any alternates that would be proposed by the Town will have to be known by that time. She said "last minute changes" are problematic.

Mrs. Sanner said details such as enhancements proposed by the Town are "technical detail" which are not normally included in the Educational Specifications. She added the school system already includes many enhancements in its high school auditorium program including upgraded sound and lighting, sophisticated rigging systems, large pipe grid supports for lights that will allow them to be adjusted, and an mechanized curtain raising and lowering system. She said other improvements could be listed as "add alternates" which would be included or excluded as cost and priorities dictated. She said she is working with Town Administrator Christopher Schlehr to get a definitive cost associated with the expansion and enhancements.

In answer to Ms. Rich's question, Mayor Hanley said the enhancements mentioned by Mrs. Sanner are "consistent" with those envisioned by the Town.

Student Representative Jennifer L. Cook complimented the Board and others in working to resolve the situation and said Bel Air High's drama program is "a legend," having won national titles, noting they "deserve this increase." She said the drama company at the school has given to the community and "this is a way we can give back to them."

Ms. Rich said she was "really glad" to see the leadership of the Town and County come together to work toward a solution. She said she would like to "put in a pitch" for a similar coordinated effort to build a facility that would allow all high school graduations to be brought back to Harford County from Towson University (where C. Milton Wright, Bel Air, and Fallston commencement ceremonies now occur).

Mr. Fidler recognized the presence of County Executive Craig, Mayor Hanley and Town Commissioner Jim McMahan, Town Administrator Schlehr, Del. Susan McComas, Del. Sheryl Davis-Kohl, County Councilman Dick Slutzky, and other governmental representatives. He noted the spirit of cooperation that existed between the Town, the County, the State, and the school system on this and other issues. He also expressed his appreciation to Mrs. Sanner and her department for their work.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the motion (with the Student Representative casting an affirmative preferential vote).

BOARD COMMENTS

Mr. Merrell said the County government should be looking to buy property outside the building envelope for school buildings where utilities could be connected without extending the area where residences can be built.

Mr. Hess said he found "somewhat disturbing" a letter to the editor published in the Friday, July 21, 2006 issue of The Aegis (written by Mr. Slutzky) which alleged the Board/school system ignored seating at other schools, doesn't communicate with the public over the issue of auditorium sizes, that the Superintendent and Executive Staff tried to force the vote on the auditorium without the issue being on the agenda, the eight-period block schedule, eligibility, and other issues. Mr. Hess disputed the assertions, saying the reason Board Members brought the topic of the auditorium size up and moved for the 540 seat plan at the July 10 meeting was because of the "timeline" needed to expedite approval of the Educational Specifications for the Bel Air High project. He said allegations that there was a "cover up" in that a report had not been done on the number of students ineligible in connection with the new "no E's" policy were false since students at each school know if they are eligible or not and "this Board member feels education is a requirement - sports and other extra curricular activities are luxuries." Mr. Hess said, "I feel we do communicate with the public - you may not agree (with what we do)." He said, if the Board has done wrong, "I'll take it like a man, but, people, if they chastise us, need to have their facts straight."

Dr. Haas said it is not her normal practice to comment about issues at Board meetings, but said the "last minute way we had to deal with" the auditorium issue caused problems for the staff. She said the school system's long range capital program is published and the communities have the opportunity to view it. "It's not realistic to expect that we would go to every community - that's not our job," she said, noting the school system does want to partner with all constituents, but added, "Let's talk ahead of time, not wait till the 12th hour."

Mr. Fidler thanked Del. McComas and Bel Air High PTA President Cindy Mumby with their assistance in the process. He added that he had read the allegations about a lack of cooperation with other agencies and also believed the statements not to be true. He pointed to the cooperation that had worked toward finding a solution, citing, in particular, the work of Mr. Craig and Mr. Hanley.

ADJOURNMENT

With no further business to be conducted, the meeting was adjourned at 6:33 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