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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, January 8, 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 on Monday, January 8, 2007, beginning at 7:15 a.m. at the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, 102 South Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, Maryland.

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENTS

Jason Morris spoke as a parent of a student at the Restoration Academy Charter School (RAACS). He thanked the Board for its support of the school which opened this past September and provided information about his ninth grade daughter who has done very well as a student at RAACS. He said the school gives students an alternative, adding that those at the Academy are "passionate" about what they are doing.

Deborah Polinesi is an employee at the Restoration Academy. She said she began her work there on October 4th and has found everyone with whom she has interacted from the Harford County Public Schools to be very helpful. She called Pastor Nate Johnson, one of the principles of the school, "a mentor" and credited the work of School Principal Louis Gordon. She said the uniforms that are being worn by students is a "blessing in disguise" for the students.

David Winthrop discussed the issue of Bel Air High students scheduled to be moved to Patterson Mill Middle/High School next year. He said a relationship has developed between the staff and ninth grade students at Bel Air High which will be severed when the students move as tenth graders as scheduled next year to Patterson Mill. Mr. Winthrop said he has the ability to get his son to Bel Air High and requested the Board to make exceptions for students who want to remain at Bel Air High.

Keira Bradley spoke positively of the Restoration Academy. She said she doesn't know where her "son would be" if not for his attendance at the Academy. She said the school is "a good fit" for her son and he now wants to go to school. She said her son and others at RAACS need the one-on-one attention they get at the school.

Sandy Krause thanked the Board for its decision to leave the next year ninth graders scheduled to move from Fallston High to Bel Air High at Fallston High as tenth graders. She recommended the Board give similar consideration to those current sixth and seventh graders currently at Fallston Middle School who are scheduled to move to Bel Air Middle next year. She mentioned the upcoming installation of air conditioning at Bel Air Middle School, slated to be completed during the summer which, if it goes into the fall, would have a negative impact on students there. She pointed to an "imbalance" that will exist with the percentage of capacity of students who will be attending Fallston compared to those at Bel Air, noting that Fallston will be well under capacity with Bel Air similarly over capacity.

Acting on the motion of Board Vice President Thomas L. Fidler, Jr., and the second of Board Past President R. Robin Rich, the Board voted unanimously to modify the agenda to permit consideration of approval of the 2007-08 Student Representative to the Board. Board attorney Patrick Spicer told the Board the policy on the Student Representative calls for the Board to act on the nomination at its December meeting, but it can modify implementation of the policy timeline. The Board unanimously supported Mr. Fidler's motion to suspend the December timeline to allow for the January consideration of the approval. Acting on another motion by Mr. Fidler, the Board approved the appointment of Harford Technical High School junior Chase Jackson to be the 2007-08 Student Representative to the Board, assuming his duties on July 1, 2007. Mr. Jackson was present for the meeting and was introduced to the Board and public.

OLD BUSINESS

ACTION ITEMS

Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Ms. Rich, the Board voted unanimously to approve the items on the Consent Agenda including: Affirmation of monthly contract awards; Award of contract for the moving of relocatable classrooms at Bel Air High School; and Minutes of previous Board meetings (September 25, 2006 business meeting, October 9, 2006 business meeting, October 23, 2006 business meeting, November 13, 2006 business meeting, and November 20, 2006 work session).

Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich and the seconds of Mr. Fidler and Board Member Patrick L. Hess, the Board voted unanimously to approve the Educational Specifications at Prospect Mill Elementary School's capacity improvements to the gymnasium and ancillary spaces. Supervisor of Planning and Construction Kathleen Sanner told the Board the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation will participate in the enlargement of the gymnasium to 6,000 square feet. She said it is the intention of the school system to go forward this summer with bids on the project.

NEW BUSINESS

PRESENTATIONS

Executive Director of Secondary Education David Volrath and Acting Supervisor of High School Physical Education and Athletics Ken Zorbach presented the Board with an update on the number and percentage of high school students who are ineligible based on the Board policy passed last year that requires students to pass all of their classes in order to be able to participate in extra curricular activities. The policy went into effect the first quarter of the 2006-07 school year (based on grades from the fourth quarter of 2005-06). Mr. Zorbach said the overall percentage of students who are ineligible based on failing one or more classes rose from 29 percent to 31 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter (based on first term grades). He said six of the nine HCPS high schools saw relatively modest declines in the percentage of students ineligible based on failing one or more classes. However, he noted the other three schools showed significant increases in the number of students ineligible. Mr. Hess expressed his "embarrassment" at the high level of students declared ineligible as a result of failing one or more classes. He asked that further study be made as to why the number is so large. Mr. Zorbach said Cecil County - like Harford County a member of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference - had experienced a similar increase when it went to the 'zero E' policy. He said that percentage has leveled out since. He said there are other issues such as the change in the schedule at Joppatowne High School from semesterized to 'A/B days' where students are now taking eight classes in a semester as opposed to four in previous years. Ms. Rich suggested the Board wait a full year before it looks at making any changes to the policy. She said she believes students will "absolutely rise to the level we require them." Principals Tom Szerensits of Aberdeen High and Kevin Fleming of Fallston High provided input on the situation to the Board. Mr. Fleming said some students are not prepared for the academic rigors of the classes they take while others may be taking one or more classes they don't need for graduation. Mr. Szerensits said, at Aberdeen High, the number of those students who desire to participate in athletics or other extra curricular activities has decreased. He said athletes and others are finding ways to get intervention. Mr. Szerensits said the larger problem is the "disconnectedness" to the high school experience. He noted the school has instituted programs such as dance, knitting, chess, and others in an effort to find a key to connect with students. "We haven't found the way to make the connection to many of our students to make them want to maintain eligibility," he said.

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas presented the Board with an update of the State of the System, a report she had provided to the Board initially in September 2006.

BOARD COMMENTS

Board Member Lee Merrell talked about the Classroom Learning System (CLS), noting that it may work well in elementary schools but asked if it would work as well at the middle school. Dr. Haas said students can set their goals. She said Harford is a community that cares but there is a lot of room for improvement.

Mr. Hess said, as a society, unless "we change our feelings toward each other, we will never make progress." He said he was shocked at the level of student ineligibility, calling it "shameful" and adding, "I'm embarrassed." He called on the Harford County Education Association (HCEA) to "stand up and do what we need to do" to work together in increasing student achievement. He said he is at a loss to explain how to rectify the problem of students failing courses and becoming ineligible. "We're sending these kids out in society unprepared and we're going to blame it on the kids."

Student Representative to the Board of Education Jennifer L. Cook congratulated Mr. Jackson on his selection as Student Representative for 2007-08, calling him an "awesome person." Ms. Cook said she had seen students become more focused on making sure they pass all their courses. She added she looks forward to "targeting this problem."

Ms. Rich said of all the departments that receive funds from the County government, only one - the school system - is mandated by Federal law to be "100 percent successful by 2014." She said the police are not expected to have no crime, libraries are not expected to get 100 percent return of their books, and the fire department is not expected to end all fires. "But, the school system is expected to have 100 percent of all students, all subgroups" reach standards, "and that scares the pants off most of us." She pointed to the almost one-third of high school students who are failing at least one class. Ms. Rich pointed to the Board's recent passing of the Comprehensive Secondary School Reform Program (CSSRP), which was unpopular with many people, but which is intended to connect students to the education program. She said until every student "really loves what they are doing" motivation will be an issue. She noted that all high school students must pass the four High School Assessments (HSAs) by 2009 to receive a regular Maryland diploma. She noted Federal grants that require Special Education progress. Ms. Rich noted the school system cannot "float a bond" to raise money. She said the Board cannot meet with every member of the public. She said she would like to see the school system add $249,000 to pay for all the students who want to take Advanced Placement tests ($83 per test). Ms. Rich said she would like to cut the budget priority list to 25 with several items to be deleted while every intervention item needs to be funded. Ms. Rich said the school system needs to improve student ability in math. Ms. Rich took issue with recent comments from the County Council and others about the operation of the appointed Board of Education, noting that the elected County government has lacked efficiency in areas such as the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and Comprehensive Rezoning - "that didn't work too well," she said. She said it is "time to stop using the Board of Education as a whipping boy." Ms. Rich pointed out that Harford is "not a poor county" but the County has not done what it needs to do in the areas of transportation and other infrastructure. She said she has "worked to build bridges" with government and community organizations and called the recent comments of Council members "absolutely unprofessional," adding "I'm sorry we don't have a few statesmen in this county."

Mr. Fidler said he agreed with many of the comments of Ms. Rich and would be expressing similar sentiments at the County Council meeting the following night.

Mr. Wolkow discussed meetings of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) he had attended where discussion of automated defibrillators being extended to middle and elementary schools. Mr. Wolkow discussed the elected versus appointed Board issue, noting that the Permanent Nominating Council (PNC) had at one time brought a variety of groups interested in education to make nominations. He suggested, rather than jump to an elected Board, it would be preferable to "take our time," noting that some school systems have "jumped back and forth" from appointed to elected and back to appointed boards. "This is a professional Board, it is functioning with efficiency and effectiveness." He noted that those who have questioned the way the Board leadership is selected, noting that it is by a seniority process.

With no further business to consider, the Board voted to adjourn at 9:30 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