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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, September 11 - 18, 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 open session beginning on September 11, 2006 and continuing on September 18, 2006. Both meetings were held in the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, the initial meeting starting at 7:00 p.m. and the second starting at 6:30 p.m.

Board President Mark M. Wolkow asked those present to pause for a moment of silence in memory of those who perished in the terrorist attack on the United States which occurred exactly five years prior to the meeting, September 11, 2001.

The Board conducted a recognition ceremony, inducting Henry E. "Pete" Riecks into the Harford County Public School Educator Hall of Fame. Mr. Riecks, a 34-year educator in the Harford Public Schools, was an English teacher and building/subject area supervisor as well as an assistant principal. He was credited with being one of the pioneers in the use of instructional technology in the classroom. Mr. Riecks is the 115th former HCPS educator inducted into the 'Hall.'

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENTS

  1. Josh Mangold, a third year special educator at Magnolia Elementary School, discussed the proposed deleting of 15 firms authorized to provide tax deferred annuity services to Harford County Public School students, leaving a sole provider. He said such a move, in response to changing IRS rules, would "eliminate our right to choose."

  2. Ben White said he was concerned about the four-point grading system, instead preferring a percentage method.

  3. John Jones, president of the Harford County Education Association, said a letter sent to the Board from him outlines some of his concerns about actions to reduce the number of firms authorized to provide 403B or 457 services to HCPS employees. He said many teachers had expressed their concerns.

  4. Lucy Hollens said thermometer readings at the William Paca building of Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School had been over 90 degrees in the school's cafeteria during the first week of school. She said the high temperatures contribute to student absenteeism.

  5. Denise Jordan said she has a freshman attending C. Milton Wright High School. She commented on the book Chocolate War being used in the "Living in a Contemporary World" Social Studies class. She said the book contained profanity, sexual content, and homosexuality. She noted that those parents who opted their children out of using the book put them in a position of being forced to go to the library to do other work, thus ostracizing them from their classmates. She called for the book to be removed from the course.

  6. Gregory Plotycia asked the Board not to eliminate 15 of the 16 TDA providers, pointing out that he had put his "trust and hope in the future" with his current advisor.

  7. Edna Goldberg, former reporter with The Sun newspaper, asked that the Board consider naming a school for former HCPS Superintendent Alfonso Roberty, who provided 37 years of service to the system, including 18 years as its Superintendent. She said Dr. Roberty had introduced open public participation in Board activities, worked for teacher pay parity, and school construction. Mrs. Goldberg reviewed the building of four new high, four new middle, four elementary, and John Archer School during Dr. Roberty's time as Superintendent. She said there is a precedent for the naming of a school for a person, noting Roye-Williams Elementary School among others. She said, if a school is not named for the former Superintendent, then the new central office building should be renamed for him.

  8. Veronica Cassilly, an environmental science teacher at North Harford High School, spoke about waste management, urging the school system to encourage recycling by providing dumpsters for that purpose. She said the use of disposal dishes has a negative impact on waste going to landfills.

  9. Brian Lutters spoke about the book Chocolate War. He said it was the third of fourth most objected to book in the 1990s and is outside the society's Judeo-Christian values. He urged the Board to maintain family values.

  10. Larry English spoke about the Education Specifications for the new Bel Air High School, pointing to the failure of the countywide redistricting completed by the Board last year to bring the projected enrollment at the school below 100 percent. He said the impending opening of Patterson Mill Middle/High School had the potential to allow Bel Air High to be below 100 percent, but failed to do so. He said the over-capacity condition of Bel Air High is a "ploy" to get the state to commit funding for the new Bel Air High.

  11. Sandy Krause said, now that the redistricting decision is final and her children will be moved from Fallston to Bel Air school district, she met with Bel Air High Principal Joe Voskuhl. She urged the Board to allow boundary exceptions for eighth graders being moved to Bel Air Middle School next year. She said the expansion of Fallston Middle School will allow for one more year of being overcrowded there by allowing those students who wish to stay at the school for their last year in middle school. She added that Aberdeen High School is currently short 300 lockers and they won't be delivered until November, noting that there should have been more timely ordering/delivery.

  12. Andy Williams handed a paper to the Board concerning the Chocolate War controversy.

  13. Cheryl Zaun said she had a ninth grader in the Harford County Public Schools and said the Chocolate War "strongly promotes bullying." She added that it "degrades teachers" by showing them to be upset at the actions of students. She said she was "appalled" at the explicit sexual content in the book. She noted that many ninth grade teachers who will be teaching the subject said they have not read the book. She urged the Board to remove the book from use in the course.

  14. John Wagner said the Chocolate War creates an issue with the "relationship of trust" between teachers/the Board of Education and parents. He said this book is "blatantly controversial." He urged the Board to "get rid of the book."

  15. Monica Williams, and educator and member of the PTA at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary, said she has a concern with the lack of air conditioning at the school, noting her son has been diagnosed with asthma and had issues while at Paca/Old Post Road; a condition which has dissipated now that he is a ninth grader. She urged the Board to do what it can to bring air conditioning to the building as soon as possible.

  16. Edna Kersey said she relocated to Harford County from North Carolina based on the school system and has not been disappointed until the current situation involving the Chocolate War book. She said she does not want her daughter reading the book.

  17. Jameelah Malik, a new teacher at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, talked about the impact on her as a teacher by the lack of air conditioning in her building. She said her students had become lethargic and some had become ill because of the heat.

  18. Sarah Szatmary said she has two ninth grade boys at Bel Air High School. She said there must be better books than Chocolate War to teach the issues of bullying/harassment.

OLD BUSINESS

ACTION ITEMS

CONSENT AGENDA

John Miller, Supervisor of Purchasing, said the Board's contract for refusal disposal encourages recycling and that, beginning September 15th, the contractor will pick up glass, plastic, and cardboard. He added that aluminum cans and paper are covered under contract as well as fine paper for which the school system gets money. He said 98 percent of schools are taking part in the recycling program. Acting on the motion of Vice President Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. and the second of Board Past President R. Robin Rich, the Board voted unanimously to approve items on the Consent Agenda, including Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards; Contract Covering Refuse/Recycling Collection Services; and Contract for Fleet Vehicles.

David A. Volrath, Executive Director of Secondary Education, provided the Board with an update on magnet school programs. He said the Superintendent is seeking permission to go forward in the developmental stage for the Medical and Agri-Science magnets. He said that while the locations of the programs do not need to be established at this time, the content of the programs will not change regardless of where they are located. Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich and the second of Mr. Fidler, the Board voted unanimously to approve in concept the Agri-science magnet. Acting on the motion of Ms. Rich, the Board voted unanimously to endorse in concept the Medical-Science magnet.

Director of Student Services Stephen Lentowski presented the Board with a report on steps taken to implement the new state law requiring Automatic Electronic Defibrillators (AEDs) in the high schools. Mr. Lentowski said the "eleventh hour" law passed by the 2006 Maryland General Assembly requires the AEDs. He said that, to make the use of the defibrillators effective, they must be available to be used by trained personnel within three minutes of a student/staff member/others incurring a heart-related problem. Thus, he said, there is a need to have ten of the AEDs in each high school at a cost of $183,140. He said there is an annual cost of $45,860 for continuing training. Acting on the motion of Board Member Thomas L. Hess and the second of Ms. Rich, the Board voted unanimously to approve the expenditure of the funds to purchase the automatic defibrillators.

Supervisor of Planning and Construction Kathleen Sanner and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Joseph Licata presented the Board with an update on the FY 2008 proposed Capital Improvement Plan. After a period of discussion, Board Member John L. Smilko moved that consideration of the topic be tabled until a later date.

Failing to receive a unanimous vote to continue beyond the 10:00 p.m. curfew time, the Board meeting was adjourned with an agreement to continue selected items on the agenda on September 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The Board of Education met in open business session on Monday, September 18, 2006 at the 102 S. Hickory Avenue, Bel Air HCPS Administration Building.

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENT

Rhonda Shack, a teacher at Bel Air Middle School and Treasurer of the Harford County Education Association, expressed her opposition to the reducing from 16 to one the firms authorized to deal with school system employees and their TDA contributions. Ms. Shack said the Board would be "over-reacting" if it allowed changes by the Federal government to change the way the Board has been dealing with TDA-offering companies.

Jean Matej, a 35-year teacher in the school system, discussed her investment decisions and said, nearing retirement, she does not look forward to dealing with the change she would have to make if the Board decides to discontinue support of the TDA firm with whom she has dealt for many years. She urged, if the change is made, that there be a grandfathering of current employees.

Roger Spalding, a Fallston High teacher, discussed his investments as recommended by the TDA firm with whom he has been associated for many years. He said he would like to see some choices.

Jason Brooks, school psychologist at Joppatowne Elementary School, said he is sole provider for his young family and has a "great relationship" with his current TDA firm. He said he is very concerned about the possibility of having to change the company with which he deals if the Board changes its position on firms authorized to offer the service.

Mr. Wolkow told those who spoke that "within a couple of weeks all employees will get a letter updating" them on the TDA situation. He said the Board will keep the best interest of Harford County Public School employees in mind and urged them to "stay tuned" for developments.

Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Board Member Salina M. Williams, the Board unanimously approved the appointment of Louis Gordon to be teacher/administrator of the Restoration Academy (RAACS), Harford County Public Schools' first charter school.

The Board resumed consideration of the FY 2008 Capital Improvement Plan. Acting on the motion of Mr. Fidler and the second of Mrs. Williams, the Board voted unanimously to approve the FY 2008 Capital Improvement Program.

SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT

BOARD COMMENTS

Mrs. Williams thanked Cathi Peters, President of the Harford County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (HCCPTA), for her help in organizing the Aberdeen High School PTA.

Mr. Fidler urged employees to "stay tuned" for a decision on the 403B school system plans.

Mr. Wolkow noted that the Restoration Academy (RAACS) charter school program "is a go" and that it will open in the Center for Educational Opportunity (CEO) building on September 28th despite "foot dragging" by the Federal government, noting the school could have opened at the beginning of the school year had the Federal government been more cooperative. Mr. Wolkow noted the Greater Edgewood Education Foundation will hold its gala on October 18, 2006 at 6:00 p.m. in the Richlin Ballroom.

ADJOURNMENT

With no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:30 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