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HCPS Board Meeting Highlights

Monday, September 25, 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, meeting in an open business session on Monday, September 25, 2006, in the Board Room of the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building, 102 South Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, taking the following actions and participating in the following discussions:

The meeting was called to order by Board of Education President Mark M. Wolkow at 6:30 p.m. A roll call of members showed all members present with Board Vice President Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. arriving late in an excused absence.

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.'

RECOGNITIONS

Diana Kolego, fourth grade teacher at Hickory Elementary School, was named the 2006 Maryland American Star of Teaching award winner during a surprise assembly held at her school on September 14th. The program, now in its third year, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. It recognizes some of the nation's most highly effective teachers - one from each state in the union. Nominated by Instructional Facilitator Marc Hamilton, Ms. Kolego was credited with innovative techniques, including a writers workshop that empowers students to seek solutions to their problems by using tools and organizational materials.

Sofia Tassano, a freshman at C. Milton Wright High School, was recognized for having written a national contest winning essay as an eighth grader at Southampton Middle School, advocating the preservation of land on which Civil War battles were fought. Ms. Tassano, 14, is a straight 'A' student who came to the United States five years ago from her native Uruguay. The contest, sponsored by the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Trust, has been a staple at Southampton Middle for several years. Projects at the school, many of which had been spearheaded by Ms. Tassano, has raised more than $10,000 for the cause in the past four years.

Ruth W. Eisenhour, Teacher-in-Charge at Harford Glen Environmental Education Center, has been named one of the three finalists in Maryland to be Science Teacher of the Year in a contest sponsored yearly by the Office of the President through the Maryland State Department of Education. The contest, conducted on alternating years for elementary and secondary teachers in both math and science, the Presidential Science Teacher award involves the eventual naming of a teacher per state in math and science. Mrs. Eisenhour is a 19-year veteran teacher in the Harford County Public Schools and a graduate of Bel Air High School.

Naomi Knight, 21-year Harford Technical High School teacher, was named the 2006 Maryland Outstanding Agriculture Teacher by the Maryland Agriculture Teachers Association (MATA). Mrs. Knight has been credited with developing several successful partnerships with area medical groups and other organizations, providing her students with outstanding career training. Mrs. Knight received the award at MATA's annual convention in Aberdeen on July 12th.

GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENT

Lou Raborg spoke on the issue of the use of the book Chocolate War saying that his reading of the work reflects profanity, sexual activity, homosexual activity, and other issues which "threaten and question the foundations and rituals" of church teachings. He said the book inspires thought.

John Jones, president of the Harford County Education Association, provided a letter to the Board concerning the 403B plan that would involve choosing just one provider rather than the current 16. He said the timeline for the change leaves very little opportunity for employee input and he urged that the Board listen to employees before arriving at a decision.

Rob Jacobs spoke on the issue of the Chocolate War book. He said the book Huckleberry Finn was the fifth among the 100 most frequently challenged books in recent years. He said banning books "is never the answer" and pointed out that parents were given the opportunity to opt their children out of reading the book.

Laura Krebs, parent of three students in the Harford County Public Schools and a graduate of Bel Air High School, said she is concerned that a very few vocal complaints from among the 3,000 freshman could influence the Board to reject the use of Chocolate War in the ninth grade "Living in a Contemporary World" course.

Mary Kate Keesling, speaking on the issue of Chocolate War, said she is not recommending the book be banned but said she is concerned about the relevance of the book on curriculum and questioned the lack of a Board members serving on the General Curriculum Committee which reviews curriculum. She said the book was written in the 1970s and may no longer be applicable to current students.

OLD BUSINESS

CONSENT AGENDA

Acting on the motion of Board Member Salina M. Williams and the second of Past President R. Robin Rich, the Board voted unanimously to approve items on the Consent Agenda, including: Monthly Report on Personnel, Minutes of the July 26 Special Board Business Meeting and the August 14 Board Business Meeting; and Proposed Resolutions on National Red Ribbon Week, Fire Prevention Week, School Bus Safety Week, and National School Lunch Week.

NEW BUSINESS

DISCUSSION ITEMS

Director of Transportation Norman Seidel and Chief of Administration Jay May presented a proposal to adjust the beginning/ending times of high school classes in the county in order to provide adequate time to execute the four-tiered bus system that picks up and returns students home each day.

Sandy Krouse spoke on the issue, saying that the start time for high schools is already too early and studies have shown that teen-agers need more sleep. She recommended that elementary schools start before high schools.

Mr. Seidel said "we are at a critical time for transportation in the county," noting the tiering system was set up more than 20 years ago. He suggested that the high school day run from 7:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.; the middle school run from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.; and elementary from 9:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. He said there will be a need for 17 additional buses to accomplish the job of transporting students if the changes in times are not made.

Acting on the motion of Mrs. Williams and the second of Board Member Patrick L. Hess, the Board voted unanimously to transfer capital funds from the Replacement Buses Project to other uses - purchasing two vehicles, rebuilding of chillers for Havre de Grace High, and a water purification system for Forest Hill Elementary School.

Executive Director of Secondary Education David Volrath and Acting Supervisor of High School Physical Education/Athletics Ken Zorbach presented the Board with information on the results of appeals of student eligibility appeals. Mr. Volrath said Eligibility Committees at each school review the appeals of students and their parents and, if the decision of the Committee is not to grant the appeal, students and their parents have the option to appeal to the principal. Mr. Volrath said the principal is privy to information that might not be available to the Eligibility Committee. Mr. Zorbach said this is the first semester of the "zero tolerance" in which students must pass all of their courses to be eligible. Mr. Zorbach said those appeals granted by the principal were in the form of probations. The results of the appeals were --- Click here to access No-E Report Data

Chief Financial Officer John Markowski presented the Quarterly Financial Report. Mr. Markowski said auditors had issued an opinion letter and it is available on the Harford County Public School web site. He said auditors for the 2005-06 financial documents will be on site beginning October 23. Mr. Markowski said revenue came in higher and expenditures lower than expected.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Gerald Scarborough provided the Board with the annual curriculum report. Dr. Scarborough told the Board Phase II of the action plan - all courses with a 1996 or earlier General Curriculum Committee approval date will be reviewed/revised and approved by September 2006. As established by the Board, biannual curriculum reports were provided to the Board in September 2004, January 2005, June 2005, and October 2005. During the past 24 months, the curriculum supervisors have brought 77 curriculum documents and/or informational reports to the General Curriculum Committee for review. All but four of the courses taught in the Harford County Public Schools have curriculum guides/curriculum models that have been reviewed or revised since 1996, Dr. Scarborough said. He asserted, during the coming 24 months, the curriculum supervisors will begin work on Phase III of the action plan, establishing guidelines that all curriculum guides/models with a 1997-2000 GCC approval date will be reviewed/revised by September 2008.

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas presented the Board with the 2006 "State of the System" report --- Click here to view the State of the System Report

BOARD COMMENTS

Jennifer L. Cook, Student Representative to the Board, told the Board that she is "not for the banning" of the Chocolate War book, said that she has heard the book is "an amazing piece of literature," and urged "people to be patient" with the review.

Mr. Wolkow said the seven "voting" members of the Board could serve as an appeal group in the Chocolate War situation and will refrain from making comments on the issue at this time.

Board Member John L. Smilko called attention to the Recognitions done at the outset of the meeting calling them "pretty impressive - they represent the tip of the iceberg." He said the "culture of excellence starts at the top - I am glad my kids go to the Harford County Public Schools."

Mr. Merrell said he and other Board members are listening to comments about the 403B plans. He said employees should be aware that, even if the system goes to one provider, within that provider's offerings would be many choices.

Mr. Wolkow said both the cafeteria and the gymnasium at Bel Air Middle School will be included in the air conditioning project. He said, very soon there will be a "hot topics" presentation on the HCPS web site which will provide factual information so "everyone can be on the same page" as the November elections approach. He said the HCPS has been chosen as among the 16 percent of the nation's school districts receiving the "School Match" note of endorsement. Mr. Wolkow said this comes into contrast with recent editorials in the local newspaper about how poorly the local public schools are managed.

With no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:50 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