The following letter was sent to the Harford County Board of Education and several elected officials by 13 residents of the Madonna Manor Community. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Dear Harford County Board of Education and Redistricting STAC:
The Madonna Manor Community, located between Madonna Road and Salem Church Road in Jarrettsville, respectfully requests that elementary age children from the Madonna Manor neighborhood and community remain districted to Jarrettsville Elementary School. In addition, we maintain that the current proposed plan for redistricting Harford County Elementary Schools in not viable and sustainable as proposed and we ask that the redistricting plan not be approved by the Board of Education. If the redistricting plan is approved in some form, we request that all Northern Harford County Elementary Schools, including but not limited to Jarrettsville (JVES), North Bend (NB) and Norrisville, be excluded from the proposed redistricting.
These requests are based on several valid concerns that the proposed redistricting will lead to a decline in the quality of education in Harford County, Maryland. Further, the proposed redistricting plan – as outlined – fails to address many considerations that would be critical for a successful redistricting and long term educational success. The proposed plan for redistricting lacks sufficient scope and detail, does not address key data points, and fails to include an implementation plan.
The remainder of this letter outlines our community’s concerns and questions related to the proposed Harford County, Maryland Elementary School Redistricting in support of our request that it not be approved. In several instances, we are requesting a detailed written response or excerpt from an existing analysis.
Please review and address each of the following items:
1. According to the proposed plan as quoted here, “The BOE established the Comprehensive Elementary School Redistricting Initiative to meet several goals:
• Provide relief for Prospect Mill ES and the adjacent schools in its region
• Develop the new attendance area for Red Pump ES
• Provide relief for Emmorton ES
• Balance enrollment with capacity in remaining elementary schools.”
As only the fourth bullet applies to the majority of schools affected, please define “balanced enrollment.”
2. Northern County schools are moving away from a “comfortable” level of capacity, to near, at, or above 100% capacity. How can increasing school capacity to near, at, or greater than 100% be good for children or the community, and what allowances have been made for continued growth? Why are several schools being redistricted to 100% or higher?
3. How are the schools able to accommodate larger than current capacity in the proposed plan? (i.e. the current capacity number for JVES is 520. What allowed that 520 to change to 548 in the proposed plan?) Note that actual capacity will be greater than 100% in many schools based on current capacity numbers.
4. Provide specific information on the data sources and methodology used to determine the proposed boundary lines and proposed population counts of the revised districts.
5. Why is the redistricting county-wide rather than focused on problem areas in South and Central County? This conflicts with the original objectives.
6. The goal is intended to support children, when in fact it will disrupt children and result in longer bus rides, potential for redistricted kids to be placed inappropriately at the new school, and an overall disconnect in the continuity of their education.
7. Shifts in students, teachers and other resources will negatively impact the quality of education. Each school has teams by grade level that collaborate and spend significant time ensuring continuity among classes and students within the school. The redistricting will disrupt teams, displace teachers and students, and result in at least a one to two year loss in results. Results include school performance, student performance and community satisfaction. We request a written plan to address these issues prior to any redistricting approval.
8. At schools such as JVES and NB, where measurable performance is above-average for the county, what is being proposed to ensure those levels do not decline as a result of the displacement from redistricting? What is the expected impact? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval. If there is no written plan in place to address how the significant increase in capacity will impact school performance, then the proposed redistricting is not viable.
9. Why has the County allowed substantial growth in housing and development without requiring the same appropriate level of new school facilities and educational funding? Specifically, Fallston growth has impacted Youth’s Benefit’s (YB) capacity. Why not specifically address YB rather than disrupt families, students, entire communities as well as the quality of education at YB, JVES, NB and Norrisville?
10. Why is one small community from North Bend being redistricted to JVES, and one small community from JVES being redistricted to NB? These appear to be similarly-sized group. Describe the benefits to these specific proposed changes that justify disrupting both of these communities and creating the resulting bus route and daycare issues.
11. Provide an explanation for why YB capacity is dropping to less than 100% in relation to the current building and development moratorium. Specifically address whether consideration in any form was given to the possibility of the moratorium being lifted as a result of the redistricting of YB students to JVES and other schools.
12. Why was the proposed building and development of additional structural facilities for YB put on hold?
13. YB does not want to move to JVES. They are not unhappy with their current capacity and the school performance indicates they are sustainable. Wouldn’t providing additional resources to this one school result in less disruption and gaps in education than disrupting several schools in the Northern part of the county?
14. What consideration has been given to the impact annual growth in elementary age school children for each of the proposed new districts will have on the proposed 95%-100% capacity at JVES, NB and Norrisville schools? Please include data on projected growth rates (by district) for the next 5-7 years and how the proposed capacities will be sustained over time.
15. How will the well and septic of the schools handle the increase in school population? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval.
16. What new school facilities are currently planned or in planning stages for the next three to five years? How has this been incorporated into the redistricting plan?
17. What analysis was performed to ensure that the proposed redistricting will satisfy growth demands and other variables to remain sustainable for the proposed 10 year period? In other words, support the proposed plan as being a long-term solution that will not need to be amended in three, five or seven years.
18. Consider closing Norrisville and moving those children to JVES and NB. While this would require some children to have longer bus routes, it would be in a concentrated area only. Norrisville facilities could be used for staff development. Students would be moving to two high-performance schools where teams would remain intact. Additional resources from Norrisville could be incorporated into these two schools with disruption to the least amount of students and educational quality.
19. What consideration has been given to daycare issues related to single-source daycare such as Salem Lutheran Children’s Center servicing families of JVES students? If no boundary exceptions are permitted, there will be significant hardship on the current JVES community using daycare. If boundary exceptions are permitted, how will this impact the proposed capacity levels?
20. What consideration has been given to additional staff training to ensure continuity among teachers moving among schools with various levels of progress on curriculum initiatives?
21. If redistricting is approved, what resources will be dedicated to assisting students and educators with the transition? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval.
22. What is the expected impact to the individual school budgets and resources? In particular, how will the increased quantities of material resources such as books, manuals, seating, etc. be allocated and when? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval.
23. Provide a written plan outlining implementation of the new redistricting including students, bus routes, teacher and staff re-allocation, and funding. Include a timeline and hard dates for key milestones.
24. Provide a brief overview of the qualifications of each STAC member to justify that the proposed redistricting process has been performed by a sufficiently qualified team. Provide actual experience, technical skills and other similar qualification of each member of the committee. Include information on any outside resources that were used to support the STAC team such as engineers, statisticians, psychologists, etc. and the extent to which each was involved.
25. Are any persons outside of the Harford County Board of Education included in the decision making for the proposed redistricting? How many members comprise the Harford County Board of Education? Provide information on how many of these seats are appointed versus elected.
The concerns outlined above summarize our opposition to the proposed redistricting plan. We the residents and families of Madonna Manor would again ask that the proposed redistricting plan not be approved. In addition, we would appreciate the courtesy of a written response that addresses our questions and concerns.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
We just bought our house last August here at the corner of Salem and Norrisville Rd where the cut off takes place for Jarrettsville. I DO not want my son to have to change schools AGAIN, he will be entering the 5th grade next year.
Bull Moose says
If he’s entering the fifth grade next year he won’t have to. They are expected to let fifth graders stay. And how is it somehow the school system’s fault that you moved there a year before? The arrogance of some of these parents amazes me (but sadly doesn’t surprise me).
One thing that I have noticed throughout this whole debate is that it seems that the folks who, by their own admission, have recently moved to an area (say, in the last 20 years or so), and have been more responsible for causing overcrowding than the rest of us, are complaining the loudest. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of blame to go around to developers and politicians as well.
For the record, I live on Madonna Road, and my house was moved from North Bend to Norrisville. I actually like that my kids will go to Norrisville now. It’s a nice school in a great community, so count my vote in favor.
The kids will be fine. Kids are resilient. It’s the parents that need to get realistic here. You didn’t buy a house in a specific elementary school district — the district is countywide. I’m not sure whose fault it is that folks didn’t realize that, but that’s the way it is.
Brian King says
Bull I have to disagree with you. I think a HUGE number of people bought their houses primarily because of the school district. I count most of my neighbors and friends as ones who thought htis way. I would argue that you are clearly in the monority here.
It is not county wide as you say, this is simply false. Schools are zoned and kids to to the school in that zone.
You can be happy with the new school zones, but you cannot have your own facts.
Bull Moose says
Brian King, you’ve proved my point. People like you are confusing “school districts” with “attendance areas.” The school district (Harford County) draws the attendance areas based on the capacities in its 33 elementary schools. Some schools are currently at 130%, while others are at 60%.
Your tax money does not get funnelled to the Fallston School District (for example). There is no such thing. It goes to HCPS.
Redrawing the attendance areas isn’t easy, but it needs to be done. The valid concerns of parents should be taken into account, but at the end of the day, some people are inevitably going to be disappointed.
Well said Bull Moose. I do feel badly for those affected by this proposed plan up in the North Harford area. My family also chose to not live in the Bel Air area, specifically because we don’t like how overcrowded it is. However, MD isn’t like PA, where each town is it’s own district. Harford County is the district. When you look at the entire county, there are more seats than students, unfortunately, just not in the right areas. In addition to politicians and developers, real estate agents are notorious for advertising houses in certain school attendance areas….Years ago (late 80’s/early 90’s), I remember them selling houses in Constant Friendship and down Route 7 claiming that students there would be attending the new Abingdon High School…and we can see how that turned out!
Douglas Koerber says
Bull, if you live less than a mile away from a school in your community and your children are getting bused to a school 5 miles away in another community and you don’t like it, that’s not arrogance or entitlement. That is justified frustration and I support Laura in being vocal about it.
Bull Moose says
Go back and read Laura’s comment. Distance was not what she was concerned with. She was complaining that the school system would make her child change schools (although it was ok for her to move her child herself a year before). Actually, the distance argument is a pretty good one, but not the one she made.
See this is what a well thought out set of questions looks like. Not don’t move my child.
9 is a good question but I think it is redundent with 13 and is not a fiscally sound solution they propose.
2 fails to look at the numbers proposed with a over enrollment of 4 it can easily be solved by adding 4 desks to the school.
18 is a good idea!
23 while a good question is the reason it needs to be approved by march. It is a waste to put the resources into answering those in detial until you have the final plan.
25 b and c seem obvious!
It very amusing to read this and think that the parents of HCPS think that the school board and the leadership within HCPS actually care about individual schools or students. HCPS does not make decisions based on individual schools or students; rather they look at the whole and try to make it equal for everyone. Is this type of equality actually fair? Probably not, but in HCPS it isn’t about fairness it is all about the numbers. And this isn’t the first time HCPS has made decision that look good on paper but not in reality.
For example, the leadership of HCPS has decided there are certain positions within the schools that are not necessary; for example: mentor teachers and instructional facilitators. On paper this looks great, by cutting back on spending, but in reality it removes key positions that actually monitor the quality of education.
Furthermore, HCPS recently bought a new program in implemented it called “Performance Matters.” This program is data driven, which sounds good on paper. But in reality it means that students are forced to take standardized test in all core classes (English, Math, Science, History) every quarter, when added equates to 16 standardized tests a year. These tests are not designed by the teacher of that class, these test are not specified to individual student learning styles and/or needs; these are bulk tests that are thrown at kids and are supposed to show relevant data.
And there are numerous other examples.
So parents have a problem accepting the new redistricting because it is not fair to an individual child or community; well guess what…HCPS doesn’t care about the individual or small group. They care about the whole and how to make it look good on paper.
Could you imagine having a school district that considered the needs of individual schools and students, rather than the whole? Wouldn’t that be a great place to live.
Mary my wife is a teacher. Performance matters came after the test not the test from Performance matters. The benchmark tests already existed. The teacher used to have to score them and send them away to be tallied and then hand entered into a data warehouse where the teacher got a report back a month or two later. Now they get results faster and with less work.
Additionally in this case, redistricting, they are thinking of individual students. Students who must attend over crowded classes in trailers. Trailers that cost money that could better be spent on other classroom needs. Students who ride a bus to school then get on a bus to a different building and occupy classrooms meant for middle school students who have to deal with overcrowding. Then go home the same way. It is impossible to meet the desired needs of every person and make them happy. This is a reasonable need to redistrict. It is unreasonable to have a school open at 60% or below capacity while another school sits at 140%. It is unreasonable to use your kids as a shield from development.
I think they would call that Utopia or make believe. What you are saying is not the goal of the HCPS- they are concerned with all schools and you are not.
Lorrie Warfield says
While I agree with many points made in this article and believe that many of the issues mentioned have not been fully thought-out, such as the well and septic capacities of many of these schools that are not on public well and septic, I do not agree with #18. My children attend Norrisville and my oldest has been there for going on 4 years and my youngest 3 years. My children’s bus stop is approx 1 mile from the school and their bus ride can be between 35-45 minutes pending how many children are on the bus that day. If they were to be moved to NB or JVES their bus ride would exceed 1 hour at least. When the possibility came up earlier this year that Norrisville could face closure there was an overwhelming amount of support shown at a meeting with Joseph Licata. There was @ 400+ in attendance from the local community. I believe that the BOE is going about this redistricting plan at the wrong angle. If they wanted community input they should take it into consideration.
Lorrie do you not believe 8 public meetings and a dedicated e-mail line are not a demonstration of the desire for imput? In order for people to offer imput (like above) they need to see a draft plan. The input has to come after a draft but before a final version. That is what is happening. If they did not want the input then they would hold only one meeting as is required of them. That said input needs to be reasonable and rational not selfish!
They confuse not getting their way with the BOE not listening. I wish these people would read what they are saying and how pathetic they sound. Yes, the Board of Education gets up each day and asks how it can screw up your kids and your neighborhood.
Those of you that are against redistricting should rethink your complaint! You are (more than likely) the same folks that complain the loudest about high taxes, etc. An under-utilized school building costs virtually the same to operate and maintain as a fully utilized school building (all other things being similar). Therefore, if Harford County continues to leave many existing elementary schools under capacity, while building new elementary schools, then we (the taxpayers) will have a higher sustained tax burden! You can’t have your cake and eat it too!
Lorrie Warfield says
CDEV, I strongly believe that the public meetings and the dedicated email line are a way to pacify the community. I do not believe honestly that any input from the community will alter this plan. In my opinion there are many issues with the redistricting plan. There are students from an area off High Point Rd in the Fallston/Forest Hill area that will be bused to North Bend. There are 4 other elementary schools that I believe are as close if not closer. The house I grew up in until the age 6 which is located between Madonna and Jarrettsville is now being shuffled to North Bend. More than likely that means that the children in that area will ride the bus pass Jarrettsville Elem to get to their new school. When the cost of transportation has risen to the point that it currently is reducing the expenses is vital. I am not opposed to redistricting in the least, it just has to be done using intelligent thought as opposed to a computer program. I am curious to see how many new housing developments will spring up in the Fallston area once the moratorium is lifted. I have heard that a large farm in the area is ready for building. I am also interested in seeing what happens after all the new housing is built in developments such as Blakes Legacy and others once Red Pump is completed. I guess at that point redistricting will occur again. I would love to believe that the redistricting is being done for the correct reasons but I fear that there are other motives in place as well.
First Citizen says
Anyone who has served on one of the focus groups realizes that they are given a presentation of a ‘draft’ which is in reality a final draft. They nod and smile then do what they have already planned. While the purpose surrounds the opening of Red Pump, a location that made no sense if the key point area to reduce overcrowding at Prospect Mill, they are doing a juggling act that on face value does not make sense. A request for public officials to justify their decisions is reacted to with ridicule. Oddly, there seems to be no move to shift students into underpopulated schools in areas that some see as ‘problem’ areas. Nor does there seem to be any forward thought into the impact of the secondary schools, which is another trait of this county to ignore tomorrow for today. If you think they really want input you are a fool n
SO let’s say to resolve the issues over YBES over crowding we shifted the southern part by Valleybrook and Mountian Branch to Magnolia ES, the closest school then shift around that area. I still think the people of Fallston would be whining. I think they would because they would be affraid of the evil building moratorium conspiracy. I also think there would be a massive outcry. I think along with it to make sense we would have to consolidate a school up north with another that both have empty classrooms.
Lorrie if the BOE was not serious would they hold that many public meetings? They only hold 3 on the budget! Here they are not required to have any more then one and in far less time. Go to a meeting with a good, solid, data driven, logical and objective proposal and we will see.
I still think alot of the complaining is self serving interest!
We have great schools in the mid to northern section of the county. Under no circumstances should anyone be wanting children from good schools to be moved south to potentially Title 1 schools – what then? I understand some of the frustration for children that will have a longer bus ride, but that is it. For everyone complaining over being moved from YBES to Jarrettsville you sound like snobs. Both are great schools. I have lived in Harford County my entire life. I attended both Bel Air and Fallston Schools. My child currently attends Bel Air Elementary. We are in walking distance and at this point are planned to be moved to Red Pump. How could I complain. Maybe it is time to embrace the change and stand back and actually allow those with valid concerns over distance be heard – those are the individuals in the northern most parts of the county. Anyone suggesting kids from outhern boundaries of YBES be sent to Edgewood or Magnolia is clearly showing just how selfish they are. HOw would it be handled when all of those parents refused to send their kids to Title 1 schools? My point, stop complaining if your kids are in a great school district and have less then a 20 minute commute.