The Harford County Board of Education plans a number of public meetings on January 13th, starting at noon in Aberdeen with a public input session on the fiscal year 2015 budget, followed by another such session in Bel Air that is also the target of a “Day of Action” by the teachers’ union. The Board’s busy day will end with a business meeting including a presentation by the union on teacher compensation, and the results from a bus transportation study that identifies inefficiencies and makes cost-saving recommendations.
Kicking off the day’s events, the Board will host a public input session on the superintendent’s proposed $457.5 million operating budget for fiscal year 2015, planned from noon to 2:00 p.m. at the Center for Educational Opportunity in Aberdeen.
At 6:00 p.m., the Board plans another budget-only input session, this time at the A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air that the teachers’ union plans to attend in a “Day of Action”. The action is described in a Facebook message from Harford County Education Association President Ryan Burbey as follows:
“HCEA is calling all community members to help us demonstrate our collective frustrations arising out of the Board of Education failing to fund our Negotiated Agreement for 4 out of the past 5 yrs. Monday January 13th will be our 1st Day of Action. Rally at the A.A. Roberty Building at 6 PM, prior to the Board of Education meeting. Arrive by 5:45, to sign-up if you plan to speak. Please attend and speak on behalf of your teachers at the Board of Education Meeting on Monday January 13th.”
Following the public input session on the budget, a regular board business meeting is set to begin at 8:00 p.m.
First on the agenda, Burbey will make a presentation comparing teacher salaries and benefits in HCPS with neighboring counties.
Under new business, Jean Mantegna, assistant superintendent of human resources, will present promotions and appointments recommended by Interim Superintendent Canavan for Board approval.
Next up, the Special Education Citizen Advisory Committee will make its annual presentation and recommendations to the Board.
The published report calls for expanding program options for students with disabilities to support the sensory and behavioral needs of students, and finalizing the committee’s new brochure and web site. Other recommendations include enhancements to classroom support programs and programming for students transitioning into kindergarten, and for students on the autism spectrum.
The results of a $25,000 student transportation study by School Bus Consultants, LLC (SBC) of Annapolis will be presented next, sure to draw interest from parents upset over budget-driven service cuts this school year.
The study gives the HCPS transportation department high marks in many areas, including safety, but found inefficiencies in the bus route structure, particularly in capacity utilization, resulting in higher costs:
“The comparative cost analysis of the HCPS transportation operation in relation to other SBC clients is within expected ranges in most areas, with the notable exception of the cost per student. HCPS’s value in this category is $1,113 per student per year with the comparable systems ranging from $720 to $891 per student per year. HCPS also has a higher rating in the number of buses it takes to transport 100 students with a rating of 1.5 buses per 100 students. The national comparative is 1.0 to 1.3 in this rating. These higher ratings are due to lower capacity usage rating overall of regular route buses and a significant number of countywide bus runs (ex. Magnet Programs) with lower capacities.”
Harford County’s large geographic area and sparse population in the north and west are partly to blame, according to SBC. However, the study concludes that savings can be achieved through the purchase of school transportation routing software to improve the routing structure and increase capacity utilization:
“A fully implemented routing management system will enable HCPS personnel to enhance analysis of the current routing structure including actual versus planned capacities, route timing, student assignments to stops before school starts, effective and efficient routing of buses and automatic assignment of students to stops. These processes are all currently performed manually and involve a significant expenditure of effort while failing to yield the benefits that would derive from an automated system.”
SBC also offers a low-tech recommendation that could mean longer walks to the bus stop:
“SBC recommends that the HCPS establish a walk to stop distance based on the eligibility requirements for transportation. In other words, an elementary student is not eligible for transportation unless he lives more than one mile from school and a secondary student is not eligible for transportation unless he lives more than 1.5 miles from school. Therefore, SBC recommends that a maximum walk to stop distance that is equivalent to eligibility for transportation is established. HCPS may, in practice, employ a distance less than this recommendation but the recommended distances do allow for reductions in the number of required stops and allowing for further streamlining of bus routes to assist in creating more time and capacity.”
In addition, SBC reviewed the school system’s bus contract agreements and recommends enhanced contract language regarding performance expectations and standards, and reconsideration of the comparatively low limit (10%) on the number of total bus routes that can be operated by a single contractor. SBC also notes that the standard approach to contractor compensation in Maryland school systems “treats almost all compensation as a direct pass-through of actual cost, rather than a competitively obtained, contractor proposed rate of compensation.”
However, SBC recommends “a market-based, competitive procurement of services based upon a total price per bus per day, which is the industry standard approach followed throughout most of the country.”
The complete SBC report appears in the link on the agenda below.
Next on the agenda, Kathy Carmello, HCPS facilitator of governmental relations, will present a brochure listing the Board’s legislative position briefs for the 2014 Maryland General Assembly Session. They include:
• support for local control of schools
• full funding for education, including increased state funding to cover inflation
• opposition to unfunded and underfunded mandates
• opposition to mandatory pre-K unless costs are fully borne by the state
• board authority to make final determinations in contract negotiations
• support for making architectural, engineering, and site design costs eligible for state reimbursement
Finally, the meeting will end with the superintendent’s report from Interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan.
Below is the published business meeting agenda, which includes a public comment period at 8:25 p.m. Please note that agendas are subject to change.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Board Closed Session – 5:00 PM – Board Executive Conference Room
Board Work Session – 6:00 PM – Board Room
Board Business Meeting – 8:00 PM – Board Room
*Times are approximate
Call to Order – Mrs. Nancy Reynolds, President
Quorum Roll Call
Adoption of Agenda
Pledge of Allegiance
8:05 PM Presentation by Harford County Education Association (HCEA), Mr. Ryan Burbey, President
8:25 PM Public Comment
8:35 PM A. Consent Agenda:
1) Affirmation of Monthly Contract Awards (Goals 1 – 4)
2) Minutes of Previous Board Meeting: December 16, 2013 (Goals 1 – 4)
3) Special Education Staffing Plan (Goal 3)
8:40 PM B. Decision on Appointments and Promotions, Mrs. Jean A. Mantegna (Goal 3)
8:50 PM C. Presentation on Special Education Citizen Advisory Committee, Ms. Ann-Marie Spakowski (Goal 3)
9:00 PM D. Presentation of Student Transportation Study, Mr. Cornell S. Brown, Jr. and School Bus Consultants (SBC) (Goal 4)
9:20 PM E. Presentation on Legislative Platform and Approval of 2014-15 Brochure, Mrs. Kathy Carmello (Goals 1 – 4)
9:30 PM F. Superintendent’s Report
9:35 PM Future Meetings Review