To the Members of the HCPS Board of Education:
The decision on selecting the school location for the placement of the Biomedical Services Magnet Program is on the BOE agenda for June 23, 2008.
In April, 2006, after the redistricting of secondary schools, enrollment projections for the new secondary school attendance areas were presented. When the grandfathering of redistricted students was complete, BAHS was expected to have 1578 students in 2010. The current Sept. 30, 2007 enrollment projections anticipate 1276 BAHS students in 2010. In less than 18 months, HCPS’s enrollment projection for BAHS shrunk by 302 students, or 19%. Where did the students go?
In May, 2006, the Ed Specs for the new BAHS building included space for the Medical Arts Magnet on the third floor. The issue was brought to the Board for a vote as a highly unusual “non-agenda” item, but was stymied because of the questionable availability of seats to house the program, based on the recent post-redistricting projections noted above. All mention of the magnet program interior design had to be removed from the Ed Specs for the building, although the square footage on the third floor remained as general classroom space. And for 2+ years, the subject has been dormant, and the construction of the new building moved along.
What has changed in the last two years? Two years ago, HCPS needed to attempt to maximize their share of state funding for the new BAHS. How do you maximize state construction money? Show lots of students in the school by maximizing future enrollment “projections”. (Of course, it didn’t work. The IAC saw through the projections, and in June 2007 I contact the IAC, and was told that they could only justify funding for 1023 of the 1668 seats planned for the new BAHS). The problem with the large post-redistricting enrollment projections in 2006 was that it worked against the “magnet concept” of needing sufficient open seats in a school to allow placement of a magnet program.
Now that the state funding issue has been resolved for BAHS, the focus has been changed to finding a home for the Biomedical Services magnet. The Sept. 30 2007 enrollment projections appear to be based more on this magnet placement issue than on demographics. Now we suddenly have room for the magnet program at BAHS! Where did those students go?
Even though the final decision on this issue is only 5 days away, as of the writing of this letter the HCPS Public Information Office is unable to tell me which school is being earmarked for the Biomedical Services Magnet, although all indications point to resurrecting BAHS as the Biomedical Services magnet site.
I would hope that before the Biomedical Magnet is voted upon to be placed in the 3rd floor of the new BAHS building, that the members of the BOE would be concerned enough about the enrollment projection numbers to ask the question – where did those projected students go? Is there truly space for the program in the new BAHS building?
Larry T. English
The effort to hold this vote tonight (June 23) without any notice to the Bel Air community is unconscionable. This item is listed on the agenda as follows:
” Item E: Decision on School Assignment for Biomedical Services Magnet Program – David A. Volrath”
Bel Air HS is the school being recommended for this assignment, but if not for Larry English’s letter to The Dagger, how would the public know? When contacted early last week, the school system would not confirm that Bel Air was the school. The information popped up later on the HCPS website in the form of an exhibit linked to the agenda, but attached to the wrong meeting date. (see hcps.org – Agenda for June 24)
Surprisingly, the rationale notes the magnet is an “excellent fit” with the Bel Air community which has repeatedly questioned the wisdom of putting a magnet program in a school that is inside the development envelope and thus already targeted to absorb future growth. Adding a magnet to this scenario is to invite overcrowding. How is that a “fit”?
That word “services” in biomedical services worries me. Can you define exactly what the SERVICES means in biomedical services ?
Delegate Donna Stifler says
I have decided to attend tonight’s BOE meeting and am looking for as much input from Dagger readers as possible. Please email me at email@example.com with your specific concerns and questions. If there is anything I hate about government, it is inefficiency, and I really want to see if it’s happening at the BOE.
I look forward to your comments and to seeing any of you who go to the meeting tonight.
BTW: After writing a letter to Tom Fidler expressing my concerns about high-school reform, I finally received an email from Dr. Haas secretary asking me for a meeting. If any of you wish to comment on that subject, I am more than happy to take your concerns to her.
Fuzzy math is not new with the school system, as you well know. 50% of the time it is 100% wrong!. Projected enrollments are a moving target–BRAC of course is about as clear as mud. Glad we only lost 19% of those students. Wouldn’t surprise me if we found them after the Magnet is put at BAHS. It will be put at BAHS, I think that was evident long ago. I don’t know that anything tabled by the Board has ever failed or been afforded adequate discussion, it just gets pushed out and thrown in at an opportune time. In the summer is the perfect time to push it through. The Superintendent and the BOE know what is best(just ask them) for all without having “rabble rousers” stirring the pot. Or we could have another independent survey along with the CSSRP to fill up file space. Once again, outstanding communication.
archetypical hero says
I’m confused what there is to vote on…the program is already in place. It was a canned curriculum purchased by the central office
Here’s the link where it reads that Bel Air High IS the school teaching the curriculum…
Cindy–that’s not the first I’ve heard of meeting dates being published incorrectly. The HCPS website advertised the meeting of the school uniform committee on May 16. I had planned to attend with several students, but sadly the meeting was the 15.
Barry Anderson says
In anticipation of your attendance at tonights BOE meeting, I refer you to all that has written about HCPS on this blog.
Biomedical at BAHS is a “cluster” program not a magnet. It is mentioned in “In The Loop” Jan. 22, 2007, that the present program not be confused with the magnet program which had not been placed yet.
And yes, it is strange that the exhibit and dates of the meetings are incorrect.
Larry English says
Below are further comments sent on June 22, 2008:
To the Members of the HCPS Board of Education
The Biomedical Services Magnet Program has been contemplated and considered for placement solely at Bel Air High School for years, well before the creation on a new attendance area for Patterson Mill and the associated redistricting on Secondary Schools County wide in 2006.
As this is an action Item on the June 23, 2008 BOE meeting agenda, and I will not be able to attend that meeting, please consider the following in regard to the exhibit posted for agenda item E:
The background information posted on the website for the June 23, 2008 BOE meeting, suggests that:
1. The magnet would only add 80 to 100 students to the enrollment at BAHS.
The very nature of a magnet program opening the educational opportunity to ALL HCPS students would reasonably draw students from every corner of the county. Suggesting that a lesser number of “out of district” students would be accepted and enrolled into the 200 seat program neither is fair to the county’s interested students nor is it a reasonable assumption.
2. HCPS believed that adequate space existed for the program…several citizens expressed concern and doubt…any decisions to locate the Biomedical Science magnet at BAHS …were deferred until after the redistricting had occurred and a more definitive sense of confidence could be achieved.
Concerns about the excessive student enrollment for BAHS as a result of the “complexities of the redistricting” referred to were brought forward by many citizens before, during, and after the redistricting process. The Administration and the Board should have been well aware of the mathematical discrepancies in student enrollment projections prior to finalizing the April 2006 redistricting plan (which also had to be modified in December 2006 to grandfather FHS 9th graders, as to not excessively overcrowd BAHS during construction).
Listed in the discussion section of the document, based on the information shared by Mr. Licata at the June 16, 2008, CIP presentation, the projected enrollment for BAHS appears to support the housing of the magnet at the new BAHS. In April, 2006, the enrollment projections shared by Mr. Licata’s STAC following the redistricting conversely appeared to support just the opposite, that there would not be seats available to house a magnet program at BAHS.
What is the public to think?
“I’m not comfortable with the numbers” declared board member Pat Hess at the board of education meeting tonight. Despite concerns raised by Hess and several public speakers, including Del. Donna Stifler, about the potential for overcrowding at the new Bel Air High School, the board voted to put the Biomedical Services Magnet Program in Bel Air, 5 to 0 with Hess and Fidler abstaining.
Thanks for the update. I don’t think there were any surpises there. It surprises me the Mr. Hess would question and abstain, if he had real questions why not demand answers(although it would only delay the inevitable). By the way, has anyone ever been comfortable with any numbers provided? In the past, when I had pointed out some inaccuracies in numbers provided to me by the staff, they just said: “Well perhaps we put in the wrong query” and then left it at that even though that mistake continued to be shown on the website. Mr. Fidler has ties somehow to Upper Chesapeake, so he may have abstained because of any hint of impropriety. I believe we all knew that this was a done deal. HCPS just needed to make the numbers match, and they were going to be favorable. They can just continue to redistrict whenever it appears that there is too much overcrowding. Thank you Del Stifler.
Ties to Upper Chesapeake? You mean like the huge signs on the expanded section for a company he happens to be a VP for?
Carl, I think the reason Pat Hess abstained is because he is also on the board of Upper Chesapeake’s Health Foundation. I’m glad to see that both he and Mr. Fidler abstained from the vote but I still have a concern with Mr. Fidler working so hard in brokering this deal. The vote isn’t everything and I believe if there is any chance of a conflict of interest the BOE members should completely remove themselves from all discusions, not just the public vote.
I too am concerned about putting a magnet program in a school where overcrowding is an issue. At the very least, we can’t be sure this isn’t the case. BAHS is in the development envelope, BRAC is coming, and if there is anything we know for sure about HCPS’s projections it is that they are always inaccurate. The Science and Math Academy is already in an overcrowded school. At the meeting last night we kept hearing about all the positive energy. I agree, this is a wonderful program and I am happy to see our tax dollars being spent on gifted children. It is, however, irresponsible to not consider the negative impact on the rest of the student population. The magnet program is given preferencial staffing, so they have a smaller ratio of students to teachers. It is not staffed separately, so this means the rest of the school has a slightly higher student to teacher ratio. We also lose flexibility when we place a magnet program in a school. For example, the goal is to have our classes have 25 students. If you have 50 students wanting to take an Algebra 2 class, you would have 2 classes of 50. If you have 60 students wanting to take an Algebra 2 class the extra students are spread out so you have 2 classes of 30 students. If one of those classes is a magnet class, you would have 1 class of 25 and 1 class of 35. You lose the flexibility of being able to spread out the extra students. It is also important to remember the magnet students still take some classes with the general student population, foreign language, phys ed, band, etc.
These problems are worse in an overcrowded school. We owe it to the rest of the students to minimize the negative impact by placing the magnet in a school where there is room to work around these problems.
Has anyone considered that the price of gas to run buses may adversely impact these types of programs in the future? Some school districts in our country and our state are eliminating bus transportation for more and more students as the cost to run the buses is too much for districts to bear. Transporting students from all over the county to attend an increasing number of magnet programs may become a fiscally irresponsible decision due to continued county development and the subsequent increased traffic and lengthened travel time. This is the school system that always claims to be short on money and the price of gas is not going to recede – only increase.
Also, although Fidler and Hess sis not vote themselves, they got what they promised their buddies at Upper Chesapeake. The deals were already done.
Phil Dirt says
Am I the only one who is against the whole magnet school business? I’ve complained before about the career paths, and this is just another way of trying to get kids to select a possible career long before they have been exposed to the possibilites that are out there. I think high schools should present a well-rounded educational experience to college-bound students, and leave the specialization for the colleges. Come to think of it, as a liberal arts school, my college actually did that, too.
Also, the possibility of using the system for ulterior motives will exist, as it did when the magnet school program was the hot thing in Howard County. For instance, if School A is the Biomedical magnet and School A also has the higest ranked soccer team, students who wished to play soccer at School A would profess an interest in the Biomedical field, denying spots in the magnet program for others who actually are interested.
How about focusing on making this the best school system that it can possibly be, and then add the bells and whistles?
archetypical hero says
According to one HCPS principal–when asked why if the first goal of the CSSRP was to increase academic rigor and the first thing he was doing was cutting AP foreign languages he replied,
“This is public school. If parent’s want those kind of things they can send their kids to private school. We’re a chevy, not a cadillac.”
I have yet to hear anyone articulate what kind of jobs they expect students to get when they graduate from this program. The question has been asked for 2 years but with no answer. You can’t have this be a “vocational” program and a “magnet” program. The last time I checked, what students need to get into the medical field seems universal across the state of Maryland – strong classes in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Microbiology, etc. They also need math and social sciences to get into these programs at the secondary level. There is a demand for jobs like medical assistant, dental assistant, medical transcriptionist, nursing assistants, but according to Dr. Haas, this program is for exceptional students which is who this program is supposed to serve.
By the way, the question was raised about the financial commitment to this project and surprisingly, there is NO answer. These discussions have been in the works for years but we have no idea who is paying for what. At least at Aberdeen, the federal government paid for much of the construction and initial start up cost at the Science and Math Academy. Does anyone think that Upper Chesapeake is going to pay to construct the 3rd floor at Bel Air? They have been having fundraisers for their OWN hospital! The 3rd floor of Bel Air will be for about 10% of the school population but 33% of the building space will be for Upper Chesapeake (and other supposed donors who we don’t know anything about.) I think it is a great idea to expose students to the hospital environment and I still don’t understand why this can’t be accomplished by a class or classes at every school that allow interested students to intern or rotate through Upper Chesapeake. Again, no one has ever addressed that issue and the cry for a magnet program did not come from the Bel Air community. It was decided by Harford County schools because they feel we need to address the shortage of health care workers in the next decade and beyond.
Some of the questions by other Dagger posters have been asked but not answered. There is much concern about transportation costs, enrollment issues and more. I just hope that all of the Board members who voted for this are still around in 5 years because I want to see if they have the nerve to stand up and say that they were 100% unconcerned that there isn’t going to be an overcrowding problem at Bel Air. Maybe they should reconsider adding capacity to Edgewood because that is the school with a big enrollment drop and many of those citizens have been clamouring for more vocational training for years, but I guess it doesn’t matter what they want.
Maybe you could put a Marine Biology magnet over there since it is close to the water…
Frustrated to say the least. In an ideal world every 12 year old would know what they wanted to do for the rest of their life, and in middle school they could start on that path. HOWEVER it is a bit unrealistic to think a 12 year old in middle school Or a 14 yr old in high school has enough insight into the world to know this.
Part of the CSSRP, which is forcing high schoolers to select career pathways is doing just that…although a well know HCPS official stated to the effect- students will definitely be able to select classes outside of this pathway. It is not happening–kids are lucky to get their schedule requests as it is…ask any high school guidance counselor.
I have yet to talk to a parent who sees any tangible benefit to the pathway.
A magnet school is similar; in theory to collaborate with the business-“biomedical” community sounds great, but if the program is for the highly talented math and science student…we already have this magnet. If it is to expose students to what various medical fields are out there…then why are we only doing this for the 200 lucky students in the biomedical pathway?
Hey why not include this in the mandatory Living in the Contemporary World class?? This way every high school freshmen would learn about health care!!
After all there are students who are leaning towards the Arts that might find there is a related field in health care. I agree with Kate…what jobs is this magnet preparing kids for??
Unfortunately the magnet concept is here to stay, and lets hope the BOE is right this time otherwise the poor students who live in BAHS district will have to eat lunch in the gym hallway, and share books….it has happened before.
The concern that Bel Air HS will be overcrowded with the addition of a magnet program is based on the fact that it will be an attractive, state-of-the-art facility with high test scores in the heart of the development envelope, with plenty of older neighborhoods for young families to settle into, with comprehensive re-zoning bringing the potential for new residential development in addition to planned construction in the district, with questionable enrollment projections reflective of an unusual dip in the national real estate market and no consideration for the impact of the tidal wave coming with BRAC. And according to the schools’ director of planning and construction there was no hurry to make a decision on the placement of the magnet program now. But the board voted for it any way. Kind of explains the whole push for an elected school board in a nutshell.
Ok, so the magnet programs available now or are planned in the county are:
Aberdeen – science and math academy
Bel Air – biomedical services
Edgewood – Global Studies Program / International Baccalaureate
Harford Tech – I guess one giant magnet
Joppatowne – homeland security
While they are at it, they might as well come up with some for the remaining schools. Any ideas? Here are some (just for fun!!!!!!) 🙂
Havre de Grace – Maritime Management – I know someone willing to teach Yacht Basin Management 101
North Harford – too easy… I’ll leave it alone
Patterson Mill – I hear the exposed wires outside the school would be perfect for future Electricians
Fallston and CMW – ???
Wasn’t there a push several years ago to bring an Arts Magnet to Bel Air High School? The idea being that it would go hand-in-hand with the big Arts/Convention Center the Town of Bel Air had been trying to build on the land across from the library and the parking garage.
I guess that never came to pass when the idea of the convention center lost its steam.
I seem to remember that Havre de Grace High was in the running for the Arts Magnet program. I guess that means it gets it now by default.
How about putting the Music Magnet at CMW? After all that’s where I got my musical start – up on stage at the Battle of the Bands with an electric guitar in my hands and a mohawk on my head. Go Big Blue!
Wouldn’t that be “Go Baby Blue!”?
Steve, Add to your list an agriculture magnet that was approved for North Harford.