In a letter addressed to the Board of Education President Patrick Hess this week, County Council President Billy Boniface expressed concern the Board of Ed was moving ahead with work on Schucks Road Elementary before proper funding had been established for the new school.
In the single-page letter, which is dated Tuesday, Boniface requested the Board of Education “hold off on any further expenditure at this site” until Councilman Dick Slutzky can finish his investigation and provide a report on the project.
From the letter, Boniface wrote:
“It has come to the Council’s attention that the Board is moving forward with expenditures at the Schucks Road School site that have been apportioned by the Council but do not actually exist until the County Executive requests a future bond sale and the Council approves it. The Council has concerns about proceeding with any capital project in this manner and, we request that you hold off on any further expenditures at this site until Councilman Slutzky can provide the Council with a report. I would then request time to discuss the Council’s concerns with you.”
This letter begs many questions, most immediately – How can the Board of Education spend funds that don’t exist?
Unlike the operating budget, in which funds can be moved around within broad categories, the capital budget is divided into projects, i.e. Bel Air High School modernization, Southampton Middle School HVAC replacement or a new school like Campus Hills Elementary , a.k.a Schucks Road – (as an aside, while all this is going on the Board of Education is busy reopening the decision on naming the school so they can rename it after Dr. Haas.) Transfers of funds between capital projects must be approved by the County Council. So funds intended for Red Pump (which the Board of Education decided to halt) cannot be used for Campus Hills since there has been no request by the Board to the Council to approve a transfer.
Is the Board of Education “forward funding” the Schucks/Campus/Haas project, and if so, where did it get the money to pay for the plans, design contracts and the presentation made by Site Resources, Inc. at the Development Advisory Committee meeting on this project? The money to pay Site Resources had to come from somewhere. And how much money are we talking about?
If the County Executive doesn’t request the bond sale (referred to in the letter) or if the Council doesn’t approve it, will the Board of Education have to eat whatever they’ve spent to date, when its budget is already stretched thin?
Finally, is this the way the Board of Education routinely does business or did they get caught the one and only time they raided the cookie jar?
How dare the Council President question the duly elected officials of the school board? Oh wait, the Council President and the Council are elected to represent the people who have to pay the freight and the school board can do whatever it wants and answer to no one. Maybe there’s something wrong with the system.
vietnam vet says
I think it’s apparent’ there not working together. it will be interesting to see how this ”Blunder” came about. and who is willing to take the blame.
Kudos to the Co. Council on this.
I would expect that questions the council asked on the latest switch of elementary schools will now be answered. Basically, what are the pros and cons of the BOE’s decision. The detail and transparency of the information that will be provided by HCPS should be closely scrutinzed though. Transparency is not the BOE’s or staffs strongest suit, although they trumpet that it is. This request may set off Mr. Smilko again who has many times chatised the Council for interferring in school matters.
HCPS, the County Executive, and the County Council had been walking merrily along hand in hand in hand for the past several years, on the path to build 2 new elementary schools. Each year’s enrollment projections seemed to indicate that they were still on the right path, needing not 1, but 2 new schools to address elementary overcrowding. Even after this year’s enrollment projections were published in November, the 3 parties were apparently still unified and satisfied that the projections indicated the need for 2 new elementary schools.
Then came the surprise press conference by HCPS and the County Exec. to only build 1 school and switch projects from Red Pump to Schucks Road. Someone forgot to let the County Council in on the plan, and they are understandably upset. All 3 parties must be on the same page to get the job done.
I hope that the parties involved can quickly get past the bickering finger pointing, and get back on track to at least build one of the schools at one of the sites, which would clearly be in the best interest of the students of HCPS. At the rate that the roadblocks are being set up, what had been projected as the 2010 opening of Red Pump, and the 2011 opening of Schucks Road, may see any additional elementary capacity pushed into 2012 or beyond.
In reflecting on this, I wish that the BOE had the threat of no funding over their heads when they ignored Councilman Slutzky’s well-prepared questions concerning the CSSRP. I don’t believe he will be so easily blown off this time.
At a recent PTA meeting, several parents raised the issue of CSSRP with board member Mark Wolkow. I specifically asked about Councilman Slutzky’s questions and whether they would be answered. Mark Wolkow suggested they had already been answered in a letter, but according to Slutzky, there has been no response. Anyway, why would the school board answer a public request for information which was made on behalf of the public, with a private letter?
One of Slutzky’s questions was about LICW. The independent review done by Leadership Capacity, Inc. last April said there was universal agreement among all stakeholders that LICW was a “waste of time” At our PTA meeting, one parent said her 14 year old twins were taking LICW now and learning how to fill out tax returns!
I know some teachers are struggling to make this class meaningful, but they shouldn’t be put in that position in the first place.
When are we going to see action on LICW, at least? This class steals valuable instruction time from math, science, English and social studies in 9th grade. If it isn’t working, at least give the kids a study hall so they can put the time to better use.
There are some great responses and questions asked as well as a general theme. The theme: Where is the accountability of the Board of Education?? That to me is the problem in this situation. They feel they have the overall ability to act as they want, which would be a bit ok if they were elected. They have been appointed and there is nothing that we as citizens can do about their actions. Do to that, they are above criticism and above being held responsible to the citizens who pay taxes and contribute to their funding. The problem of course: We Have No Recourse as to who makes up the BOE.
The other problem is that for years it has been an absolute joke as to how the BOE has typically rubber stamped whatever Mrs. Haas has wanted as well as the other “higher ups.” Why don’t they ask questions, listen to parents or teachers? In the end, the BOE just followed along with the HCPS. I do not mean to be harsh but in the High School Reform Movement, the Superintendent and top people made the decisions as to what would be done, PERIOD!! Of course, they can’t admit they made mistake and change things, it is easier to try to sweep the mistakes under the rug and hope parents don’t notice or just don’t care enough to be active. I think that is why there hasn’t been a strong reaction by parents to the outside groups advice about the CSSRP as well as the simple results of the report.
The other stakeholders had no input or if input was given in the HS Reform, it didn’t matter as “they” had made their decision as to what would be implemented. I believe some of them actually used the HS Reform and the Implementation as part of their Masters Thesis or To get Credit Toward Their Doctorate. I was told that one of the higher ups led a conference in Vegas about changing a system against conflict or something along those lines. Due to that, you better believe the plan would be implemented regardless if parents, students, and teachers felt it was not the best decision for kids and learning. A novel thought of course, what is best for kids and learning. Many of the new reforms were implemented in other MD counties and other states a long time ago, only to be changed.
I agree with what Cindy and PWH bring up, which is the CSSRP report. People need to listen to Dick Slutzky. He was a long time educator and coach, who hasn’t forgotten what it is like to be in the trenches. Too many people in the nice new administration building forget what the trenches are like and what it is like working with kids. They need to understand that the classroom is the real-world, not some lab. Mr. Slutzky knows and asks the questions that should be asked but more importantly as a County Councilman, must be asked. In fact, the questions that all parents, teachers, and students should ask.
No BOE member is above answering any question, who do they think they are? They are not above anybody and it is that attitude that angers the stakeholders. Has Mr. Wolkow ever taught a class? Has any of the Board Members? If so, how long or how long ago? Be mature and responsible individuals and answer Dick Slutzky’s questions.
It is worrisome to see this type of action because they select the next Superintendent. So, here are some questions that need to be answered and some that parents must bring to their attention.
1. When will we see action in regards to LICW?
(Look at what the people said in regard to it and what has been done? Prinipals, supervisors, teachers and students all agree it is a waste of time. Is it the best use of trained professionals? Why is it a year class? Why do freshman take it?
If freshman register soon, I would imagine they will register for a year of this class so we go another year of wasted time?? Here is the action: Change book they read to Inventing Elltiot.)
Great point Cindy!!! I am sure many people read that article written by the Patterson Mill girl about LICW. I wish I had a link to it.
2. Do you plan on evauluating the HS Reform plan with the same outside group so we can see the progress? The same group though.
3. What is the Board specifically looking for in the next Superintendent?
4. What do you honestly think about the CSSRP and what will you do to support the recommendations?
Gotta go. Out of breath. Any thoughts??
Here’s the link for the wonderful post on LICW http://www.daggerpress.com/2008/08/24/student-voice-living-in-a-contemporary-world85-minutes-at-a-time/
As usual, Renandstimpy, you hit the nail on the head. The BOE is accountable to no one. The County Council can try and withhold money, but then the BOE cuts funding the special ed. or cuts teachers, the parents scream, and the funding is restored. No one at the Taj Mahal ever gets cut. In fact, they added another $100K central office position into this year’s budget. But somehow there’s no money for the 12th grade teachers at Patterson Mill.
The last school district I lived in at 22,000 students and the “central office” was housed in 4 trailers next to one of the high schools. We had programs HCPS can’t even imagine, because the money went to the schools, not the administration. The ELECTED BOE made sure that happened.
I realize that this has nothing to do with the Shucks Rd. school situation, but I would like to comment on LICW. I. too, feel that LICW should be replaced with a more worthwhile class. In speaking to business people and even other educators, one of the skills that many, if not the majority of students lack going into the workforce or college is the ability to communicate, either in writing or speaking. Why not have a class devoted to writing?? I realize that we have English classes, but let’s have good old fashioned writing, you know grammar, puncutation, organization, etc… Or, Speech. Many students cannot stand up in front of a group of people and present an idea. I realize that many students may go on to college and take Speech, but wouldn’t it be great if high school students could have at least half a year of Speech.
Let’s listen to the business community and better prepare our students to communicate.
PWH: I think there is to look for alternatives as to what will help prepare kids for the workforce. I think a Speech class is a valuable class.
Margaret: I couldn’t agree more with you!! The question is this, How do we make parents aware of the real information and evaluation of LICW by teachers, principals, supervisors. This simply astounds me that these individuals feel this class is just an absolute waste!!!!!
Then you throw the students and parents on top of it and we see a year of wasted time but as long as the BOE can sweep under the rug and the parents dont demand changes, they will keep it.
I think the CSSRP evaluation and recommendation in regards to LICW should also be something that is a link, if I had the time I would do it but got to run.
In regards to Schucks Road, what are the plans for John Archer when they move that population to Bel Air Middle? That has been in the works for a few years now and no answer on what the school system wants to do with that property.
As stewards of the taxpayer dollars and since housing values are decreasing, I am grateful that the County Council is doing its job by providing oversight for these type of expenditure requests. It seems like some appointed people have forgotten that it is the TAXPAYER money they are trying to spend and we are owed a reasonable explanation.
It is really bad when you violate the public trust because every action or decision you make ends up being tainted with doubt. As evidenced by statements in this thread, the school system has lost the trust of many of the pubilc with their inability or refusal to address many of the issues with CSSRP. I still have yet to hear how students of this county have benefited from 50+ less hours/year of instruction time in Math, English, Government, Foreign Language, and Science for LICW.
No wonder the BOE has a Legislative Platform against elections …
I have an idea: let’s have new curriculum–LIRW (Living in the Real World) and develop a solid college prep curriculum. Speech was college prep 100 years ago when I was in high school–in a different state of course. Speech is a great class and its curriculum can easily incorporate research on the issues of the day. How difficult is that?
But the bigger issues are still acquiring solid writing skills, math skills, and higher level thinking skills. And I am nearly certain that I will be slammed to the ground for this, but most of the teachers in HCPS are trained at a handful of colleges (I will not name names), so their backgrounds and experiences are very limited even before they set foot in the classroom. A bit off topic as well…
How about college prep as choice for a career pathway for 8th graders to select from? It might be the one pathway that 13 year olds could choose and follow throughout high school.
Phil Dirt says
Kate – I hope that HCPS uses the John Archer site for an expansion of Harford Tech. It is an underappreciated asset to the county, and I would much rather have it expanded than dilute its mission by farming out portions of the vocational-technical curriculum to the other high schools. I am firmly opposed to the idea of magnet schools for various reasons (that’s a subject for another post), except for ones in the model of Tech.
I would love to see college prep as a career pathway. Last year, while going through the high school registration process with my daughter, I realized that this alternative was lacking. The pathway options were almost laughable: lawyer and legal secretary were on the same pathway. Aerospace engineer and airline mechanic were on the same pathway. Most other engineers were grouped with the building trades and told they should go to Harford Tech. Oops, too late to
I’d love to see the college prep curriculum offer 1) Biology in 9th grade, 2) 4 years of foreigh language, 3) speech/ writing class (Judy’s LIRW) 4) Pre-calc and trig condensed into 1 class (yes, this can be done with the right textbook) 5) 50 hours of community service. Not the school’s “service learning” but real “get your hands dirty, get out of your comfort zone” community service.
I can dream…
I can hear the frustration in everyone’s responses. It is SO sad that our appointed board will not listen to those who suffer through the outcome of the Central Administration experimenting with our children. Whether it’s the students, the parents, the teachers, the guidance counselors, or others who have to sit and watch as our children are treated as guinea pigs, the BOE continues to ignore our suggestions and opinions.
Now, more than ever, we need to push for a FULLY elected school board. And if this can’t happen this year, I’m willing to gamble and wait until 2010 to vote Mary Delaney-James out of office. Than maybe we can pass a fully elected board which is accountable to the taxpayers of this county.
By the way Larry, I’m with you. Why not a college-prep “career path”? Would any board member like to comment on that??
I can tell you that I would imagine they would tell you that all of the classes are College Prep or when I went to HS in Harford County, CM classes. They simply do not have the CP or CM label on them. That is what I would imagine they would tell you in regards to a college prep carreer path.
That is at least what they have indicated to the teachers from what I have been told.
About another subject: at 11:58 they still were going to have the meeting at Fallston HS in regards to what parents want in their new Superintendant. Go figure, this works out well for them. Have the meeting, bad weather will keep people away, and then they can say nobody really cared or had input about the situation. The other meeting, which is at Havre de Grace HS, is scheduled for tommorrow.
I still ask: Where does the Teaches Union stand on the new Superintendent and the issues facing HCPS???????? Do
I think we should nonstop e-mail the BOE about the issues we discuss here on a regular basis.
The designation CM (Certificate of Merit) for classes was stopped in 2004 when the State stopped issuing Certificates of Merit. Those classes are now designated CP (College Prep). I believe that students can choose what level of class to sign up for when they register for classes. (General, CP, or AP/Honors). I think that “college-prep ” would be considered a broader designation than the career pathways (Which really don’t change the graduation requirements much — they just narrow down which electives the students would be taking — it’s only 4 credits + 2 foreign language credits beyond the normal grad requirements) Students still have to take the 17.5 required classes for graduation (4 English, 4 Math, 3 Social Studies, 3 Science, Fine Art, Phys. Ed, Foundations of Tech, Health). Those classes are where the College Prep Classes would be. It’s a separate category from the 4 Career Pathway Credits.
Here’s the rub. If students are offered a truly challenging college prep curriculum, they don’t have time to take a bunch of experimental filler career path classes. If they want to be truly competitive for top tier colleges, they need four years of foreign language–not two. They need to take the AP classes that are the top level in a series of classes. For example, AP calculus after Algebra, geometry, pre-calc (and the private prep schools do pre-calc for their top math students and lower track kids take trig…I think the trig is included in the pre-calc for the top math kids). The two AP English classes in 11th and 12th grade, etc. The prep-school counselors call the classes like AP Psych and AP Environmental Science JV AP. Students’ transcripts need to show that they have taken progressively more challenging classes.
Most (at least many) of the very best students are also musicians and with the career cluster junk, they are having a hard time getting music, core classes, and foreign language scheduled. They have to sacrifice something. It isn’t fair to our very best students.
Now this is speaking only toward college prep, but face it, many of our kids are planning to go to college. The tech school is a great idea, but it needs to be technical. Many of the programs it currently offers could be well served by college prep: nursing and sports medicine for example. I know I want my nurses to be trained in college, not high school.
Oh, to answer PDC…Students at Bel Air High School have to test for 9th grade honors classes. Patterson Mill requires a teacher’s recommendation for 9th grade honors classes. Once kids reach the higher levels, they may pick AP classes; they do not need to qualify by testing. I do not know about the other tracks.
At Bel Air, Students need to test to get into Honors classes in 9th grade. They do not have to test to take CP classes or AP classes.
Also, there is a Fine Art career cluster, so musicians , artists or drama students can use that as their completer program while still taking higher level core classes. 2 other foreign language credits can be taken as electives…
One of the few benefits of the block schedule is that students are able to take 32 classes throughout four years as students (as opposed to 28 with a 7 period day)…
While I don’t really like the Career cluster idea, it’s really not more restrictive than the previous completer courses that were offered…In fact, it allows for more varied ways to make sure those completer programs are finished. Students who do have a desire to take more music classes can use those credits for their completer instead of using up elective slots for them…
The main problem is that they have to start planning these tracks of study earlier on, when they might not really know which direction they want to go…although most 9th grade schedules are pretty standard…It’s not until later that students have more open space to take other classes…
You are right, PDC, about the arts cluster, which is a great idea. However, the problem is that courses like orchestra, concert band, wind band, and higher level languages (other than Spanish) are taught one block. So if a student is in say wind band, it might be the same block as German three; the student has to choose (this is an actual Bel Air High School example). I know another student who had to choose between orchestra and French at Patterson Mill. A student I know at the science and math academy couldn’t get into AP Spanish or Spanish four because of band; that student takes advanced health to fill the slot–now that is college prep. Another block schedule problem is finding 32 classes that don’t look like filler (and that aren’t actually filler).
Now, the counselors tell the kids that they only need two years of a foreign language and even college catalogs may state that, but if a student wants to go to a competitive college, that student will be competing against kids who have four years of foreign language. What looks better, AP Spanish or advanced health?
On paper the block schedule and career clusters work, but in reality they don’t. If a student has to choose between a graduation requirement (career cluster requirement) and something that will be better for college, he knows that he has to graduate to go to college. It is a problem no one is thinking about.
Our family is finishing up the college search process (one senior), so I have a fairly clear idea of what colleges are looking for. It isn’t career cluster filler that HCPS students are getting.
I understand what you are saying PDC. I was merely saying that when the regular student signs up for classes, he is taking College Prep classes according to the county. If you take honors classes, you need to do something extra (test or teacher recommendation) and if you are taking general classes you are generally a special education student that is NOT on track for a regular diploma. So I was merely putting myself in the place of HCPS and I am sure that is how they would respond as to the question of College Prep classes. It doesn’t in any way mean I agree with them, but I bet that is what they would say.
I agree with Judy that in theory and in talk the Career Clusters work and may sound great but the real world doesn’t operate in theory and that is a major problem with the situation in schools at this point. The same goes with the block schedule, it sounds great to get 32 credits/classes but in reality it doesn’t work.
I think that is the problem with the people who came up with the HS Reforms. They are out of the classroom and out of the schools, they live in that world of “theory” and “research” but the problem is they aren’t around kids and the real world implications.
The same with the BOE! They took the word of HCPS hook, line and sinker in regards to the HS Reform. They haven’t been in the classroom if they have, I bet they were taken in a higher level class to observe or a lower level class that was prepped. Not the real world with children with real world problems, academically and socially.
In the real world, as Judy mentioned, advanced students will get blocked out of certain classes such as language. Especially, if there is one teacher that is teaching that certain langueage. The Block doesn’t work so tough luck! Colleges do want to see 4 years of a language and should. You know they have to ask, “Why didn’t that student take the language all 4 years? Are they lazy? What is going on there?” It is the school systems rigidity to make every school the same although all schools shouldn’t be due to the uniqueness on the clientele they have.