Saturday, March 17, 2018

Expanding County Flexibility Opens the Door on School Construction

Zach Hands
Conduit Street

MACo Research Director Robin Eilenberg testified in support on Senate Bill 1145, “County Boards of Education – Leasing of School Property”, before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 15, 2018. This bill gives counties significant flexibility in finding alternative means of financing school construction.
Among the newfound authorities granted to counties are:
1. the ability to use alternative financing methods;
2. engage in competitive negotiation, including construction management at–risk arrangements;
3. accept unsolicited proposals for the development of public schools;
4. Use quality–based selection, in which selection is based on a combination of qualifications and
cost factors, to select developers and builders; AND
5. Lease property from a county or private entity for use as a public school.
Read more HERE

Friday, March 16, 2018

Funding Bolsters Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program

Zach Hands
Conduit Street

MACo submitted written testimony in support with amendments of House Bill 1235, “Maryland Meals for Achievement In-Classroom Breakfast Program – Eligibility and Annual Appropriation”, to the House Ways and Means Committee on March 13, 2018.
The bill allows schools that fall below 40% of students that qualify for the free and reduced-price meal (FRPM) program to remain eligible for one year following the fall below the 40% threshold. This allows schools that experience an anomaly in those eligible for the program to not lose eligibility from what could be a blip on the radar.
Additionally, the bill requires the governor to appropriate 11.9 million to the Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) program annually. MACo generally supports the principles of the bill, but is seeking an amendment that would not make the annual allocation concrete, so as to not potentially siphon off resources from other educational priorities.
Read more HERE

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Notes from Board of Education Meeting, 3/13/18

The Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, March 13 will be re-broadcast on Comcast Channel 96, Verizon FIOS Channel 12 and is available via webstream at . To view the full agenda and the various reports, please visit BoardDocs .

The below notes are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the Board of Education meetings and are provided as a request from my supporters and the general public in a personal effort to be more transparent. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes.

Executive session – 11:30 a.m.
Call to order – 1 p.m. - Pledge of Allegiance, Westlake High School
Recognition of students for state accomplishments
Superintendent’s update - Report
Correspondence/Board Member updates
  • will update

Education Association of Charles County update - Report

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees update - Report

Student Board Member update - Report

2019-20 calendar - Report
  • Kelly - Feb 12th early dismissal could we do the 14th instead?  We have trouble with staff coverage when early dismissal days on Friday.
Eligibility - Report
  • Kelly - 6th vs 9th grade - they are already adhering to eligibility in MS, why go back
  • Abell - No maximum on absences
  • Lukas - What is keeping kids ineligible; grades or absences
  • Marshall - Can 9th graders start eligible?extracurricular activity introductions
  • Kelly - lower GPA to 2.0 for middle school
  • McGraw - interested in allowing 8th graders to start off in 9th grade and muddy waters by lowering grade
  • Abell - staff provide information Mr. Lukas requested and come to work session prepared to make a decision in order to to implement for next school year.
Community outreach programs
  • Reading Partner Program - Contact Kim Hudler to get involved.
  • Alpha Phi Alpha-SAL William Franklin and Derrick Terry - encourage students to go to high school and go to college; meets monthly; Alpha Lights now implemented in middle school; $17k in scholarships; role models and mentors.
  • Arline Arnold - Arnold House - Backpack Program.  Discreetly snack bags are placed in backpacks for smaller and lockers for HS.  Food enough for all of for field trips, caps and gown, loaded backpacks of school supplies.
  • WatchDogs - "Dads of Great Students" - @ Mt. Hope Nanjemoy - provide male role models at school; dads volunteer, grandfathers, uncles, etc.   Over 130 showed up on first night.  Berry does as well.
  • Dadvisory Council - Increase presence of male role models in Title 1 schools; soliciting barber shops
Project status update  - Report

Feasibility study on elementary enrollment - Report
  • Kelly - what would the numbers be if we only stopped new construction students
  • Lukas - cost vs relief for small number of students.  Possibly go ahead and redistrict those already slated to be redistricted EXCEPT those going to Billingsley 
Unpaid meal balance program - Report
  • Kelly - doesnt affect free meals.
  • McGraw - why a cheese sandwich?  Most economical.
  • Abell - why full meals and not a la carte. (because we dont get any funding for a la carte)
  • Application now online for free/reduced meals
  • Donations should be made at individual schools to the principals to distribute.
Activity bus expenses 
  • $138 per day per bus x 7 buses for every week of school year would be $36k; 4 days a week, 2 departure schedules, multiple buses $524k
  • Audit previously identified it as not a good use of funds
  • Palko - request principals comments
Legislative update - Report

  • HB1815/SB1258 - put gambling money in trust fund and supplemental to education fund for safety + initiatives; MABE supports
  • HB1697/SB ??? - Fix the Fund - supplement education funding
  • HB1816/SB1257 - Safe Schools Act, take money from other bill and set aside for emergency safety plans and security support.
  • HB1783 - 21st century school act - not commissioned recommendations and increases state funding for education
  • Kelly - Sick Leave bill was passed in last session but vetoed by the governor and assembly override.  it's in effect.
  • Lukas - HB1415 - Bridge to Kirwan; commission recommendations implementation.  not full funding but does increase funding.  alot of programs are grants.
  • Lukas - SB1060 - Discrimination, private schools getting state funding cannot discriminate.
  • Crawford - HB760 - Handgun school employees; MABE opposes; why if it allows local control.
  • Crawford - HB 1461 - criminal immigration; MD sanctuary state.  
Unfinished business
  • Appoint committee members for system goals
    • Kelly, McGraw (chair) and Crawford
  • Policy 4000 series committee update 
    • Palko and McGraw met with staff and will hopefully present in April
  • “Be the Difference” Award committee update
    • Kelly - brief description; 5 award categories; deadline April 1st
New business 

  • Lukas - Write letters/emails to legislators in support of specific bills (HB1697, HB1415, SB1060)

Future agenda items
  • Marshall - Discipline and behavior in schools; restorative circles
    • May Meeting
  • Crawford - School Safety suggestions (visible police presence and volunteer presence, staff conceal carry, non-secretarian religious influence, name badges for students)
  • Abell - Decoding Dyslexia/ASDEC; Teen Pregnancy Program TAPP; interested in name badges as well with barcodes for library, lunches, grades, attendance, bus, etc.
  • Carter - Student ID Cards could be used by simply adding to a lanyard.
Recognition – 4:30 p.m.
  • Resolutions
    • Month of the Young Child;  Accepting: Diana Laco, kindergarten teacher, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School; Izaiah Simon, Christian Newton and Samantha D'Ambrosio, kindergarten students, Jenifer
    • National Student Leadership Week;
      Accepting: Student Leaders:  
      Drew Carter, student Board member; St. Charles High School; Katie Willett, alternate student Board member, Henry E. Lackey High School; Jordyn Best, student liaison, North Point; Elizabeth Braziel, student liaison, Thomas Stone High School; Joyah Magee, student liaison, Maurice J. McDonough High School; Thomas Rahill, student liaison, Westlake High School; Shaun Burroughs, student liaison, La Plata High School
  • Students
    • Nicholas Kootsikas, III, twelfth grade; Academic Achievement; Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, Principal: Lynn Arnold, Ed.D.
    • Tahirah Turnage, eighth grade; Academic Achievement; Matthew Henson Middle School; Principal: Christina Caballero
    • Ava Rowledge, fifth grade; (Rescheduled from January); Academic Achievement; Dr. James Craik Elementary School; Principal: Michelle Beckwith
    • Michaela Anderson, fifth grade; Personal Responsibility; Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School; Principal: Nancy Seifert
    • Melanie Urrego, fifth grade; Career Readiness; Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School; Principal: Orlena Whatley
    • Julie Perriello, fifth grade; Academic Achievement; William B. Wade Elementary School; Principal: Kevin Jackson, Sr.
  • Employees
    • Marilin Musser, Spanish teacher, Stethem
    • Brian Palko, Gateway teacher, Henson
    • Hope Warren, special education instructional assistant, Craik
    • Elaine Coombs, special education teacher, Jenifer
    • Deepa Patel, secretary to the principal, Mudd
    • Laura Curry, instructional resource teacher, Wade
    • Brandon Simpson, food service manager, St. Charles High School, Principal: Richard Conley
Public Forum – 6 p.m.
  • Sylvia Green - daughter has tried talking to admin and principal; issue of bullying. Some get in trouble and some do not. Standards Should be across the board. Somers.
  • Bill Dotson - LPHS - walk out planned for tomorrow.  Initial letter on 3/7 sounded like system was condoning. Should not be gathering outside.  Not an organic movement in Charles County.
  • Chris Cherest - Concern about giving children 'rights'.  Children need guidance.  Relationships not being built.  No moral fiber.  Disrespect for life.  Violent video games.  Killing babies.  His gun has not loaded itself or tried to shoot him.  Kids should not run the asylum.
  • Doug Sayers - 4 children in CCPS.  Walk-Out.  Who knew what when?  Walk out is a political organized event.  Letter from Supt went out before elected members were told.  Supt. approved and didnt get guidance.  Already have a class action law suit.  what is your safety plan.   who signed off on safety plan.  Congressman invited to speak to students.
  • Ed Erslev - lived in CC for 43 years.  Walk out.  was the board consulted or did the Superintendent act on her own.  Board is not acting as Board.  Very Dangerous.
  • Sasha Barnes - Student - Called names on bus, some racial.  was humiliated.  no other sudents stepped in and intervened.  made fun of for her hair.  happens to friends as well.  Toxic environment in school and most people don't know what happens.  Need more cultural education in school at a young age. 
  • Tak Matto - 5th grade band at Higdon Mitchell Craik - conflict with band GTT program at some middle schools.  Students are opting out of band to fit the requirement.
  • Latrina Carr - volunteer in CCPS for 17 years.  Dance coach at TS for last 6 years.  They practice hard.  Fundraising during games only for certain sports?   Principal asked for performance during the game and fundraise.  Then later was told by the AD that they couldnt perform or fundraise.  Stuck with additional product and loss.  
  • Marisa Johnson - TS Dance Team member.  AD doesnt show respect to team or recognize them as a sport.  Student was told they were not allowed to be recognized.  Wants recognition and respect.
  • Jasmine Jones - TS Dance team member - dance team is mistreated, unfunded, not in yearbook, and labeled as a club not a sport.  The team has been discouraged. Not allowed to stay after performance.  wants to be treated equally and with respect.
  • Carl Grevey - 6th grade at Milton Somers; asked the supt for a camera on the bus.  it happened for about 2 weeks and then the camera was gone.  Driver is very nice.  Son asked for help on the bus today because he is being bullied and driver refused.  Has also talked to Palko and Lukas.  wants camera on bus so son can feel safe.  Please.
  • Tracey Wolfe - Decoding Dylexia - it's imperative we learn how to identify these struggling readers early.  Been advocating for daughter for over a year to no avail.  If the teacher doesnt havent the training she cant help.  Frederick County just signed a contract with ASDEC to train over 100 teachers.  Husband went through CCPS with un-diagnosed dyslexia.  Please.
Action items
Motion to approve the minutes by Abell; Second by McGraw
Yes = Abell, Crawford, Kelly, Lukas, Marshall, McGraw, Palko
  • Personnel
Motion to approve personnel by Abell; Second by Kelly
Yes = Abell, Crawford, Kelly, Lukas, Marshall, McGraw, Palko

Conflict and Consistency in County, School Board Views on School Construction


On March 8, the 21st Century School Facilities Act was heard in the House Appropriations Committee. Both MACo and MABE took a position of support with amendments, speaking in favor of the bill overall, but providing some suggestions on concerns.
Commonly held areas of agreement on the legislation included that the State maintain strong fiscal support for school construction, that the State continue to fund systemic maintenance projects, and that local governments continue to have authority over school construction priorities.

However, there were also differences.
Read more HERE.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Improve State Assessment of School Construction Needs


House Bill 1495 would establish educational facilities sufficiency standards and a facility condition index and use the index to rank all of Maryland’s public schools. This can help accurately inform the State and counties about what school construction needs exist here in Maryland. However, the indexing of facilities through a ranking system are a concern because it would be difficult for the index to properly take into account all of the factors and priorities that go into local decision making with school construction.
MACo Research Director Robin Eilenberg testified in support with amendments of HB 1495 before the House Appropriations Committee on March 8, 2018.

Read more HERE.

State cop offers free active shooter training to schools

Marty Madden
The Baynet

Prince Frederick, MD - The fear that a violent incident similar to the one that occurred Valentine’s Day at a Florida high school could happen in Southern Maryland prompted a second community meeting to discuss the issue. The latest session was held Wednesday, March 7 at the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department. While several parents, teachers, concerned citizens and local elected officials spoke during the meeting, one of the more memorable individuals addressing the meeting was a graduate of Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS). The speaker, Tfc. Casey Ruth of the Maryland State Police (MSP) (pictured, above), graduated from Northern High School in 2008. She is currently assigned to the MSP’s Leonardtown Barrack. Ruth is an instructor in civilian response to active shooter events (CRASE).

Read more HERE.

Progress is Slow, But More Certain on School Construction


Legislation based on a statewide school construction Commission’s findings is introduced in the General Assembly, and it is off to a good start.
The 21st Century School Facility Commission’s work took place over two years, and the legislation, HB 1783, is a late-introduction in the 2018 Session. However a quickly-scheduled hearing that included much support indicates positive outlook for the bill – which includes many elements that have been the subject of MACo advocacy for more than 5 years.

Martin Knott, the Chair of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission called the legislation “an amazing step forward” and applauded his “Commission members who worked on this for two years.”
Red more HERE.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Agenda for Board of Education Meeting, 3/13/18

The Board of Education’s next monthly meeting is Tuesday, March 13, at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building on Radio Station Road in La Plata. The public portion of the meeting begins at 1 p.m. and student and staff recognition starts at 4:30 p.m. The meeting is televised live on Comcast Channel 96 and Verizon FiOS Channel 12 and is rebroadcast throughout the week.
Board meetings are also streamed live on the school system website at Select the live stream image displayed in the center of the home page. The following is a tentative meeting agenda and is subject to change.
Executive session – 11:30 a.m.
Call to order – 1 p.m.
Pledge of Allegiance, Westlake High School
Recognition of students for state accomplishments
Superintendent’s update
Reports of officers/boards/committees
  • Correspondence/Board Member updates
  • Education Association of Charles County update
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees update
  • Student Board Member update
  • 2019-20 calendar
  • Eligibility
  • Community outreach programs
  • Project status update
  • Feasibility study on elementary enrollment
  • Unpaid meal balance program
  • Activity bus expenses
  • Legislative update
Unfinished business
  • Appoint committee members for system goals
  • Policy 4000 series committee update
  • “Be the Difference” Award committee update
New business and future agenda items
Recognition – 4:30 p.m.
  • Resolutions: Month of the Young Child and National Student Leadership Week
  • Students
  • Employees
Public Forum – 6 p.m.
Action items
  • Minutes
  • Personnel

Friday, March 09, 2018

Unpacking the School Construction Legislation

The 31-page bill based on recommendations from the 21st Century School Facilities Commission has many elements of importance to county governments.
The Knott Commission bill, expecting to be a major piece of legislation in the 2018 Session of the General Assembly has now been introduced.
One of the main questions with regard to the Knott Commission’s recommendations were how its main suggestion – that the State conduct an assessment of every school facility in use and rank them – would affect the State’s priorities for school construction funding.
HB 1783 leaves that question for another day by establishing a work group to review the results of the first assessment and whether the results should be incorporated into school construction funding decisions. The 9-member Work Group on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities would be chaired by the State Superintendent of Schools and would include a representative of MACo.
Other elements of the bill particular interest to county governments include some of the following items.

Read more HERE

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Early Kirwan Legislation is a Push in the Right Direction

With some of the early findings coming from the Kirwan Commission, there is a proposed bill that would implement several of its early policy recommendations. Some of the highlights include establishing a teacher outreach and recruitment program to address subject areas where resources are lacking, while looking to recruit a stronger and diverse array of educators. Additionally, the bill would also establish the Maryland Early Literacy Initiative, the Learning in Extended Academic Programs (LEAP) grant program, and the Career and Technology Education (CTE) Innovation grant program.
MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified alongside the county representatives on the Kirwan Commission, Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine and Montgomery Coutny Councilman Craig Rice, in support of House Bill 1415 and Senate Bill 1092, “Education – Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education”.

The bill gives counties more tools in the toolbox to address funding issues and provide quality educational opportunities.
Read more HERE

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Grant Funding Addresses Long-Term Community Behavioral Health Needs


MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified in support of House Bill 1092, “Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program – Establishment”, before the House Health and Government Operations Committee on February 27, 2018.

The proposed program allows local behavioral health authorities to apply for a competitive grant to expand or establish crisis response programs. Local jurisdictions would be afforded more funds to meet the behavioral health needs of the community through mobile crisis teams, on-demand walk-in services, and residential beds. These programs allow counties to begin to address long-term public health issues in the community, instead of just responding to needs as they arise.
Read more HERE

School Construction Costs Are Rising, Grant Funding Would Start to Right the Ship


MACo Research Director Robin Eilenberg testified in support of Senate Bill 611, “Education – Healthy School Facility Fund – Established”, before the Senate Education and Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 27, 2018.

This bill establishes the Healthy School Fund which provides grant money to public schools to improve school facilities. With school construction costs increasing by over 50% in the past five years, it has been difficult for the State and count governments to keep up with school construction needs. The average school facility in the State is now 29 years old, and many require significant attention to address severe infrastructure and utility issues. This legislation begins the long road of addressing critical school building needs.

Read more HERE

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Student Screenings Are an Unfunded Mandate


MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified before the Senate Education and Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 548 on February 21, 2018.

This bill would require local boards of education to conduct specific screenings to identify children with reading difficulties. Without any mechanism for state funding, this potentially costly mandate will be entirely placed on county boards of education. Several new standards and screenings would be established requiring training of employees that could take a substantial amount of time and resources.
Read more HERE

Friday, February 23, 2018

Minding the Gap: Career and Tech Grant Funding Program


MACo submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 1098 and Senate Bill 515, “Career and Technology Education and Workforce Investment Act”, to the House Appropriations and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees.

These bills would established a grant program for career and technology education facilities, while also repealing certain spending mandates on scholarships by making them optional. Local jurisdictions would have to match the State input of the grant allotted by the governor up to $2 million. This affords counties more flexibility and allows them to address growth and facility concerns in different ways.
Read more HERE