Gordy Elected President of Worcester Board of Education

Former teacher Bill Gordy has been selected to lead the school board as president of the Worcester County Board of Education.

Gordy, who joined the school board in 2014, was elected to hold the seat of president at Tuesday’s regular meeting. Longtime board member Doug Dryden was chosen to serve as vice president.

As reported by The Dispatch,

“It is indeed a privilege to serve with this dedicated group of professionals,” Gordy said. “We look forward to a period of growth and prosperity in Worcester County that will continue to provide, at even a higher level we hope, every child in our system with a quality education.”

In spite of his relatively recent admission to the board he’s a well-known figure to many in the school system, as the Snow Hill resident spent several years teaching at Worcester Technical High School. After spending 25 years as a Maryland State Police detective, he helped start the criminal justice program at the high school. He was an instructor in the program until retiring in 2013.

 Gordy said he looked forward to working with the rest of the school board to improve Worcester County’s school system. Gordy also alluded to a commitment to support the county’s teachers.

“Our pledge to you is that we will work tirelessly to restore Worcester County to a position that will better enable us to recruit and retain quality personnel in our system,” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Worcester Superintendent To Seek Step Increase In Next Budget

Worcester County’s new superintendent of schools reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring teachers are given the compensation they deserve at this week’s school board meeting.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Worcester County Board of Education, Superintendent Lou Taylor said teachers would this month be receiving the mid-year step increase approved during the last budget process.

As reported by The Dispatch,

“I am proud to say that with the upcoming pay period we will take another large step to make our Worcester County teachers whole,” Taylor said. “With the next pay period eligible educators will be receiving the mid-year FY 11 step.”

With that restored, teachers will be just one step behind. According to Carrie Sterrs, coordinator of public relations and special programs for Worcester County schools, the salary freeze implemented throughout the school system in FY 10, FY 11 and FY12 meant the step increases — salary increases based on experience — typically provided to eligible teachers weren’t given.

 “The salary freeze imposed meant that anyone who was employed during that time was a salary step behind where they should be,” Sterrs said.

The FY 10 step was restored during the middle of last year and the FY 11 step is being handled the same way.

“It was a very difficult task,” Taylor said. “It was a challenge but one worth undertaking.”

Taylor said Tuesday he was hoping to restore the FY 12 step during the coming year. He said he was going to try to do it without making cuts.

“We believe our teachers should be paid for the quality of education they’re producing each and every year,” Taylor said. “It is my hope to continue this trend and secure the funding to give our educators a final FY 12 step.”

The budget process for the coming year has already begun, with a school board budget work session set for Feb. 7. Taylor acknowledged finding the necessary funding for another step increase would be a challenge but one that he was willing to attempt.

“At Worcester County Public Schools our motto is ‘people make the difference,’” he said. “It’s time we honor our educators by keeping our promise to make them whole and do so without losing any positions in Worcester County.”

Read the full article for more information.

MACo Briefs Senate Budget Committee On Key Initiatives

On Thursday afternoon, January 19, MACo’s President Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Board Member Allegany County Commissioner William Valentine, Associate Director Barbara Zektick and Executive Director Michael Sanderson spoke to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on MACo’s 2017 legislative initiatives.

County Executive Kamenetz started the briefing by emphasizing the importance of strong and smart state funding for school construction, noting that counties budgeted well over $1 billion for K through 12 capital projects, while state funding totaled about $338 million. He testified:

Counties have pursued many different avenues to deliver high-quality updated schools on deadline, but the State school construction process sometimes provides unnecessary hurdles. Updating the approval process could take advantage of local expertise while reducing costly time delays. For example, shifting focus of the IAC away from review could save time and expense without sacrificing quality. School constructions projects could still be required to adhere to IAC policies and subject to compliance audits, without having to undergo timely, redundant reviews.

Commissioner Valentine asked for support for a Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland, calling attention to Maryland counties’ many infrastructure needs:

Every level of government hears the call for infrastructure investment. It creates jobs, attracts businesses, and improves quality of life for every Marylander.

Yet, Recession-driven cost shifts have left local roads and bridges in a state of serious disrepair. Water and sewer systems throughout our state require millions of dollars of improvements. You’ve already heard about the important and rapidly growing needs of our school buildings. With technology rapidly changing, many parts of the state still lack reliable broadband access.

In addition, it is unclear how our local call centers will successfully implement Next Generation 9-1-1, the important initiative aimed at updating our traditional 9-1-1 phone networks to address the fact that 70 percent of emergency calls are now made from wireless phones that cannot be accurately routed with existing technology.

Responding to a question from Senator Bill Ferguson, Commissioner Valentine drove home how important deploying high speed broadband access is for residents and students in his rural county.

Barbara Zektick discussed MACo’s other two initiatives, Energy Facility Siting and Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video.

Michael Sanderson rounded out the briefing by highlighting that the Governor’s budget, while light on service cuts, does shift significant State agency operating costs onto counties  – an issue which the Committee has seen tried before, and which warrants close attention.


Harford Community College approves $3 per Credit Hour Tuition Increase for 2018

Harford County Community College tuition is proposed to go up by 2.4 percent beginning in July, but college officials hope to be able to cap the increase at 2 percent, just as Gov. Larry Hogan is proposing for four-year state colleges.

“If the state adds more money than anticipated, I would hope to hold tuition to the 2 percent [Hogan] is holding four-year colleges to,” HCC Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Norling said during the college board’s Jan. 10 meeting, where the latest tuition increase and next year’s budget were approved.

“The 16 community colleges in Maryland educate half the freshmen and sophomores in the state, about 500,000 students,” Norling said.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun,

The cap proposed by Hogan does not apply to Maryland’s 16 community colleges, Norling said, and it still must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly. Hogan proposed a similar cap last year.

State funding for HCC next year is expected to be flat again, Norling said, as it was this year, but if it turns out to be more, he said he would like to see that amount applied to a lesser tuition increase. Or he’d like the cap to apply to two-year colleges, as well.

The $3 per credit hour tuition proposed for next year was approved 8-0 by the trustees. as part of the college’s proposed $48.9 million budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1 and must be submitted to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman for his review. Trustee John Haggerty was not at the meeting.

Tuition is to proposed to increase by $5 for students who live outside of Harford and by $7 for out-of-state students.

HCC’s current tuition rates are $124 per credit hour for county residents, $211 for non-Harford residents of Maryland and $298 for non-residents of Maryland. Students also pay a consolidated service fee of $24.80 per credit hour, according to the HCC website.

If next year’s tuition increases were to be capped at 2 percent, the in-county tuition would increase approximately $2.48 a credit hour, instead of $3.

Read the full article for more information.

Poll: Most Marylanders Want Increase in Education Funding

In the latest Gonzales Research poll, a vast majority of Marylanders are in favor of increasing funding for public education. The research firm asked “How important to you is it to have increased funding for public education in Maryland?” 62% of Maryland voters said it was “very important” and 22% said it was “somewhat important.” Only 15% said it was not important.

According to WBAL,

The poll found that the desire for more funding was so strong that 73 percent of voters would favor that increase even if it means closing corporate loopholes and raising income taxes on the state’s highest earners.

As for where to focus that funding, 68 percent of Marylanders think school leaders and elected officials should focus on improving public schools, 19 percent think they should focus on charter and parochial schools.

Gonzales Research conducted the poll between Dec. 14 and Jan. 2 contacting 823 registered voters by landline and cell phone. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.5%.

A state Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (the Kirwan Commission) is currently reexamining funding formulas for public schools. Late last year, the State’s consultants presented their final report recommending a $2.9B funding increase to achieve state education standards.

MACo has adopted strong and effective state funding of school construction as a legislative priority for 2017. Strong state funding will recognize modern cost factors as we achieve new environmental and energy standards, satisfy heightened needs for technology, ensure student safety, fulfill community resource needs, and mesh with evolving teaching methods.

Useful Links

MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiatives

Previous Conduit Street Coverage of The Kirwan Commission

WBAL Article

Commissioners Finalize ‘Progress Report’ on School Construction Recommendations

It was decision time for the 21st Century Schools Commission at their Friday, January 6 meeting. The meeting, which was rescheduled from December, centered on discussing interim recommendations on school construction.

Chairman Martin Knott led the Commissioners through a document outlining major themes that emerged in 2016 and major themes that warrant continued examination in 2017. The commissioners were asked to provide feedback and work towards a consensus on the themes. The goal of the work session was to flesh out the themes with additional detail to be included in the interim report. Chairman Knott described the interim recommendations they are required to produce as more of a progress report than a blueprint for legislation.

Major Themes That Emerged In 2016

  • Flexibility – One size does not fit all for the local education agencies and they should be differentiated based on experience and capabilities.
  • Time is Money – The construction review process should be streamlined wherever possible and duplication of effort at the state and local levels should be reduced.
  • Incentives – LEAs should be encouraged to take advantage of monetary or procedural incentives and pilot programs allowed under law.
  • Clearinghouse/Technical Assistance -The State/IAC should serve as a clearinghouse for research based best practices and for technical assistance for innovative projects and programs.

Next Steps

Chairman Knott noted the feedback from the day’s work session would be incorporated into the interim report which will be completed and submitted to the general assembly as soon as possible.

The commission plans to meet again after the session to continue work on the major themes for further examination in 2017 — funding, procurement and construction, and the roles and structure of the IAC process.

For more information, watch the video of the hearing, and check the General Assembly website for meeting materials.

Debate On BOOST Program Heightens With Proposed Acceleration

The new Maryland program Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, public funding assistance for students attending private schools, was launched with $5 million in the current budget. Governor Hogan plans to double that funding, which seems to be triggering controversy about funding priorities among education stakeholders.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

More than 500 public school students in Maryland were able to attend private schools this year through a controversial new program that offers state grants of up to $4,400 to help defray tuition costs, state education officials say.

But most students helped by the program — more than 1,900 — used the money to remain in private schools where they were already enrolled. The data is likely to be used as ammunition by opponents of the program, who argue it isn’t meeting its stated objective of helping low-income students leave underperforming public schools.

Whether the program is labeled as scholarships or vouchers, it meshes with national attention on similar programs at the federal level.

Now the legislature must decide whether to keep the program or even expand it as Hogan has proposed, growing it to $10 million over the next three years. The debate will gear up in the General Assembly just as Betsy DeVos, a champion of vouchers, is expected to be confirmed as the next U.S. secretary of education. DeVos and President-elect Donald Trump would like to provide federal dollars for vouchers.


Economic Policy Experts: Invest Now In Infrastructure, Schools

Maryland could lead the nation in enacting policies that promote economic prosperity, writes leadership for the non-partisan Maryland Center on Economic Policy in an editorial for The Baltimore SunTo be that leader, focus must shift to investing in a well-educated workforce, good-paying jobs and an effective transportation network. From the op-ed:   

Our state’s history of economic success is built upon past investments in the pillars of a strong economy: a well-educated workforce, good-paying jobs and a transportation network to move people and goods. These pillars, however, require maintenance and continued investment — which is where we are falling short. We need bold leadership from our state’s leaders to not take our strengths for granted and keep our economy moving so everyone has a chance to succeed. …

There are clear signs that the failure to invest in Maryland’s future is catching up with us. As Maryland dips in national education rankings, experts say we need to put more than $2 billion more into our education system to truly meet the needs of Maryland students. Ensuring that all Maryland students receive a top-notch education is important not only for those students but for all of us because it’s critical to maintaining a well-educated workforce and attracting businesses to the state. …

The state is also now in a good position to invest in state-of-the-art school facilities; up-to-date water treatment plants; and better highways, railroads and ports. By stepping up these much-needed investments now, Maryland would create immediate job opportunities while supporting long-term economic growth. Unfortunately, despite Maryland’s top-notch credit rating, the governor has in recent years insisted on capping state borrowing at an arbitrary level that doesn’t take into account inflation or the state’s needs. Reversing Maryland’s declining investment in infrastructure would promote economic recovery and would focus on an area of apparent bipartisan agreement following November’s national elections.

MACo has adopted a Local infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland (#LIFT4MD) and Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction as top priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

MACo advocates for strong and predictable funding restoration to local roads and bridges – whose funding was slashed dramatically during the Great Recession and not meaningfully restored. MACo also advocates for a comprehensive assessment of the status, needs, and funding of critical infrastructure statewide. For more information on the LIFT4MD effort, see MACo’s website for details.

The State’s commitment to school construction funding needs to remain strong and smart – to best serve the modern needs of our schoolchildren, educators, and communities. Strong state funding will recognize modern cost factors as we achieve new environmental and energy standards, satisfy heightened needs for technology, ensure student safety, fulfill community resource needs, and mesh with evolving teaching methods. Smart state funding will provide flexibility for county governments seeking cost-effective solutions to meeting student and community school construction needs. A smarter state-county school construction program will reduce unnecessary regulation, revise processes to work alongside county budget decisions, provide a county voice in state school construction funding decisions, promote statewide and regional efficiencies, and provide a meaningful opportunity to pursue alternative financing for school construction.

10 Schools’ Gifted & Talented Programs Lauded

Maryland will honor ten schools next month with the Excellence in Gifted and Talented Education (EGATE) School award, which recognizes top elementary, middle, and high school programs.

Now in its seventh year, the EGATE awards spotlight gifted and talented programs aligned with the Maryland Criteria for Excellence: Gifted and Talented Program Guidelines and state regulations for gifted and talented education. Each EGATE school submits a comprehensive application which provides documentation of 21 criteria of excellence under four program objectives: student identification, curriculum and instruction, professional development, and program management and evaluation.

The 2016 EGATE schools are:

Crofton Elementary School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools
Piney Orchard Elementary School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (also a 2011 awardee)
Severna Park Elementary School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools
Cecil Elementary School, Baltimore City Public Schools
Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore City Public Schools
Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore City Public Schools
Dr. James Craik Elementary School, Charles County Public Schools (also a 2011 awardee)
William B. Wade Elementary School, Charles County Public Schools (also a 2011 awardee)
Chevy Chase Elementary School, Montgomery County Public Schools
Whitehall Elementary School, Prince George’s County Public Schools

For more information, visit the Maryland State Department of Education press release.

Confirmation Hearings Postponed for Education Secretary Pick DeVos

The Congressional confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos, nominated by President-elect Trump to serve as Secretary of Education, have been postponed until next week.

From coverage in Time magazine:

The Office of Government Ethics voiced concerns last week about the scheduled hearings for several nominees who have not yet completed the ethics review process. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that DeVos was one of those nominees, due to the work involved in reviewing her considerable financial holdings for any potential conflicts of interest.