Breaking Bread with School Boards

At the Maryland Association of Boards of Education 2017 Conference, a session on building relationships with public officials sounds a common theme of meeting over meals.

Panelists report that cooperation between county governments and school boards can be fun–and rewarding.

In “Building Relationships with Public Officials & the Community: How We Got to a Good Place,” Caroline County Commissioner Larry Porter spoke with representatives of the Caroline, Anne Arundel and Calvert County school systems, sharing examples ways to strengthen relationships between the leadership of the school system and the local government.

Many positives practices were reported, including shared maintenance of fields, joint use of repair shops for buses, and other cost-saving ventures. Financial savings and stability was a common outcome reported by the panelists. Caroline County Assistant Superintendent Milton Nagel even recounted how the school system had returned some of its funding to Caroline County government when the State cut highway user revenues mid-year.

As far as ways to build those helpful connections, a common theme that emerged included the practice of gathering over food – dinner, lunch, and even picnics. It might seem trivial, but the power of food to bring officials together was evident in the stories that the panelists shared. Casual events that maintained open-meeting protocols, but included an opportunity for county officials and school board members to talk about more than just business, in the many instances shared, became the springboard for cooperation over the budget and other areas of potential conflict.

A few words of advice from the panelists and the audience included:

  • Create a tradition of meetings between the Board and the County government – and make sure to continue that tradition when times are good and relationships are strong. That will buoy the practice when there is turnover in either entity, or when there are conflicts between the bodies.
  • Invite participation from the other entity in special committees as possible and relevant. Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice, for example, spoke of a superintendent search committee that included members of the school board and the county council.
  • Consider meetings that include more than just the two bodies. One example is inviting the school board along with other county government departments to a discussion of the upcoming budget year.

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education Conference is an annual event, for more information, click here.

MSDE Receives $45M Grant To Strengthen Literacy

  • Funding Via a Three-Year Federal Grant
  • 95% of Funds Will Be Distributed to Local School Systems

The Maryland State Department of Education has been awarded a three-year, $45 million federal grant to help advance student literacy. The grant is MSDE’s largest competitive grant in nearly three years.

According to a press release:

The Striving Readers’ Comprehensive Literacy Grant, awarded by the US Department of Education, will support the State’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan (CLP), including pre-literacy skills, reading and writing. The grant will be awarded in three increments, $15 million each, contingent on funding.

The State CLP is based upon five keys: educational leadership; strategic professional learning; continuity of standards’ based instruction; comprehensive series of assessments; and tiered instruction and intervention. A state-wide workgroup consisting of local system experts and other stakeholders will provide additional input on the Maryland CLP. Its first meeting is October 5.

Maryland’s local school systems will benefit from the grant, as 95 percent of the funds will be passed to local systems to support their literacy work. Each system interested in the special funding will implement a district CLP, aligned to Maryland’s literacy plan but based on local needs. For example, a system might need early literacy programs in PreK or specialized professional development at the secondary level.

Maryland’s new grant places special emphasis on disadvantaged children, including those living in poverty, English learners, and children with disabilities. The State’s plan targets evidence-based strategies and interventions, and alignment of State literacy plans between learning and literacy for birth to age 5 with kindergarten through grade 12.

Read the full press release for more information.

Chart Shows Maryland’s 2017 School Funding Per Student

Among the information contained in the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finance and Demographic Information is a chart of per-student funding in each Maryland county. The funding shows a range of funding for public education throughout Maryland on a per student basis.

Screenshot 2017-10-04 10.39.38

The funding comes primarily from county governments and the State, with limited funding from the federal government and other sources.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services,

Public schools are funded from federal, State, and local sources. Approximately 47% of public school funding in Maryland comes from local sources, and 48% comes from the State. The federal government provides only 4.5% of public school funding. Public schools in Maryland received about $15,268 in total funding for each pupil in fiscal 2017. Worcester County has the highest per pupil revenues at $17,971, while Baltimore City has the second highest at $16,942 and Somerset County has the third highest at $16,603. Talbot and Frederick counties have the lowest per pupil revenues at $13,474 and $13,409, respectively.

For more information, see the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finance and Demographic Information.

UMD System Waives Tuition Rule For Amazon Employees

With several Maryland jurisdictions vying to land Amazon’s new headquarters, the University System of Maryland on Tuesday approved a tuition waiver to help lure the company, and its 50,000 jobs, to the state.

According to The Associated Press:

To help entice a second Amazon headquarters to Maryland, a state board has voted to waive a 12-month residency requirement to qualify for in-state tuition for any Amazon employees who move to the state, if a new headquarters is established.

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents voted to waive the residency rule on Tuesday.

It also would apply to spouses and children of employees at the system’s 12 degree-granting institutions.

Chancellor Robert Caret says the board acted to support Maryland’s economy.

Read the full article for more information.

State Raises School Construction Cost Estimates to $302/sf

The Public School Construction program has updated the estimated cost of new school construction, increasing it by $9 from the rate used last year. The five year escalation has been dramatic – from $215 to $303, during a time of only modest general inflation.

As presented by the Executive Director of the Public School Construction Program, the State is again increasing the number it uses to determine its contributions to individual school construction projects. Based on data collected, the costs of school construction have increased again this year, though this year’s increase is smaller than in year’s past.

The costs of new school construction including site work are even greater-up to $360 per square foot.

The following slide was used by Maryland’s Executive Director of Public School Construction, Bob Gorrell, in a presentation to the state’s Capital Debt Affordability Committee.

Screenshot 2017-09-28 14.02.41

For more information, see the complete presentation, or previous posts, Public School Construction Head Proposes Flat Funding Despite Cost Increases, and School Construction Costs Appear Out-of-Step With Construction IndustryLever: School Construction Costs “Booming” For Economic, Policy Reasons

Dates to Watch for School Construction News

The fall calendar is filling up with dates to watch for updates in school construction. These are public meetings, so you may attend or check Conduit Street for reports and updates.

Louis Goldstein Building, 80 Calvert Street

On September 29, 2017 the Capital Debt Affordability Committee will make its recommendation of general obligation bond authorization.

  • Time: 10 am
  • Place: Assembly Room #114-116, 80 Calvert Street, Annapolis
House Office Building

On November 14, the Knott Commission (the 21st Century School Facilities Commission) will hold a Work Session for subcommittee reports to the Full Commission

  • Time: 10 am
  • Place: Room 120 House Office Building, Annapolis.

On December 14, the Knott Commission will hold its Decision Meeting, with voting on its final report

  • Time: 1 pm
  • Place: Room 120 House Office Building, Annapolis.

The Knott Commission’s Subcommittees will meet on the following dates:

Funding Subcommittee

  • October 12th from 10am–12pm

Process, Procedure, and Education Specifications Subcommittee

  • October 3rd from 1pm–3pm
  • October 17th from 10am–12pm
Board of Public Works

On October 18, the Board of Public Works will hear presentations from Local Education Agencies (school boards) on their Public School Construction Program requests for fiscal year 2019.

  • Time: 10am
  • Place:  Governor’s Reception Room, 2nd floor, State House, Annapolis

MACo 2018 Initiatives: Infrastructure, Schools, Sunshine, and 9-1-1

Each year MACo adopts a slate of top legislative initiatives, typically representing the wide swath of services counties deliver to Maryland residents. 2018 is no exception, as the MACo initiatives cover education, public safety, public works, and citizen access issues.

Below is the set of top issues for the year ahead, adopted by the Legislative Committee on September 27:

Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland (LIFT4MD)

Investing in infrastructure – a call addressed to every level of government – improves safety, economic development, and quality of life. Nonetheless, funding for local transportation assets, water delivery systems, public safety centers and more all lack predictable centralized funding commitments.

MACo calls on state leaders to take action in 2018 to:

– Approve meaningful new FY 2019 funding for local transportation infrastructure – building on last year’s gains
– Restore the historic 30% local share of transportation revenues – phasing back to the tried-and-true formula in place for decades
– Inventory the condition of local infrastructure across the state, using existing resources – assessing the needs and revenue sources targeted for each area
– Prioritize additional funding for local infrastructure, should the State receive extra infrastructure support from the Federal government

Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction

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. State funding needs to 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.

County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State, whose funding depends on statutory formulas and regulations. MACo advocates efforts to promote the smartest and most effective funding for modern schools, and urges State policymakers to retain the State’s strong commitment to this top funding priority. In addition, MACo supports reasonable school construction improvements including alternative financing, public-private partnerships, and innovative models of school construction and design.

Align Public Access Laws with Modern Technologies

Maryland’s Public Information Act creates a balanced framework for guaranteeing public access to open information, while protecting sensitive and private material. The rapid ascension of new technologies has strained the implementation and effect of these laws – potentially chilling their otherwise beneficial use. Maryland should clarify and reframe its Public Information Act to better accommodate citizen electronic engagement, personal surveillance footage from first responders and other county officials, and the release of sensitive personal information.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems

Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

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At MACo’s Winter Conference, December 6-8, we will again hold a closing session on “Paths to Success in 2018” detailing means for county officials to get engaged in the fight for each of these top issues. Register today for the conference!

New SAT Sets Baseline, ACT Scores Rise in Maryland

Maryland student results on the SAT for the class of 2017 set a new baseline in both reading/English language arts and mathematics as the national exam underwent its second major revision in 11 years. The class of 2017 also hit a new high on ACT exam scores, following a long trend of annual improvement on the exam.

According to a press release,

The College Board today released data for the new SAT, which underwent considerable changes since 2016. The organization dropped a required separate writing test, which it added about a decade ago, and changed other facets of the national exam.

The mean score in English Language Arts for Maryland public school students is 528, compared to the national mean of 527. The Mathematics mean for Maryland students is 518, compared to a national mean of 517. Maryland’s mean composite score was 1046, compared to the national mean of 1044. The SAT is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale.

Maryland students outpace the national average on the ACT by a wider margin than they do on the SAT, although SAT remains the dominant exam in the State. The average ACT composite score in Maryland public schools increased from 22.8 in 2015-16 to 23.4 in 2016-17, while the national composite score improved from 20.8 to 21.0, in data released earlier this month.

The College Board today also released national Advanced Placement (AP) data for tests taken in 2017. Of the 110,876 AP tests taken, nearly 70,000 received a score of 3, 4 or 5, the score at which many colleges give credit. That was an increase of 3.8 percent over 2016.

SAT Results

College Board reported that 36,459 Maryland public school seniors took the new SAT in 2017. That represents 66 percent of the graduating class. Nationally, 1.4 million seniors participated in the SAT, 46 percent of the graduating class.

Scores vary between student groups both in Maryland and across the nation. Asian students in Maryland had a mean composite score of 1164; African American students, 937; Hispanic students, 1013; White students, 1134; and students of Two or More Races, 1101.

Since the SAT was redesigned from 2016 to 2017, College Board is not comparing this year’s results to last year’s.

SAT results are scheduled to be released today at

ACT Results

The ACT has seen dramatic gains in participation in Maryland in recent years. A total of 12,664 Maryland public school students took the ACT this year, compared to 10,216 in 2013.

Maryland public school students scored above the national averages in all ACT categories: English (22.8 to 20.3 nationally); Mathematics, (23.1 to 20.7); Reading (23.9 to 21.4), and Science (23.1 to 21.0).

Differences in achievement between student groups are also present in the ACT, in Maryland as well as nationally — although Maryland student scores have risen across the board. The average composite score for Asian students in Maryland is 26.9; African American students, 18.8; Hispanic students, 21.7; White students, 25.4, and students of Two or More Races, 23.4.

ACT results are available on its website,

Advanced Placement

The College Board in early 2018 will release its annual look at AP by graduating cohort, but today released some raw numbers for Maryland test takers.

Nearly 60,000 Maryland students (58,996) took at least one AP test last year across all grades, an increase of 2.9 percent. The number of exams taken–110,876–was an increase of 2.3 percent over 2016.

The number of students scoring a 3, 4 or 5 increased across all student groups between 2016 and 2017. The number of Asian students scoring at that range jumped from 5,702 to 6,176; African American students from 3,644 to 3,781; Hispanic students from 3,536 to 3,857; White students from 20,663 to 20,837; and students of Two or More Races from 1,870 to 2,035.

Read the full press release for more information.

Charles To Host Opioid Education & Prevention Workshop

Charles County Government, in partnership with Charles County Public Schools, is hosting a free community opioid workshop and resource fair on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at North Point High School from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

According to a press release,

This fair is to help educate our local community and help provide resources to those in need.  Registration is not required.

The Opioid Education and Prevention Event will feature the following workshops:

  • How to Administer Narcan (naloxone) (Charles County Department of Health)
  • How to Administer CPR (Charles County Department of Emergency Services)
  • How Opioids Affect the Brain (Porto Treatment Center)
  • How to Talk to Your Child about Drugs (Charles County Public Schools and Charles County Sheriff’s Office)
  • Keeping Families Together (Charles County Department of Social Services)
  • It Could Happen to Anyone – Finding Support (Walden Sierra)

Vendors will be on-site to offer treatment and prevention resources. Refreshments will be available for a fee by the North Point softball boosters club.

If you are seeking immediate help or support, please visit For additional information or questions about this event, contact Erica Rizor at or 301-645-0553.

Kent County Schools Unveils New Student Transportation Plan

Kent County Public Schools is reaching out to local contractors and plans on purchasing more than a dozen school buses in an effort to assuage widespread student transportation concerns that have marred the start of the school year.

According to MyEasternShoreMD,

Monday night, the Kent County Board of Education authorized Superintendent Karen Couch to negotiate the cancellation of its student transportation agreement with an outside contractor and the purchase of district’s buses. The number of buses the district needs to buy has not been finalized as negotiations with previous local contractors continue.

Earlier this year, the Board of Education put the bus contract out to bid, hoping to save money on student transportation. Low bidder Reliable Transportation of Baltimore was awarded the contract, taking over the bus routes at the beginning of the current school year.

The company had a terrible start, with widespread reports of buses being late, failing to pick up students and breaking down. The situation boiled over at a Sept. 11 Board of Education meeting, during which parents and community members voiced complaints — at times shouting from the standing room-only crowd — for nearly five hours.

Superintendent Couch conceded that the contract with Reliable Transportation is no longer tenable. The district is working to ensure a smooth transition to a new student transportation plan.

District Operations Supervisor, Joe Wheeler, said the district will acquire twelve standard school buses and two special needs school buses to help streamline the new student transportation plan. The Kent County BOE is piggy-backing off a recently awarded Washington County contract, a common procurement procedure whereby a government agency utilizes a contract previously put out to bid and awarded by another jurisdiction.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the district presented their plan to the Kent County Commissioners.

“For whatever it’s worth, I know it’s been difficult times. But I think — what little I know — I think you’re on the right track. I think it’s a good move to get that taken care of. Kudos to you,” Commissioner Ron Fithian told Couch.

The district received permission from the commissioners to park some buses at the Kent County Public Works facility on Morgnec Road just outside Chestertown. The buses also will be allowed to refuel through the county’s bulk purchasing program.

Read the full article for more information.