Howard County ‘School Swap’ Initiative Saves $260,000

A School Swap initiative has allowed the Howard County Public School System to cut spending for new materials, equipment, and furniture, according to continuous improvement specialist Teri Dennison, who said the county has saved an estimated $260,000 over the last three years.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

Since its debut in the 2014-2015 school year, more than 1,700 items have “swapped” locations, finding a new use at schools or school offices. Schools and offices work together to find a space for surplus school resources and furniture, which is available at no cost.

Dennison said she was assigned to program improvements at the logistics center in 2014, when she noticed the school system’s warehouse was filled with unused items, including desks, tables, chairs, cabinets and shelving.

“They would either be recycled or sold as public surplus and very little got back into the schools,” she said. “My parents were Depression-era people, so we always thought you have to use what you have or find a place for it where it can be reused.”

After conversations with the chief of accountability, director of purchasing and web team, Dennison helped develop a hub on the Howard County public schools’ website, where teachers, faculty, staff and administrators could search for materials and furniture they needed.

To inform others of unwanted materials, staff can post items on the school system’s website, where they can be claimed by other schools and offices at no cost.

Technology items that have memory cards are not available through the site, Dennison said, but are handled by the technology department. Warehouse truck drivers often decide what items are salvageable, sometimes breaking down tables to reuse the tabletop or legs.

As the initiative continues to grow across the school system, Dennison said she hopes to see similar efforts in neighboring counties and perhaps a larger swap between school systems.

“I’m feeling extremely excited about it,” Dennison said.

Read the full article for more information.

Officials Predict Elementary School Projects Will Need More Money

Plans to renovate three of Anne Arundel County’s most dilapidated elementary schools are still on track in County Executive Steve Schuh’s proposed budget for FY 2018 — but the county’s auditor cautioned Tuesday that more money will have to be added to the projects down the road.

In her annual comments on the proposed budget, Auditor Jodee Dickinson told council members the county will have to find an additional $13 million for revitalization projects at Tyler Heights, Edgewater, and Richard Henry Lee Elementary Schools to meet anticipated costs.

The Capital Gazette reports,

The projected shortfall is the result of timing, school and county officials said.

The Board of Education submitted its construction budget to the state last fall, before board members decided to renovate the three elementary schools instead of constructing entirely new buildings, according to Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

When Schuh’s administration crafted its budget proposal months later, staff did not have board estimates for revitalization costs and so based suggested funding levels on their own projections. Board of Education construction officials have since weighed in, advising the auditor that the projects will be more expensive.

Despite the disconnect, Szachnowicz said money to pay for planning for all three projects in FY18 is intact and enough to keep the projects on track. The county could wait to increase funding for the schools in future budget years, he said.

“The adjustments are going to have to be made,” Szachnowicz said. “I think the question is, when does this body and this administration think they have to be made — sooner or later?”

Dickinson noted that the county won’t have much wiggle room for borrowing money in FY19, which is already scheduled for several large capital projects. If officials can’t come up with enough money for the school projects, future budget shortfalls could mean delays, she said.

Under the current plan, all three elementary schools would open during the 2020-2021 school year.

“Fiscal year 2019 is a very, very heavy bond year in our program,” Dickinson said. Waiting for future budget years to make up the entire projected funding gap “would make (fiscal year) 2019 unaffordable, I think.”

Dickinson’s other recommendations include:

•Reducing the Board of Election’s budget by $227,000. Dickinson also cautioned that the county should try to recover $157,000 in extra money appropriated to support this year’s elections in Annapolis. “County residents outside of Annapolis should not pay for city expenses,” she said.

•Cutting $2.7 million in bonds and $4.9 million in grant money scheduled for fiscal 2019 for a proposed tennis center in Millersville. Dickinson said the county has not been offered assurances that the Tennis Alliance of Anne Arundel County, a group of tennis enthusiasts that has pledged to raise money for the center, will be able to provide enough money for the project. Hammond said the administration has faith in the group and does not plan on spending any more than the amount proposed. If the alliance does not raise the amount it has pledged, he said, the scope of the project will be reduced.

Washington County Commissioners Appoint Linda Murray to Open BOE Seat

Linda Murray, a retired special-education paraprofessional, was appointed Tuesday to fill the Washington County Board of Education seat left vacant when Karen Harshman was removed from the board in April.

The Herald-Mail reports,

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to appoint Murray, one of two finalists for the position on the seven-member school board.

Murray, who said she plans to run for election to the board, will serve out the remainder of Harshman’s four-year term, which expires in late 2018.

Murray will be sworn in on June 20, with her first board meeting expected to be on July 11, Washington County Public Schools spokesman Richard Wright said.

Read the full article for more information.

UMBC Tech Park Awarded RISE Zone Designation

The Maryland Department of Commerce has approved a RISE Zone designation for the University of Maryland, Baltimore  County Research and Tech Park. The zone designation will stand for five years. RISE Zones were created to help boost economic development and job creation around the state’s higher education institutions.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone, or RISE Zone, at bwtech@UMBC will help the research park support established companies, offer incubator and accelerator services to emerging companies and help university researchers commercialize their work. Businesses that move to a RISE Zone and existing businesses that expand could qualify for property and income tax credits tied to investments and job creation.

UMBC plans to build 100,000 square feet of space to lease to technology related businesses, creating about 250 high-tech and cybersecurity jobs. The new development, an investment of up to $20 million, will take two to five years to complete.

“This new enterprise zone will help further UMBC’s goal of spurring research, supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, and helping to grow our region’s high-tech companies,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in an announcement Monday.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Baltimore City Council Votes to Cut $26M from Mayor’s Budget

The Baltimore City Council voted 15-0 Monday to make deep cuts to Mayor Catherine Pugh’s budget proposal to free up more money for schools and after-school programs.

Council members said the preliminary vote to cut more than $26 million from Pugh’s $2.8 billion operating budget was designed to pressure the mayor to compromise. The cuts included the mayor’s entire budget office and several of her signature initiatives.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

A final vote on the budget is scheduled for next week. By law, the City Council has the power to cut from the mayor’s budget. But only Pugh can redirect funds to new purposes.

“I continue to be committed to getting a deal done with the administration,” said City Councilman Eric T. Costello, chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee. “The council is all on the same page about funding our priorities, which are focused on youth programming. These priorities are important to us and we’re not backing down.”

Pugh expressed confidence she could reach an agreement with the council in the next week.

“I’m sure we will all come together in the end,” Pugh said. “In the heat of the moment, people say things they mean or may not mean. … I know we’re very close on many of the issues. It really is how we come together.

“It’s not my budget; it’s not the council’s budget; it’s the budget for the city.”

Council members have pressed the Pugh administration to use a $13 million surplus from the current fiscal year to provide $10 million more for public schools and about $3 million more for after-school programs next year. They also want more funding for the anti-violence program Safe Streets, which lost a federal grant needed to operate.

After-school programs are facing cuts in next year’s budget and school officials have already laid off more than 100 employees to help close a budget shortfall.

Pugh said a sticking point is making sure the city has enough money to fund a pledge of $90 million in increased funding for the school system over the next three years. That pledge was part of a deal with state officials, who agreed to kick in a matching amount to help close a projected multimillion dollar budget gap over the next three years.

“Our commitment to education is not just one year,” she said. “Our commitment is over a three-year period. We have to make sure we have monies to cover a three-year period.”

The council voted to strip $2 million from Pugh’s budget bill for the Bureau of the Budget and Management Research and cut $770,000 from an innovation fund. The committee also voted to cut some of Pugh’s signature initiatives, including $1 million for mobile employment vans, $600,000 for new energy-efficient trash cans, $2 million from police administration, $2.7 million for debt on municipal trash cans, $6 million for paying down other debts and $1.4 million in miscellaneous expenses.

The council also voted to cut $600,000 for a new waste disposal site, $3.8 million for new street lights and $5.1 million for street cleaning.

Pugh’s budget director Andrew Kleine said in an email that the surplus money is just a projection. If it materializes, he said, he plans to use it to shore up the budget against a number of long-term issues, including potential retroactive pension payments if the city loses a lawsuit filed by the police union, the cost of taking care of the city’s closed schools, and funding the mayor’s commitment to increasing school funding over the next three years.

A final council vote on the budget is scheduled for June 12.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he believed Pugh would continue to negotiate with council members.

“I’m very confident that we’re going to get a deal,” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Baltimore City Schools Lay Off 115 on Thursday

Shelly Higgins was leading the seniors at Excel Academy through graduation rehearsals Thursday when she was summoned by the principal. Higgins figured there was a question about the graduation plans.

Instead, she learned she was being laid off.

“I looked at them like, ‘You got to be kidding me,'” said Higgins, a health teacher and the senior class advisor at the West Baltimore school. “I looked over at the principal. She had a tissue in her hand. You could tell that she was crying.”

As reported in The Baltimore Sun,

Similar scenes played out schools across the city as district administrators fanned out to tell librarians, guidance counselors, assistant principals and support staff that they would lose their jobs. Administrators said they laid off 115 people in all, including the first classroom teachers to lose their jobs in a decade.

The layoffs included 32 people who work in the district headquarters and 83 people in the schools. Among them were 13 classroom teachers, 21 librarians or school counselors, and 24 assistant principals, administrators said.

Leaders of the Baltimore Teachers Union were not happy that the district deployed teams to meet individually with affected employees and give them the bad news. The union reps said these meetings would disturb teachers and disrupt classes.

“The approach the District is taking of going into the schools and interrupting a teacher’s day to tell them that they have been laid off is unprecedented,” said Marietta English, the union president, in a statement. “This is a humiliating and truly shocking act that comes on the heels of a stressful semester.”

The union filed a grievance in April complaining that layoff decisions were based partly on employees’ performance evaluations and teaching certifications. The union alleges this is is a violation of the employee contract.

Alison Perkins-Cohen, chief of staff for schools CEO Sonja Santelises, said administrators consider teacher evaluations “one of the critical factors.” She said city school officials disagree with union leaders on whether evaluations should be considered.

Santelises warned months ago that 1,000 people could be laid off to help fill a $130 million shortfall in the $1.31 billion budget for next school year. After the shortfall was announced in December, teachers, parents and students held rallies outside City Hall in Baltimore and the State House in Annapolis to get more money. State and city officials pledged nearly $60 million to help narrow the gap, and Santelises scaled back the layoffs to about 300 in recent weeks.

On Thursday, officials announced that number was further reduced to 115 people. It’s the third straight year of layoffs in the school district.

The school system employs 11,000 people total, about 6,000 of them teachers. Each year administrators recruit hundreds of new teachers for subjects in which there are staffing shortages. The hiring will continue, officials said, and as many as 200 teachers could be recruited, including those laid off who qualify.

Read the full article for more information.

Program Aims to Break the Cycle of Poverty With Career Training

As reported in sponsored content in the Baltimore Business Journal,

Screenshot 2017-06-01 19.28.18
Click for video of the UMD program that creates a science pipeline for underrepresented minorities.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) is transforming lives in West Baltimore with initiatives like the UMB CURE Scholars Program, a groundbreaking health care pipeline program that serves 65 sixth- and seventh-graders from three middle schools near the University.

The program, in its second year, identifies promising middle school students and prepares them for health care and research careers through hands-on workshops, lab experiences, and mentorship from UMB faculty, students, and staff.

The aim of the program is to break the cycle of poverty in West Baltimore, according to the article.

For more information about the program, see How UMB is trying to break the cycle of poverty in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Hartings Named to Maryland State Board of Education

Justin Hartings, a former Washington County school board member, has been named to the Maryland State Board of Education.

Herald-Mail Media reports,

Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Hartings, who served two elected terms on the Washington County board from 2008 to 2016, to fulfill an unexpired four-year term that began July 1, 2016, according to a May 22 letter from the governor’s office.

“Thank you for making this strong personal and professional commitment to serve the best interests of our citizens,” Hogan wrote in the letter. “I know you will succeed in our goal to make a positive difference for all Marylanders, especially with your assistance and support.”

Hartings might be the first Washington County representative to serve on the volunteer, 12-member state board, although that could not be immediately confirmed Tuesday.

“I don’t know that there’s ever been,” Hartings said, when asked if he was aware of any other county residents who might have served before him.

A spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education said that home counties of board members are typically catalogued by the state, which doesn’t select members by region or county.

In any case, the 46-year-old Keedysville resident said that he is humbled by the appointment, calling it “a huge honor” to serve at the state level.

“I hope that it means that the governor and his office has recognized the great work we’ve done on the local board,” Hartings said. “When you go to Annapolis, Washington County just has a tremendous reputation.”

The county has been a leader in technology and innovation, highlighted by its digital-learning plan and public-private partnerships that have spawned the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown, Hartings said.

A former president and vice president on the nonpartisan local board, Hartings announced in January 2016 that he would not be seeking re-election to a third term, citing time constraints from work and other obligations.

He has a doctoral degree in applied physics from Yale University and is owner of Biaera Technologies, a Hagerstown-area company founded by Hartings that works with U.S. Army research scientists to study infectious diseases, like tuberculosis and influenza.

Hartings said he is looking forward to getting to work on important topics that affect schools statewide, including school construction and new regulations in accordance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

“There’s a lot going on in education right now,” he said. “It’s an exciting time, and I look forward to being a part of it.”

Read the full article for more information.

Allegany College Receives Grant for STEM Project

Allegany College of Maryland has been awarded a $67,300 Appalachian Regional Commission grant to prepare the regional workforce for STEM-related careers.

The Cumberland News-Times reports,

The funding, jointly announced Tuesday by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), will be matched by local money.

“ARC continues to deliver important federal investments for Allegany County,” Cardin said. “This federal investment in our students’ future is good news for Western Maryland and an example of what we should be doing across the country. A strong STEM education opens doors to good quality jobs and the know-how to move our economy forward.”

Equipment such as a chemistry spectrometer, a chemical hygiene cabinet and CO2 gas sensors will be purchased to help students better quantify data and improve scientific reasoning skills.

“Maryland’s success depends on the strength of every region of our state, and the Appalachian Regional Commission has been a vital source of job-creating investments in Western Maryland,” said Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committees. “This grant for Allegany College is a smart investment to equip our students with the skills they need for in-demand, high-tech jobs, and I will continue to fight against efforts by the Trump Administration to eliminate the ARC.”

Read the full article for more information.

Baltimore County School Board Names Verletta White as Interim Superintendent

The Baltimore County school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to name Verletta White, who has risen through the ranks from teacher to one of the top officials in the system, as interim superintendent.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

White, 49, will replace Dallas Dance, who resigned suddenly April 18. The school board decided to appoint an interim superintendent because it did not have sufficient time to do a national search for a permanent replacement by the time Dance leaves office at the end of June.

The one-year appointment is subject to approval by the state superintendent of schools. It will begin July 1.

No contract has been signed, and it is not known what White’s salary will be.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the board “made a wise choice selecting Chief Academic Officer Verletta White, who has 25 years of experience in the County school system, and will ensure continuation of our legacy of success.”

Abby Beytin, president of the county teachers union, also expressed her approval of the choice. “There is no one who knows the system better,” she said. “My feeling is that she will want us to move steadily.”

Dance voiced his approval of White’s selection. “I look forward to bright days ahead for TeamBCPS as she builds on the success of our system and make it even better,” he said.

White has been the chief academic officer since 2013, when Dance chose her shortly after he became superintendent.

She has stood behind all of Dance’s initiatives, even those that ran into opposition, such as a new grading policy instituted this school year.

Gilliss said the board can decide this year whether it will conduct a national search to find a permanent replacement.

The county will switch from an all-appointed board to a partially elected board after the 2018 elections.

Maryland law requires superintendents to work under four-year contracts that run from July 1 to June 30. It is unusual for an interim superintendent to remain in place for two years, but it has happened recently in Montgomery County.

White’s education career began in 1992 after she graduated from Towson University.

She taught second, third and fourth grades at Garrett Heights Elementary School in Baltimore City then moved to Summit Park Elementary in Pikesville to teach third grade.

She was a teacher mentor, then became an assistant principal and finally a principal of Seneca Elementary School in Bowleys Quarters in 2000.

She rose through the ranks quickly under the former superintendent, Joe Hairston, holding a variety of administrative jobs before being named assistant superintendent of schools in 2009.

She holds a master’s degree in leadership in teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University and is currently a doctoral candidate at Morgan State University.

White lives in northern Baltimore County.

Dance will leave with three years remaining on a four-year contract. At the time of his resignation, he said he did not have a new job, but had job prospects.

Superintendents usually tell their school boards in the fall if they are leaving in order to give the board time to do a national search and hire a replacement.

Since he was hired, Dance had the support of the majority of the board. More recently, however, several board members have voted against his proposals.

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