2020-21 School Placements and Redistricting Exemptions (urgent)

2020-21 School Placements and Redistricting Exemptions

Parents of students who are eligible for an exemption must make their decision by December 13 (next Friday) by following the instructions below.

On November 21, 2019, the Board of Education finalized a decision to move more than 5,000 students to new schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally, the Board voted to exempt several student groups from the redistricting decision, allowing them the option of attending the new school or remaining at their current school. 

The exemptions apply to the following groups of students:

  • Current 4th grade students
  • Current 7th grade students
  • Current 10th grade students
  • Current 11th grade students
  • 30/60 credit JumpStart students
  • Students with an IEP, as of 11/21/2019
  • Students with a 504, as of 11/21/2019
  • Students with at least one custodial parent on active military duty

The Board also identified several of these student groups as eligible for bus transportation if choosing to  remain at their current school. Parents of students who are eligible for an exemption must make their decision by December 13 by following the instructions below.

View your child(ren)’s school assignment for next year and, if applicable, begin the exemption process, via HCPSS Connect. Be sure to do this for each child as options may be different based on the exemption status.

  • Log in to HCPSS Connect
  • Select the Redistricting 2020 tab in the left menu
  • Select Redistricting 2020

If your child is eligible for an exemption, you will see the option to choose the school they will attend next school year and a transportation option if applicable. Remaining at their current school is optional, so it is important that you decide which school you would like your child to attend for the 2020-2021 school year. Eligible students of parents/guardians who do not complete the exemption process will be moved to the redistricted school next year. This decision must be made by December 13, 2019.

If you believe your child qualifies for an exemption and do not see that option in HCPSS Connect, please contact your child’s current school immediately.

Please contact your child’s school with any additional questions or visit the HCPSS website for more information.

Closing Remark for 2019-2020 HCPSS redistricting

Closing remarks for 2019 redistricting

Revised a little bit.

This redistricting process has been a soul-searching process for me, both as an individual citizen who has children in our school system and as a board member who is making decisions that have impact on thousands of students and their families.  I never anticipated it would happen in such a dramatic fashion. When I was elected last year, I was eager to serve on the board and my goal was to improve education for Howard County, a place where I call home. When the board voted unanimously early this year to direct the superintendent to begin a comprehensive school redistricting process, I expected the redistricting to solve the most pressing issue of overcrowding in our schools and be as less disruptive as possible to the families.

Instead, we made a crisis by placing balancing FARM rate as the highest priority for this redistricting. As a first-generation immigrant and a student from poverty, and an ESOL student myself, I fully support diversity, inclusion and equity. However, equity cannot be achieved by simply balancing FARM rates. We need find the right and good balance among capacity, community and improving socioeconomic situation. In some schools we improved socioeconomic balance. In some schools, we created small feeds. In some schools, we created longer commute. Sure, we reduced overcrowding in many schools.

Early this year, we struggled to balance the fiscal year 2020 budget, and we had to cut many teaching positions. We have delayed the much needed Talbott Springs ES replacement and Hammond HS addition and expansion. We are now facing an even bigger budget crisis for fiscal 2021 starting with a $60 million shortage. This massive redistricting process with additional transportation cost in all likelihood will make the situation even worse.

Many families chose to live in Howard County for its diverse and inclusive environment and for our great public school system. Throughout the process, I read all of the emails, and replied to most of the emails that directly addressed to  me before last week.  I also met and talked to many community members. My notes filled 2 large notebooks. The key message from the community has been: Don’t move my kids. We love our community school. As elected BOE members, we are obligated to listen to our constituents and try to provide the stability that they ask from us. The principle should be Do no harm. Our goal should be to support ALL students in our school system.

Through this entire process, almost in each work session, I have kept asking our board members: what is our objective and goal for this redistricting? What is the threshold for capacity utilization at each school? Unfortunately, we have never came up with a consensus among board members. We started the massive process without a clear goal.  We were rushed by the timeline and eager to get to the finish line, which many people felt not justified and unfair, especially to those affected late in the process. Those communities were not afforded fair opportunity to participate in the public hearing sessions. Some schools were disproportionately impacted by this redistricting plan. For example, Altholton, Oakland, Waterloo, and many more schools have undergone a drastic change and some small feeds were also created, which is not consistent with the policy.

The cascading impact ran through like a tornado and many schools were impacted during this comprehensive redistricting. Under a tornado, everyone gets hurt.

To my fellow board members, they each brought their own perspectives to the process. Ms. Cutroneo has been raising many issues and listed all new developments in each polygon. Ms. Mallo had worked tirelessly with maps all over her house. Her focus on Columbia is undeniable. Ms. Coombs has been providing many useful inputs in Columbia and other areas. Ms. Ellis has been keeping the meeting in order. Ms. Demont-Small’s full feeder system attracted many attention. Ms. Taj was the FARM rate checker during the process. Thank you all for your hard work!

For myself, I want to be the voice which advocates evidence-based solution and keep our students in the center of decision making and have a long-term plan.  I am advocating for better process, better criteria and better priority for all students. In many cases, I am the lonely voice, but I will keep advocating. Some of my work throughout the process included

  1. I created a website for polygon search to facilitate the board discussion, developed a Python software to do polygon movement, capacity calculation and feeder analysis. 
  2. In order to minimize student movements, I also developed an alternative plan which dramatically reduced student movement. This alternative plan helped the board to think about other solutions which is less disruptive than the superintendent’s plan.

I believe wholeheartedly that students and parents love their community schools. The sense of belongings to their school is an integral part of their growth. We have a very diverse student body in every aspect. This is a free country and people make their own choices on where to live. The housing pattern which caused the affordable housing singular distribution across the county cannot realistically be addressed by the school board. We will simply not be able to redistrict our overcrowded schools in the near future, especially in elementary schools and middle schools. The average elementary and middle school capacity will reach 110% soon. If High School 13 opens on time, that will bring some relief to the high school level. However, I don’t see a new elementary or middle school within 10 years. We need to face this reality.

Moving forward, I have the following recommendations to the board:

  1. We need to revise Policy 6010. Set the capacity range a little wider to 90%-120%. This will allow more stability in each school. Our policy should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and evidence-based. There are conflicting criteria in policy 6010 and we could not meet them all simultaneously. So we need to prioritize the standards and put a weight on each criteria. Some criteria will have a higher weight and others will have a lower weight. However, we should not change the weight randomly based on board members’ preference during the process or after the weight is set.
  2. We need to revise the charter of Area Attendance Committee. Community inputs are critical to the decision making. The AAC committee should reflect the diversity of the community, for example, perhaps each high school should have a representative in the committee. As you all know, the 2019 AAC created much controversy.
  3. We need to improve the software, tools and capacity to the professional level in this process. We are lagging behind in technology. Polygon reassignment, projecting student at polygon level, real-time data visualization, even transportation cost associated with the polygon moves should be readily available in real time. I am asking to set up a technology advisory committee for the school system or BOE.
  4. We need to find better ways to inform the community. Many families were affected late in the process and did not have the fair opportunity to participate in public hearing. We should make the process fair and transparent to every family in the school system.
  5. New large development polygons should be assigned to nearby schools which have capacity before students move in. Milk producer , polygon 2010 is such an example.

Let’s continue to work together and bring the community together and serve all students.

Thank you.

HCPSS Redistricting Final Result for 2020-2021

The redistricting will take place in 2020-2021. Official result can be found at https://go.boarddocs.com/mabe/hcpssmd/Board.nsf/Public under Nov. 21, 2019 meeting (Area Attendance Adjustment, Item 12).

High School Move

Middle School Move

Elementary School Move

Some passed exemptions:

  • Move that we provide an exemption to the current River Hill High School and Oakland Mills High School students that are formally enrolled (as of 9/15/19) in either the 30-credit or 60-credit structured JumpStart program.
  • Move that parent(s) may request that their rising eleventh grade student remain at their 2019/2020 high school. Parent(s) may request that their student who has been exempted from the SY2020/21 boundary changes may opt-in to receive transportation services. The parent(s) must apply using the Student Reassignment process as outlined in Policy 9000 Implementation Procedures, Section IV. Student Reassignment initiated by parent(s) and also indicate their need to utilize transportation services. Deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced.
  • Move that parent(s) of exempted rising twelfth grade students may request that their student opt-in to receive transportation services. The parent(s) must apply to indicate their need to utilize transportation services. More details are to follow and deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced. 
  • Move that parent(s) may request that their rising eighth grade student remain at their 2019/2020 middle school. Parent(s) may request that their student who has been exempted from the SY2020/21 boundary changes may opt-in to receive transportation services. The parent(s) must apply using the Student Reassignment process as outlined in Policy 9000 Implementation Procedures, Section IV. Student Reassignment initiated by parent(s) and also indicate their need to utilize transportation services. Deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced. 
  • Move that parent(s) may request that their rising fifth grade student remain at their 2019/2020 elementary school. Parent(s) may request that their student who has been exempted from the SY2020/21 boundary changes may opt-in to receive transportation services. The parent(s) must apply using the Student Reassignment process as outlined in Policy 9000 Implementation Procedures, Section IV. Student Reassignment initiated by parent(s) and also indicate their need to utilize transportation services. Deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced. 

Two failed exemptions:

  • Move to exempt rising sophomores with the option of opting in for transportation services. 
  • Move to exempt rising sophomores with parent(s) providing transportation. 

Concerns with some HoCo Delegation 2020-2021 bill

Scott E’s blog put a list of all of them at https://scotteblog.com/2019/11/08/howard-county-state-delegation-places-bullseye-directly-on-hcpss-with-legislation-headed-to-annapolis-in-2020/ .

However, the county government website is empty: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/About-HoCo/State-Delegation/2020-Session-Proposed-Local-Legislation

I am not sure what is happening there. However, I strongly opposed to the bill: Howard County – Board of Education – Redetermination of Geographic Attendance Areas, Ho. Co. 1-20.

I remembered I saw earlier version that our state senators wanted to school board to have school redistricting every year once the school capacity utilization falls out of 90-110%. In reality, the school utilization is a float number. What happens if the school capacity is 110.05%? We will never achieve exactly 90-110% range. There should be a margin to this magic 90-110% range. How about 85-115%? In reality, any capacity utilization over 100% should be regarded as overcrowded.

This legislation and this level of micromanagement on HCPSS will really mess up our school system.

Another point I want to make is that many of our HoCo state delegates and senators represents Baltimore County too. In Baltimore County, the school system has an overall net capacity ( more seats than students) while HCPSS has negative seats in all three levels, but some Baltimore County school has a capacity of 152%, for example : Chadwick Elementary School (Ref: http://www.bcps.org/system/students_count/misc/SC2018%20FINAL%20013019.pdf ). I am not sure why our delegate did not propose the same bill for Baltimore County.

Please share your feedback with our legislatures: For further information, contact the Howard County Delegation Office at 410-841-3360 or hoc1@mlis.state.md.us.

From Scot E blog: Any individual may testify for up to 3 minutes, as long as they are signed up.  Signup will begin at 6:00pm outside the Banneker Room and will close at 6:50pm.Advance sign up is not available.  The Delegation encourages you to bring written copies of your testimony (preferably 15) to distribute to us, though it is not a requirement to speak. Please be aware that the Delegation Chairs can change the format of the meeting at their discretion. The hearing is scheduled as follows: Tuesday, November 19, 2019 – 7:00 p.m.Banneker Room, George Howard Building3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MDThe 2020 legislative session will begin on January 8, 2020

2020-2021 HCPSS school calendar was approved

Board Approves 2020–2021 Academic Calendar

 

Ellicott City, Maryland — The Howard County Board of Education approved the 2020–2021 academic calendar during its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, November 7, 2019. The next school year will begin on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, for students and on Monday, August 17, 2020, for school staff. Winter break will be December 24–January 1, with schools reopening on Monday, January 4, 2021. Spring Break will run from April 2–9, 2021. The last day of school is scheduled for June 10, 2021.

Six days at the end of the school year are designated for potential use if needed to make up inclement weather closing days.

The academic calendar is designed to provide for continuity in instructional programming and time for teachers to engage in professional work and growth activities. It reflects the school system’s respect for student and staff religious observances and allows a traditional break from schoolwork during winter and spring. The calendar complies with Maryland law requiring at least 180 instructional days, as well as negotiated agreements and district policies.

The 2020–2021 academic calendar can be viewed online.

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019

Unfortunately the school system received two adverse opinions from our auditor Cohn Reznick. Our budget had difficulty to provide the same level of service for our students and staff. We have a growing health care deficit ( up to 39.2 million). Fortunately, we are able to have some fund balance (15.2 million) from last year. We are working on creating a plan to pay down this deficit in a reasonable amount of time.

The audit report is here:

My updated redistricting plan

Here is my updated redistricting plan. This is a working process for the whole redistricting. I will update it again based on October 30’s board discussion. Please share your feedback with the board at redistricting@hcpss.org. Since the board is testing different scenario, please share your thoughts how/why your polygons should not be moved. If you can provide alternative movements, that will be great. My plan is just one of the plans and the board will reach its own plan through work session. I am glad that the board are working together during the process for a better result. It is a consistently involving process, just like all redistricting processes before. Unfortunately this creates a lot of pressure and stress on many parents and community.

I take this task very seriously. Unless there is a definitely need and a right move, I don’t want to move students any all. I still want the students being moved to go down.

Here is the presentation comparing three plans: Dr. Martirano’s plan, Board Member Ms. Mallo’s plan and my plan.

My plan moves less students, moves less walkers, moves less polygons, spends much less money and achieves similar school utilization, feeder and social-economical balance. Still, I want to minimize student movement.

Here is the updated slide.

Here are the moves:

Speech at Achieve Success Together

Work Hard and Achieve Success Together 

Friday, 2019-10-25

First, I would like to thank Jean Xu’s invitation and congratulate the Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County on their great success in initiating and running the AST program. Thanks for Mr. James Lemon from the school system on behalf of superintendent Martirano and Ms. Angela Cabellon from the county government on behalf of Dr. Ball.

We are one community, each with different strengths. By collaborating and helping each other, we are creating a win-win situation. By tutoring students from low-income families or ESOL students, we are nurturing the spirit of helping each other, thus benefiting all in the community. 

My early life before college

While preparing the speech, I have been reflecting my life before college since some of you in this Achieve Success Together program have similar backgrounds as me while I was at your age.

Some time ago, while joking around with other board members who was more miserable when we were young, I won easily. I never had any new clothes until high school. Our family raised a pig for a year but had to sell the meat in exchange for cash to pay other debts every year.

I needed to walk at least half an hour to my elementary school no matter what the weather was like,  in the rain, in the snow. If I wanted to choose a shortcut, I needed to walk through a cemetery, which was very scary for  me when I was young. Until the middle school, I never took a bus or a car, even a bike. That’s probably the reason I always get motion-sickness whenever I take a long distance bus ride. 

However, I never felt I was poor because I took every opportunity to learn and barely paid attention to other material stuff. My world was not about the materials around me, but the knowledge inside me. I was borrowing books from everywhere, reading extensively at every topic, working on math problems, building relationships with my teachers and having some great friends who had similar aspiration as myself. We were poor but every friend wanted to improve ourselves, to be better than our parents’ generation. I even had a dream to become a poet before high school. 

In retrospect, this kind of attitude was shielding myself away from the extreme poverty I was facing at that time. And there is also a community culture that I need to work really hard to change my life, Otherwise, I had to work on the farm field, like a child labor, which always scared me. 

I was almost pulled out from middle school because my father felt he would not be able to pay my high school tuition, which was less than 20 dollars. I was almost sent to work as a carpenter to earn some money for my family. With some help from my relatives, I was able to go to high school, and eventually became the first in my family to go to college.

Moving up and moving forward

Nothing is more important than our self-determination. I had some classmates whose families were richer at that time. For some rich kids, they did not have that urgency and struggle. I was determined to study hard and change my life. 

If I didn’t have the will to help myself, nobody can help me. God helps those who help themselves. Along the way, I took every opportunity in front of me. There are many great-hearted people who would love to offer a hand in the world to those who are in need.

The social-economic situation is one barrier many of us need to overcome. In most cases, it is a huge burden to our young children. However, how to deal with it in the right way is important for our life trajectory. For people who have faith in themselves and work hard to build a strong foundation, they will greatly increase the chance of their future success when they rise from early hardship. 

  1. Being a student teacher in AST, you are believing in yourself capable of changing the world for the better. Thank you.
  1. By joining this program, our students believe in themselves that they can change and improve themselves for a better future.  Thank you.

Find your own interest and work on it. If we are a fish, we go to swim. If we are a bird, we go to fly. If we love math, work on a lot of math problems. If we love reading, read a lot of books. 

Together, we can do better. Thanks for everyone’s effort. 

Health Fund Deficit Grew Larger

Our auditor Cohn Reznick has informed HCPSS that HCPSS CAFR will likely include a “GAAP” departure, which includes a qualified or adverse opinion. This change may impact our county’s AAA bond rating, which means the county may borrow less with higher interest rate in the future.

So HCPSS will work with the county executive and the county council to create a concrete, workable plan to reduce the health fund deficit and avoid another adverse opinion next year. Three parties should be on the same boat for this crisis we are facing now. Otherwise, this will tirgger down and impact many people.

The reason for this adverse opinion is that HCPSS was not able to reduce health fund deficit. Health care claim for FY 2019 were 10.2 million over the budgeted amount of 130.6 millions. Even after some internal fund transfer, the deficit grew from 37 million to 39.2 million. During the FY 2020 budget cycle, a one time 12 million dollars, that was planned and supposed to be used to reduce the heath fund deficit, was used for FY 2020 operating cost such that the auditor failed to see HCPSS to have a plan and execute the plan.

Attached please see the memo BOE audit committee discussed with our auditor.

Opening remarks at 2019 HCPSS redistricting work session

Opening remarks at 2019 HCPSS redistricting work session

7:00PM, 2019-10-17

With some revisions.

Before I start, I would like to thank all the students and parents who shared their feedback with the board whether your position is supporting or opposing the proposal. The response from the community is tremendous. More than 700 students and parents testified at the public hearing sessions, for a total of seven nights. It never happened before. Unfortunately the superintendent’s plan is a turning point in this process. During this process, some ugliness have been demonstrated. I want to take this opportunity to denounce those radicals again from both the supporter side and the opposition side.  

The most disturbing aspects are those anonymous letters with fake addresses and names to spill hatred and racist comment. And you don’t know they are deliberately to do that to stir the pot or that is their true belief. We should be able to have a civil discussion on this. What we can do here is to unite and find a common ground to optimize capacity utilization and achieve equity.

In my opinion, school redistricting should not be a race issue. It should not be a political issue nor an ideological issue. It is a logistic issue. We need to set this right. Some schools are overcrowded and others are under-utilized. We need to balance their utilization rate. Let’s focus on the real issue here. Let’s focus on the issue of capacity.  In terms of achievement gap, we should not use redistricting to address that. If achievement can be simply solved by redistricting, the gap should have been resolved many years ago in other parts of the country and we would not still keep talking about this gap in the whole nation. 

When we try to catch two birds using one stone, we will eventually lose both birds. Try to detangle different problems carefully, and design an evidence based solution accordingly. A controlled study with different variables to study the achievement gap is very important. We need to refrain ourselves from making “feel good” policy, which is very dangerous. It is easy to feel good or self compliment ourselves to fall back to the self echoing chamber, even though that does not solve the problem.

We also should not just hastily follow other school districts’ opinion/result. Howard County is diverse. It is a wealthy county (top 10 in the nation) and it is doing pretty well. We should be able to develop our own plan to help each student, to close the achievement gap with a clear goal. We should design a step-by-step plan, and evaluate the intervention program’s performance year-by-year.  For example, for some student groups in some schools, students with FARM actually have higher graduation rate than their peers without FARM. The achievement is attributed to the special program and efforts by community, parents network and HCPSS staff who work hard to address the achievement issues. How can we explore such effort and explore whether such help for underprivileged students can be enhanced in other schools?

As a board, any decision may impact thousands of children negatively. We need to be really careful. Evidence based approach should be the only approach. I agree with the “do no harm” approach. We should be very proud that HCPSS is doing the best among all Maryland public school systems. We don’t want to start a revolution to break our current system. As someone who grew up in the country that had “culture revolution”, I want to caution that revolution is very unpredictable.

What exactly is the objective of this redistricting?  

  1. Every school achieve 100%? 
  2. How to achieve that? 
  3. The number of students is constantly increasing, how to rebalance that? 
  4. Are we leading to more developments such that we have more students than the school could handle?

All these questions should be laid out and well thought out before the polygons are being moved. 

We should refrain ourselves from frequent redistricting. Just like families need stability, the same holds true for the school system. Students, parents and communities like stability and predictability. What we have now, we will have three large redistricting in 5 years, which is totally detrimental to the school system. 

We should only move minimum number of students as necessary to balance the capacity of the schools. Keep walkers as walkers. Keep contiguous community together.  Improve social economic status for the needist, not just balance it out. 

We should always keep the cost in consideration. Even this redistricting vote comes before the 2021 budget discussion, I want to remind my fellow board members, the budget projection already does not look good for fiscal 2021. 

Saving every penny matters.

Personally I took some time to write a software to analyze the polygon moves and compute statistics on such moves. I have developed two plans based on community feedback and board members feedback. I am still finalizing the plan and will share it with all board members when it is ready. 

We know HS13 should be able to come online on time and a huge redistricting will be unavoidable then. However, we are not doing anything to prevent from moving the communities and students twice. This is unacceptable. Everybody talks about a plan. Unfortunately we don’t have a plan here. 

My fellow board members, let’s lead by example.  Don’t rush to a solution, instead focusing on the problem we have now. Take a step back, focusing on a few overcrowding schools and address them with equity in the framework. Evidence based approach should be our approach.

Don’t fall to the trap of the developers. I have been involved in community for a while. I know how strong their lobby is. More schools we open for development, more developments will follow that.  It is time to say NO to them as a school board. 

Policy 6010: 

The number one issue facing the school and guiding the Policy 6010 is capacity.

When I was running for the board back in 2017, I clearly stated that I am against massive redistricting. We should find better solutions which will disrupt as few students as possible. We should put our students first.

Then there are multiple criteria. How to evaluate different solutions more objectively is not easy, but it can be modelled. I developed a software to do redistricting. I am soliciting ideas on how to normalize, weight on different criteria based on each criterion. 

The way forward

We have more than 700 public testimonies in front of the board for 7 nights. That never happened before.  By my account, Only one parent clearly supports moving his own kids.  This tells us something. Vast majority of those testified, 99.85% of them love their own schools and don’t want to move their own kids. 

“Do no harm” should be our principal. Our school may need extra improvement or it may have reached its capacity limit with limited resources. However, we should not start a revolution to tear down our current system.

Let’s solve our issue with deliberation and with caution. 

END of speech.

HoCo development mystery

I talked about Howard County development mystery before. One tiny example is that developers provide their own traffic study to mitigate traffic problem. Then almost all traffic study is green-lighted. In my view, the County should charge a fee and hire an independent third party to conduct traffic study. In that way, the study is more objective. How do we think a developer paid traffic study can be impartial?

Here is another article on today’s Columbia Flier: developer’s donations should be branded as conflict of interests.

We can do better

The is the comment I gave before the HCPSS BOE public hearing on the redistricting on September 26, 2019. It was revised a little bit.

One lady who supported the superintendent’s plan shouted to an Asian American father, in front of his two young children: “go back to Asia” on this Tuesday evening outside this building. It is so sad to see what is happening now. I feel so sorry for the family.  

This kind of racist comment is hurting the community. It has been more than 10 years ago when I was shouted “go back to China” in Montgomery County by little school age kids. I have not heard that for many, many years.  Now the same “go back to Asia” fell on my neighbor in Howard County in front of his young children. This is totally NOT acceptable.

There are other very offensive comments from the opposing side too which should not be tolerated. Let’s respect each other.

Let’s focus on the real issue here. Many schools are over-crowded. High School 13 is scheduled to come online in 2023. As the superintendent Dr. Martirano always says: all Howard County schools are great schools. However, there are still some performance differences across the board. The school system needs to find a correct, efficient and pragmatic way to address this. Unfortunately, the superintendent’s redistricting proposal has led to community pitting against each other, where division and resentment are the worst part we don’t want to see.

Everybody supports diversity, equity and inclusion. However, there are different point of views and various approaches to address the same issue that we are facing. Because we are diverse, we will have different point of views. I wish everybody understand and share this very basic philosophy and we should not expect we have a homogenous opinion.

However, how to treat the diversity as an asset, instead of creating more division, inciting anger or excitement will be a challenging task for all involved.

We will shoot ourselves on the foot if we rush to create a solution. Let’s calm down, take a step back and minimize the school redistricting impact upon on our children and community. For the good of our community, let’s take it very cautiously and seriously.

We can do better. I believe Howard County residents have the courage and intelligence to find a better solution.

Asian Americans will not go back, neither African Americans, white Americans, Latino Americans, nor any Americans on this free land. Instead, we should unite. Everyone of this county should try our best, devote our energy, work and build a better school system together.

Thanks for everybody here tonight.

Transportation cost for the superintendent’s redistricting proposal

People keep asking for this number. Here is what we received this morning:

The transportation cost for superintendent’s redistricting proposal is around 2.76 million dollars, if rising seniors and juniors are exempted and all of them take the exemptions. In policy, only rising seniors are granted exemption, but the board in general grants exemptions to our rising juniors.

Rising 5th graders or 8th graders with siblings are the other two groups who may be exempted in the past discussion. Because we want to keep siblings in the same school when redistricting happens.

Considering the budget constraint the school is facing in FY 2021, the more students are moved, the high this transportation cost will be.

Because of tight budget, we will pay a lot of attention on these numbers. Just give a perspective:

  • A paraeducator costs around 27k-30k a year,
  • an entry teacher costs around 60k a year with benefit.
  • A school bus costs 67k a year.

Public testimony to support Council Bill 42-2019

Public testimony to support County Council Bill 42-2019

September 18, 2019

My name is Chao Wu, a board member of Howard County Board Education. My colleage already testified on behalf of the board. Here I am testifying as a general citizen.

I applaud our council members Yung, Rigby introducing this bill and Jones and Walsh co-sponsoring it. I also thank state delegate Vanessa Atterbery to lead and enable this bill in the state. I want to thank many community volunteers who have been advocating on this bill.

This is a long over-due bill that the county is waiting for. Our school system is facing a deep crisis, both in the operating budget and capital budget. We should all work together to address them little by little.

In the operating budget side, for FY 2021, we need extra 60 million dollars on top of  FY 2020 approved budget to meet our obligations and another 37 million dollars to pay back the health care fund deficit. Without that, we will continue the same pain as last fiscal year in this May.  We had to surplus teachers, cut programs and find ways to save every penny to balance the school budget.

In the capital budget side, overcrowded schools, widely deployed portable classrooms, all of them need money to repair or replace. We want to make sure High School 13 will be built on time. We want to make sure Talbott Springs Elementary School replacement and Hammond High School renovation will be back on the agenda as soon as possible. We also need another high school in Elkridge, HS 14, to balance our capacity. We need another Turf Valley elementary school to deal with fast student growth there. We also need renovate St John’s Lane Elementary School, one of the oldest schools.

Our school system mostly depends on local funds. With the proposed increase of the development impact fee, the county is expecting $150 million additional funds over the next 10 years. We wish we will begin to receive another extra 15 million dollars per year, starting next year to start our delayed capital projects.

Despite these huge difficulties we are facing, I am deeply appreciative of our teachers, staff and management team in the school. They are working together and help each student. Every light is on, even the room temperature is one degree colder or warmer, not so comfortable, to reduce school energy cost.

Please pass this bill. Thanks.

 

Some history on 2019 HCPSS AAC

A lot of people asked me questions related to Area Attendance Committee(AAC). Here is the link https://www.hcpss.org/school-planning/boundary-review/faq/#aac.

2019 AAC Committee members were: Heidi Abdelhady, Bessie Bordenave, Justin Carguilo (student), Frank Eastham, Willie Flowers, Hector Garcia, Paige Getty, Quiana Holmes, Steven Hunt, Suleman Malik, Leonardo McClarty, Susan Otradovec, Lisa Schlossnagle, Larry Walker.

I originally want to wait until the work session to comment anything related to the redistricting process. As more details of the committee are shared, I would like to provide some historical background to provide some historical background and clarify some issues. Whether I agree with some of their viewpoints or not, I would first like to thank AAC members. They are community volunteers who are devoting their time to help the process.  It is not an easy job.

In 2017, the AAC members were recruited through an application/interview process. I, as a general residents at that time, applied for it and was interviewed. But I was rejected to serve in that year’s AAC. Then the superintendent chose around 10 people from that interviewing process to sit in the committee.

However, during the 2017 AAC session, AAC committee members had the authority to move polygons around and recommend their findings to the superintendent. Unfortunately some AAC committee members were personally attacked for how certain polygons were moved around.

Many board members feel that AAC members are shouldering too much burden for their volunteer work .  So in early 2019, the board changed the rule such that the superintendent will directly appoint AAC members and AAC members will not be able to actually move polygons.  Instead they serve in a policy advisory role only. Under the new policy, the AAC committee is under the superintendent’s direct leadership with the help from school staff. I want to clarify that there was no conspiracy anywhere when the board decided to move into this direction for AAC.

However, I do not think the current AAC is diverse enough to represent the whole school community.

Unfortunately there were some controversy revealed recently. One AAC committee member’s comments are totally unacceptable in my opinion. As a committee tasked to advise the superintendent, the aim should be to help all students to succeed. No kids should suffer. Let’s try our best to ignore those comments and not amplify it.

The policy may be revised if needed, considering we will have another redistricting discussion in 2022 to prepare HS 13 opening in 2023.

 

 

FARM rate across Howard County

The average FARM rate across HCPSS is around 22.5%. FARM stands for free and reduced meal. For a family of 2 parents and 2 kids, if they do not make 47k year, they qualify for FARM and will receive assistance (https://www.hcpss.org/food-services/farms/). Here we have a color plot to visualize this. Dark color means low FARM rate. Please see the legend.

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 12.36.08 AM

 

The PDF file has really high resolution.

BoE – HoCo ES Percent FARMs Map v2 (PolyNums)

The plot is based on the public data shared on HCPSS website (https://www.hcpss.org/school-planning/boundary-review/) and I am attaching it here.

data-farm-test-suppressed (1)

or https://www.hcpss.org/f/schoolplanning/2019/data-farm-test-suppressed.xlsx?b

Disclaimer: I could not reproduce this plot myself because I don’t have a GIS software yet.