Some Retrospect and Prospect after HCPSS FY 2020-2021 Budget Vote

Some Retrospect and Prospect after HCPSS FY 2020-2021 Budget Vote

By Dr. Chao Wu,

Board Member, Howard County Board of Education


After the FY 2020-2021 budget vote, I reflected and wrote a short essay on this. Hopefully this will help and guide us for the next year’ HCPSS budget discussion. The article has the follow sections:

  1. FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget Snapshot
  2. Funding Increase Needed for FY 2021-2022
  3. Funding Category is Complicated
  4. More Communication to the community
  5. Future Budget Process Improvement
  6. County Tax and HCPSS Budget

I want to thank every teacher and staff members who have been working really hard during this unprecedented time. I want to give every teacher a raise, a competitive salary among neighboring counties. I want to raise our substitute teacher salaries to be competitive with other counties too. 

Unfortunately, we have to make a budget based on how much money we have and what we can do. We are not laying off any staff. Job security for our staff is my number one priority in this challenging situation. We are still providing an average 2% salary raise for teachers and 1% for AMT staff. We are ramping up support for special education. We are fully funding the health care cost and gradually reducing the historical health fund deficit. We are able to continue on the equity path to provide quality education to all students. As an intermediate solution, we are seeing another class size increase for three consecutive years unfortunately. 

I thank our staff, the superintendent, and all bargaining units, who have come together and make the budget happen.

After the vote, I have been self-reflecting on the budget process and where we can further change and continue to improve, especially for our future budget.

FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget Snapshot

The board unanimously adopted its FY 2020-2021 budget on Thursday, June 18,2020. The operating budget is 918.7 million, an increase of 17.2 million over FY 2020. We used a 5 million fund balance for FY 20-21 budget. Among the efforts: 

  1. adding 106.8 new positions for special education
  2. increasing employee compensation on average by 2% in the bargaining units, with 1% increase for non-represented(AMT) staff
  3. accelerating HCPSS’ diversity, equity and inclusion work through addition of three new positions
  4. funding actuary projected employee health insurance cost fully, for three consecutive years

Unfortunately the class size will be increased for the third consecutive years. On average, elementary school will increase class size by one in FY 2020-FY 2021. Middle school and high school will increase class size by 1.25. 

Funding Increase Needed for FY 2021-2022

I have been asking HCPSS staff to project our future funding needs. Instead, I created a short table as follows with explanations below. Please note this is not an extensive or complete or accurate list. This is a rough projection. 

Budget Increase Need Per YearAmount
Student Growth Budget Need (800 new students)10.22 million ***
Fully Fund Health Care5 million
Possible COLA Salary/Step Increase for Our Workforce6 million
Total21.22 million

Student Growth Cost

Board Approved Tuition Rate:  In-State Elementary/ Secondary in the amount of $10,650 and Special Education in the amount of $31,950.

Each year, the school has around 800 new students, where 10% are special education students. The total county cost for student growth is around 10650*720+31950*80 = 10.22 million.  

So we need to invest extra 10.22 million dollars to catch up with the student growth each year. Please remember the county funding formula (MOE) for HCPSS is using the student population from the previous year such that this extra 800 new students are not funded in the formula. This is the common problem for many school systems which see a continuous student growth and the funding increase could not catch up with the increased need.

This section may be updated depending on how this calculation is revisited based on feedback from our staff and other people. Another calculation I am thinking is to use the average per student cost, which is around 16k. Then the total is 16k per student per year * 800= 12.8 million.

Health Care Cost Increase

On average, the health care cost increase is around 5 million dollars per year. In some years, it was an 11 million dollars increase. 

Salary/Step Increase

In the past 10 years, our workforce has received a salary increase between 1% and 5%. That is the reason I am writing a possible 1% increase at least. The 6 million dollars is an estimate based on this year’s 2% salary increase (12 million dollars). 

Historical Health fund deficit

We have a historical 32 million dollars health fund deficit inherited from former superintendents’ era, which has to be paid down over the years. With the plan worked out with the county government, we need to pay around 8 million dollars per year to pay it down. The original deficit was 50 million dollars.

Funding Category is Complicated

During the discussion, we heard the teacher salary (State Category 2) increase was fully funded. In reality, when there is an increase of salary, other expenses (benefits, retirement) will go up as well. We will not be able to give a teacher salary increase, but not give them the associated benefit increase. So unless everything associated with a full compensation package for an employee is fully funded, we could not call the salary increase fully funded. 

Second, many teachers’ salaries are not funded in State Category 2. For example, there are more than 1200 special education teachers whose salaries are not funded in Category 2. 

Third, the health care cost keeps increasing at a faster pace than anything else. In order to avoid the health fund deficit issue that happened before ( with an accumulated deficit of 32 million now), we need to fully fund the health care cost. The school system cannot run at a deficit by law. 

It is a little complicated and I want to make it easier for the general public to understand it.  

More Communication to the community

During the last two weeks of the budget discussion, we received thousands of emails asking the board not to cut the budget. In reality, the board is not generating money ourselves. We fully rely on the funding from the county and the state to operate. They give us money and we make a budget and balance the budget.

Furthermore, when the board was in negotiation with the unions, we were not allowed by law to discuss anything about employee salary and benefit publicly. We were not able to comment on the negotiations publicly. The public and our workforce definitely felt the frustration because of the communication restriction on these topics. We had to rely on the union leadership to relay the message back to union members. 

Future Budget Process Improvement

For the school budget, if we don’t ask for it, we don’t get it from the county government and the county council. At the same time, we know the county has so much need and we will not get the full amount we ask. So we have a very delicate balance here since we want to present a fair and reasonable budget for discussion. 

Furthermore, the county executive and the county council can claim they fully fund something by State Category. However, all categories are interconnected when our staff is preparing for the budget. In general, we are not able to separate one category totally from other categories while considering funding. 

Realizing our funding will be short for the near future, I have been advocating for a change in the budget process to avoid the last minute change and uncertainty which is painful and hurts the morale of our workforce.

We could consider a budget into two parts. 

  1. The first (basic) part is the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) budget which the county and the state are bound legally to fund the school. At the MOE level, we can check to see:
    1.  whether the class size will increase or not, 
    2. whether our workforce will be surplused or not, 
    3. where the special education will be fully funded or not,
    4. whether the health fund is fully funded or not, 
    5. whether the instruction materials are fully funded or not
  1. The second part is the add-on above MOE part. Based on our need and priority, how much extra money we need to fully fund the school system. 
    1. whether/how we can decrease class-size.
    2. whether /how we can add/change programs.
    3. whether/how much we can give our teacher a salary increase. 
    4. Whether/how we can renovate school service without increasing budget
    5. whether we can launch any new initiative to improve mental health service, further close the student achievement gap, and many others.

County Tax and HCPSS Budget

Many people are now realizing that HCPSS is facing a structural deficit issue. The funding increase could not catch up with the student population growth and other increasing needs. 

In reality, the share of the county funding into HCPSS is swinging up and down. HCPSS budget was previously mismanaged and underfunded such that we are facing such a difficult situation now. 

We hear there are people calling for higher tax. However, tax for our county residents is very high already. Our tax rate is top 3 in Maryland.  Raising tax may have a detrimental effect on our economy and in the end it may hurt our tax base in the long run. 

Furthermore, additional tax revenue does not mean it will be provided to HCPSS. I want to avoid the failed promise and fiasco that Maryland state gambling money would go into education when some people promoted the gambling industry. Yes, some gambling money went into education, but original money was diverted away. 

The county may receive 20 million dollar additional revenue by increasing some tax rate, but the county may give only 1 or 2 millions to HCPSS. I have been advocating for HCPSS to receive a larger share (percentage) of the county revenue. 

There are many “wants” in the county budget and we may need to shrink those “wants” and redirect the money to HCPSS. Our excellent school system is one of the most important reasons that many families come here and 90% of county revenue comes from property tax and income tax. 

We need to cherish the support and trust from families who live here and HCPSS must provide an excellent, equitable and individualized education for our students. 

Thanks for reading this.

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

Revised for publication.

First I would like to thanks our student board member Allison Alston, who has demonstrated a strong leadership. When I saw her performance at Reservoir High School’s Black History Month, I was really surprised and admired. You are a super star. We will miss you.

Today, I will talk about something different. The nation is watching the hardship, struggle and pain the African American community are experiencing. As a community member and a school board member, I share the same pain and the same concern:  Where are we going? How can we get to  the point where injustice will go away? When will everyone have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential?

Two recent events highlighted here:

  1. I read the petition from more than 400 HCPSS high school students shared with the board. A 2015 Glenelg High School graduate is leading the campaign. Glenelg High School unfortunately had been on the newspaper front page for several racist incidents. Just reading the petition, for example:
    1. Some students called black students “N word” and there were no consequences. 
    2. Some teachers could not remember Asian American Students’ names or faces in a small classroom for half the semester. Some of our staff could not pronounce students’ family names.
    3. Some staff or teachers discouraged African American students or Latino American students from entering  into AP classes. 
  2. Many community members called me regarding a recent social media post from an HCPSS administrator. They feel the post was insensitive and offensive. They  believe our officials  should have been more thoughtful and responsible when they express their opinions  publicly, which includes clicking the “like” button on social media platforms. 

All these events made me think: What can we do to eliminate explicit and implicit biases, microaggression, discrimination and oppression? How can we systematically implement the necessary actions steps?

The questions are tough to answer as we are naturally inclined  to find a fast and easy way out, yet unsuccessfully so. The inconvenient truth is, only when we are able to face the reality truthfully and do self-reflecting and soul-searching, we are able to move forward. We can aim big, however, we should act small, starting with incremental steps for which we have the ability to execute as well as to examine the outcomes each step along the way. 

I agree that HCPSS should include more anti-bias training to help our workforce to better connect with the students and families. These connections will create stronger motivations for our students to work hard and also provide more opportunities for them to excel. We also need to increase culture proficiency training.When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should work hard to reduce bias during the hiring process to increase workforce diversity and leadership diversity. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should include a more diverse curriculum to help our students expand their learning horizon which will promote better cross-group, cross-culture understanding and respect. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I want to make a motion: 


The Howard County Board of Education denounces any bias and racism towards African American, Asian American, Latino American, Muslim American, LGBT community,  and any other groups who have been ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed. 

2019 HCPSS Per Student Spending By School

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to report the per pupil expenditures of federal, state, and local funds including actual personnel expenditures and actual non personnel expenditures. The HCPSS finance office followed MSDE’s methodology to develop the school level per-pupil expenditure data that is being reported. All districts across the state followed the same methodology.

Expenditures are separated into:
 School-level per-pupil expenditures: local school system operating expenditures directly attributed to schools or allocated to schools based on certain criteria and reported as a per-pupil or per-student amount.
 District wide costs: expenditures that are not directly linked to a school.

Regional programs, the experience level of staff at the school, and Title I funding contribute to the differences in the per-pupil funding between schools.

Expenditures for students in nonpublic placements, pre-kindergarten, and infants and toddlers programs, are excluded from this per-pupil reporting.

Special Center

School NameState/Local AmountFederal AmountTotal Amount
Cedar Lane Special Center $                           95,663.00 $                     2,417.00 $                   98,080.00
Homewood School $                           72,023.00 $                     1,499.00 $                   73,523.00

High School Level

Wilde Lake High $                           15,994.00 $                         530.00 $                   16,524.00
Oakland Mills High $                           15,718.00 $                         566.00 $                   16,283.00
Hammond High $                           14,990.00 $                         517.00 $                   15,507.00
Long Reach High $                           14,946.00 $                         486.00 $                   15,432.00
Reservoir High $                           13,883.00 $                         471.00 $                   14,354.00
Glenelg High $                           13,838.00 $                         413.00 $                   14,251.00
Atholton High $                           13,659.00 $                         436.00 $                   14,095.00
Mount Hebron High $                           13,367.00 $                         418.00 $                   13,785.00
Howard High $                           13,079.00 $                         452.00 $                   13,531.00
River Hill High $                           13,048.00 $                         416.00 $                   13,464.00
Marriotts Ridge High $                           12,851.00 $                         384.00 $                   13,235.00
Centennial High $                           12,715.00 $                         407.00 $                   13,121.00

Middle School Level

Harpers Choice Middle $                           17,743.00 $                         525.00 $                   18,269.00
Oakland Mills Middle $                           16,385.00 $                         604.00 $                   16,989.00
Wilde Lake Middle $                           15,486.00 $                         502.00 $                   15,988.00
Lake Elkhorn Middle $                           15,404.00 $                         463.00 $                   15,867.00
Mayfield Woods Middle $                           14,794.00 $                         467.00 $                   15,262.00
Glenwood Middle $                           14,538.00 $                         441.00 $                   14,979.00
Patuxent Valley Middle $                           14,277.00 $                         435.00 $                   14,711.00
Thomas Viaduct Middle $                           14,133.00 $                         490.00 $                   14,623.00
Murray Hill Middle $                           14,099.00 $                         456.00 $                   14,555.00
Elkridge Landing Middle $                           13,682.00 $                         449.00 $                   14,131.00
Dunloggin Middle $                           13,629.00 $                         424.00 $                   14,053.00
Bonnie Branch Middle $                           13,607.00 $                         436.00 $                   14,044.00
Lime Kiln Middle $                           13,580.00 $                         409.00 $                   13,989.00
Folly Quarter Middle $                           13,392.00 $                         437.00 $                   13,829.00
Hammond Middle School $                           13,346.00 $                         382.00 $                   13,728.00
Clarksville Middle $                           12,829.00 $                         338.00 $                   13,167.00
Ellicott Mills Middle $                           12,641.00 $                         414.00 $                   13,055.00
Patapsco Middle $                           12,157.00 $                         355.00 $                   12,513.00
Burleigh Manor Middle School $                           11,840.00 $                         362.00 $                   12,202.00
Mount View Middle $                           11,610.00 $                         364.00 $                   11,974.00

Elementary School Level

Stevens Forest Elementary $                           17,241.00 $                     1,235.00 $                   18,476.00
Guilford Elementary $                           16,902.00 $                     1,106.00 $                   18,008.00
Cradlerock Elementary $                           16,569.00 $                     1,294.00 $                   17,863.00
Running Brook Elementary $                           16,593.00 $                     1,226.00 $                   17,819.00
Longfellow Elementary $                           16,371.00 $                     1,176.00 $                   17,547.00
Bryant Woods Elementary $                           16,245.00 $                     1,188.00 $                   17,433.00
Phelps Luck Elementary $                           16,140.00 $                     1,204.00 $                   17,344.00
Talbott Springs Elementary $                           15,838.00 $                     1,202.00 $                   17,041.00
Ducketts Lane Elementary $                           15,509.00 $                     1,145.00 $                   16,653.00
Deep Run Elementary $                           15,470.00 $                     1,154.00 $                   16,624.00
Waterloo Elementary $                           15,901.00 $                         520.00 $                   16,420.00
Dayton Oaks Elementary $                           15,404.00 $                         466.00 $                   15,870.00
Laurel Woods Elementary $                           14,399.00 $                     1,136.00 $                   15,536.00
Swansfield Elementary $                           14,350.00 $                     1,139.00 $                   15,489.00
Clarksville Elementary $                           14,916.00 $                         507.00 $                   15,423.00
Lisbon Elementary $                           14,730.00 $                         499.00 $                   15,229.00
Bollman Bridge Elementary $                           14,132.00 $                     1,076.00 $                   15,208.00
Bushy Park Elementary $                           14,595.00 $                         416.00 $                   15,011.00
Jeffers Hill Elementary $                           14,560.00 $                         444.00 $                   15,003.00
Rockburn Elementary $                           14,485.00 $                         477.00 $                   14,963.00
Thunder Hill Elementary $                           14,320.00 $                         494.00 $                   14,815.00
Bellows Spring Elementary $                           13,669.00 $                         481.00 $                   14,151.00
Hanover Hills Elementary $                           13,605.00 $                         488.00 $                   14,093.00
Atholton Elementary $                           13,588.00 $                         456.00 $                   14,044.00
West Friendship Elementary $                           13,543.00 $                         409.00 $                   13,952.00
Ilchester Elementary $                           13,487.00 $                         451.00 $                   13,938.00
Worthington Elementary $                           13,065.00 $                         394.00 $                   13,459.00
Veterans Elementary $                           13,003.00 $                         429.00 $                   13,431.00
Triadelphia Ridge Elementary $                           12,959.00 $                         457.00 $                   13,417.00
Waverly Elementary $                           12,968.00 $                         404.00 $                   13,371.00
Clemens Crossing Elementary $                           12,925.00 $                         364.00 $                   13,289.00
Manor Woods Elementary $                           12,491.00 $                         426.00 $                   12,917.00
Elkridge Elementary $                           12,331.00 $                         469.00 $                   12,800.00
Hollifield Station Elementary $                           12,313.00 $                         397.00 $                   12,710.00
Hammond Elementary $                           12,196.00 $                         464.00 $                   12,660.00
Forest Ridge Elementary $                           12,226.00 $                         426.00 $                   12,652.00
Pointers Run Elementary $                           11,951.00 $                         413.00 $                   12,364.00
Gorman Crossing Elementary $                           11,640.00 $                         405.00 $                   12,045.00
Northfield Elementary $                           11,416.00 $                         407.00 $                   11,822.00
Centennial Lane Elementary $                           11,328.00 $                         372.00 $                   11,700.00
Fulton Elementary $                           11,294.00 $                         401.00 $                   11,696.00
St. Johns Lane Elementary $                           11,009.00 $                         382.00 $                   11,391.00

There are very large variations on per-student spending between schools. Cedar Lane Special Center and Homework School are two different schools which rank the highest spending. Then

  • On the ES level, the highest/lowest ratio = 162%.
  • On the MS level, the highest/lowest ratio = 153%.
  • On the HS level, the highest/lowest ratio = 124%.

Here is the spreadsheet.

HCPSS School Recovery Plan for Fall 2020

There are many unknown factors and the school system is working to have a plan. Here are some concerns I shared with the staff.


  1. If some parents feel it is not safe to send kids to school, will going to school be optional or not? Then how to manage the classroom?
  2. How to mitigate safety concerns from teachers and staff too? If the teacher does not want to go to teach in the classroom, how do we handle that? 
  3. How will the before-care and after-care handle the situation?


  1. learn new knowledge (not just drill)
  2. more check-ins,
  3. online interactive teaching
  4. mental health of our students, online bullying(chat ,etc)

Curriculum design

  1. We need to pull some teachers, working together with the central office, having a relatively structured instruction. Instead we push those tasks to individual teachers to search for instruction video on youtube.
  2. If we are not able to provide those videos, are we able to identify from some free, open source video contents, for example, Khan Academy to have a list of videos?
  3. This way, we can relieve the burden from individual teacher, and make it easier for both teachers, students and parents.

Here is the PowerPoint slide.

The plan is actively under development and will change over the time.

2020 HoCo BOE primary election result

2020 HoCo BOE primary election result is out. We have the following candidates advancing to the November general election. In each council district, we will elect one BOE member.

  • District 2: Larry Pretlow, Antonia Watts
  • District 3: Tom Heffner, Jolene Mosley
  • District 4: Jen Mallo, Sezin Palmer
  • District 5: Yun Lu, Cindy Vaillancourt
  • District 1(no primary): Christina Demont-Small, Matthew D. Molyett

Hear what some of our students say about their HCPSS experience

The BOE received a student petition on addressing some racist events in the school. Victoria Owens, Glenelg High School, Class of 2015, is leading the campaign. Glenelg High School unfortunately has been on the newspaper front page for several racist incidents.

I highly encourage your read our students’ school experience and share your idea on how to change and improve the school climate in HCPSS. Some of the experiences are heart-broken. However, only when we are able to face the reality calmly and do self-reflecting and soul-searching, we are able to move forward.

I agree that HCPSS should include a more diverse curriculum to help our students expand their learning horizon worldwide which will promote better cross-culture understanding and respect, reduce racial bias during the hiring process to increase workforce diversity and leadership diversity, and increase culture proficiency training.

Here is the 105-page petition.

2020 HCPSS Feasibility Study

Annually, the Board of Education reviews long-term capital planning options and school capacity utilizations through the Feasibility Study. This report starts the capital budget process. The annual student enrollment projection is introduced; identification of potential new capital projects (e.g., additions, renovations) or changes to previous capital projects are discussed; and anticipated attendance area adjustments within the timeframe of the capital improvement program are presented in this report. Plans examined in this document may be implemented in the approval of the capital budget or changes in school attendance areas.

The 2020 Feasibility Study indicates no boundary review process for implementation in SY 2021-22.

Comparison of state category spending between HCPSS and others

Here is a comparison of state category spending between HCPSS (in the middle column) and other neighboring school districts(Baltimore County, Frederick County, Arundel County, Montgomery County) over the last five years. At the current budget level, a 1.0% of HCPSS budget is 9 million dollars.

I believe it is important for the school board and the school system to

  1. Develop a long-term (five-year?) plan if the school system only gets an MOE (Maintenance of Effort) level funding from the county for the next several years. For example, is there any structural spending problem? If yes, how to fix it. If no, how to fix the budget issue by restructuring them. We have been facing funding shortage in the last several budget cycles.
  2. Develop a plan if HCPSS gets above the minimal MOE level, how to use that extra money for classroom support, teacher compensation improvement, instructional materials, etc.
  3. Continue with the established plan to pay down the health fund deficit ( around 32 millions now)
  4. Partner with the community and stakeholders, advocate a larger share from the county and state funding into HCPSS. This is the most critical part since BOE does not generate money. We are only managing the money allocated for the school system and we have to balance the budget. Without a growing pie, every year’s budget cycle is painful.
  5. Attract more funding from other resources (grant, HCPSS fundraising, etc)

Another comparison I would love to get is the K-12 funding level for each county over the years.

2020 HCPSS Graduation Speech

2020 HCPSS Graduation Speech

I am Dr. Chao Wu from Board of Education. It is a great honor to have this opportunity to congratulate you, our high school seniors, graduating at  this un’’precedented time in our history. Many years later when we look back together, we will be proud of ourselves exemplying resilience and compassion, at this moment. 

Last year, I talked about embracing changes in my graduation speech. This year, we have been confronted with a change, an un’’precedented change. We are in a lockdown. We are having a virtual graduation celebration. We have a new norm. We are recovering slowly, yet steadily. 

There is a great proverb: what hits us and does not strike us down will make us stronger. Many of us witnessed the 2008 great recession because of the financial crisis. We survived and thrived. Now, we are experiencing a global pandemic. The pandemic will not deter us; instead, we will, yet again, define our own path with determination! (raise hand)

There will be many unknowns, especially in the short time horizon. There will be challenges, visible and invisible. We must, we will, and we can, prepare ourselves with knowledge, passion and compassion. 

I am grateful and hopeful that HCPSS has taught you those skills, to prepare for your future, a bright future. Along the road, you will continue to have friends, families and community to support you. Please always be hopeful and thankful.  

Your future is our nation’s future.

At this time, please join me in honoring the Class of 2020 as we now recognize each of our graduates.

Message from CA leadership

Dear Columbia Association Community,

Columbia Association (CA) has felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and like each of you, we’ve had to adjust. Following is a summary of CA’s efforts to keep our community safe, a preview of changes in programming, and a brief discussion of the rationale for these changes. Because of our accountability to diverse stakeholders – most notably the residents and businesses who pay CA’s Annual Charge as well as members whose dues support CA facilities and programs – our decisions have been complex and difficult. 

Keeping Columbia Safe
On March 15, CA closed all its facilities and cancelled programming indefinitely. The CA board of directors and CA team members (employees) immediately began planning for reopening community venues and programs, while at the same time delivering essential services (open space maintenance) in a manner that did not endanger residents, members or team members. 

Tough Decisions
Following Governor Hogan’s Maryland Strong 3 phase plan to reopen businesses, CA has modeled numerous approaches to reopening programs and facilities, depending upon timing of reopen decisions at the state and county level. 

  • We opened two outdoor tennis clubs and golf facilities on May 13, with training for staff and clear guidelines to keep members and staff safe. Hobbit’s Glen tennis remains closed for renovations to the clay courts.
  • We regret that we will not open outdoor pools or hold summer camps in 2020. We understand that this will deeply disappoint many of our residents and members. This decision was only made after careful consideration of all options available. (please read “Rationale” below)
  •  Final preparations are underway now to safely reopen fitness clubs, the Columbia Swim Center, and the Long Reach Tennis Club when we receive approval from Howard County leadership, hopefully within the next several weeks.

Rationale for Tough Decisions
CA is a unique organization. We are a homeowners association serving more than 100,000 residents. We are also a membership organization serving nearly 60,000 members using our sports and fitness facilities and community services and programs (including summer camps, before and after school services, etc.). On February 20, the CA board approved FY 2021 (5/1/20-4/30/21) budget which included projected operating income of $80M. With the March 15 closure of all CA facilities and programming indefinitely, leadership revised operating expenses to match the new reality. CA’s projected total income will be down 30% and non-Annual Charge income will be down 56%. This loss of income led to the difficult programming decisions outlined above, as well as the decision to layoff or furlough more than 90% of our team members (with the remaining ones taking pay cuts of up to 50%) and to reduce the FY 21 capital budget by 47% from $15M to $8M.

CA will continue to adjust as the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic crisis evolves. With your continued support CA will thrive but, inevitably, it must continue to change to adapt to this new reality. Please forward your comments or questions to us at


Andrew C. Stack, Board of Directors                       

Milton W. MatthewsChair,   President/CEO

HCPSS Reflection on Recent Events

Dear HCPSS Community:

We would like to take a moment to address the recent events in our nation, state, and county. As we grapple with the social-emotional impacts of a pandemic that may have forever changed our daily lives, we have witnessed another senseless killing of an African American, George Floyd. It is important that we acknowledge this event, reflect on the hurt and pain we are feeling and resolve together to do our part to eradicate hate, condemn violence and stand up to acts of racism within our own community.

We are outraged that incidents like these continue to occur and as educators, we know that these incidents have a profound impact on our children. As recently as last week there have been incidents where our students have made or posted racially charged remarks on social media. Our entire community suffers when even one individual feels their sense of safety and belonging is compromised.

At this moment, the word pandemic holds so much more meaning. We are facing a pandemic of racism, hate, and bias that threatens the freedom, peace and well-being of every person in our nation. During the COVID–19 pandemic, we have seen members of our community discriminated against and scapegoated. Now, amidst dealing with the uncertainty of a post-COVID world, we once again are met with the harsh reality that some in our society do not value the lives of African Americans. Make no mistake about it, what is happening in Minneapolis is part of a systemic issue that we need to talk about and address. What we are seeing across America is more than just a reaction to one incident; it is a culmination of years of dismissal, frustration, and anger.

The great writer James Baldwin said it best, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The best way for us to get through this is to face it head on and talk about it. We must create opportunities and spaces for people to share and heal together. We are asking staff, families, and community members to talk openly about what is happening and to encourage our young people and adults to talk through this. These conversations can be hard, but they are necessary. We encourage you to review resources that we have provided on the HCPSS website, including how to talk to children about traumatic events.

If you are unsure where to start, reach out to community and faith-based organizations that may be able to help, or contact our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Kevin Gilbert at

As a school system, we will continue to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion resources, in order to address the structural racism in a measured and intentional way. Collectively, the Board of Education and superintendent have made a commitment to invest in restorative justice practices, mental health supports, anti-bullying resources, anti-bias and microaggressions training, and professional learning for leaders to operationalize equity in every building and office. Now more than ever, our commitment must not waver. Our school system, however, cannot do this alone and it is incumbent upon every individual in our community to take the initiative and have the tough, uncomfortable conversations that are necessary to address incivility and hate.

To our students, we want to say that if you are feeling unsafe, please reach out to a trusted adult—whether it is a parent, guardian, relative, teacher or administrator. We may not be together in our school buildings right now to provide you support in person but know that all of us are here to help you, protect you, and take care of your well-being first and foremost.

We ask that together, we use the widespread hurt, pain, and anger as a catalyst to create the type of society we desire for each and every one of our students. We pledge to do everything within our authority to eradicate acts of violence, hatred, and racism in the Howard County Public School System and create an environment where every student feels a sense of safety, belonging and inclusion.


Mavis Ellis
Chair, Board of Education

Michael J. Martirano

Board Member Report 2020-05-28

2020-5-28 Board Member Report

Revised for publication.

We are almost at the end of our semester. We are experiencing a turbulence and we are facing uncertainty for the fall. 

It is important for the school system to keep examining our distance delivery model and listening to our teachers, students and parents.  Our students’ well-being and academic growth are both in the center of our daily operation. We should be able to conduct a survey before the school closes for the summer. 

Many questions can be asked, for example: 

  1. How do you feel during this time?
  2. Do you have a preference for synchronous (live-streaming) or asynchronous (pre-recorded) class formats?
  3. What is the best/worst part of distance learning? Where do you want to see improvements and changes? 
  4. If we could make one change or do one thing to help you with right now, what would it be? 
  5. For students in special education, ESOL, GT, etc, what do you want to change for the distant learning model?
  6. Do we have enough support for our high risk students and families?
  7. Which kind of interactions do you like with your teacher?

There are many more questions. It will take lots of effort to design an effective and actionable survey.

There are many unknowns. It is important to explore different possibilities , plan for the fall by conducting surveys and learning from the students and teachers. We should always pursue innovation in our teaching methodology and delivery. 

I know many families are exhausted and anxious to know what is next. Frankly we don’t know the full picture until we get over this pandemic. However, I strongly believe that we will be able to overcome this short period of difficulty. Our community is gradually open again and comes back to normal soon. We will stay strong and safely.

Thank you. 

HCPSS Survey on Student Participation in Distance Learning

The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you that the Maryland State Department of Education asked all Maryland local education agencies to particiapate in a distance learning survey. The survey is designed to gauge students’ access and engagement with online learning over the week of Monday, April 27 to Friday, May 1. Howard County Public School System returned the below reponses to the survey on Wednesday, May 13. Here is the document.

APFO 2020 School Capacity Chart

Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) School Capacity charts are utilized as part of the growth management process of Howard County for new residential developments. The test year for the 2020 APFO School Capacity Charts is SY 2023-24. For SY 2023-24, there are 20 elementary, five middle and five high schools, and three elementary school regions listed as constrained (see Attachment 2). impact of Board approved SY 2020-21 boundaries has been taken into account for these School Capacity Charts.

Here are the school capacity charts.

Board Member Report 2020-05-14

Board Member Report

2020-05-14, Thursday

Revised for publication.

First, I want to thank Ms. Min Woo, Specialist and Mr. James Lemon, Executive Director of Community, Parent and School Outreach for hosting the Well-Being in the Asian Community seminar. I dialed-in and listened for a while. I just missed Dr. Martirano’s excellent speech. It was a great seminar for the community. 

We have been hearing more feedback from our parents, students and teachers.  For students with special needs or resource limited families, please keep reaching out to school and discuss your children’s needs and how the school can help to meet their needs. 

For High School seniors, we care about their graduation, one of the most important ceremonies before their grown-up life. 

For High School juniors, they worry about their senior year experience and graduation next year. Please notice that everything will be a little different and take some time to self-reflect, manage your course-load and re-prioritize your curriculum. 

At the elementary school level, we are keeping revising our distant learning practice. I believe the school can do a little more than we are having now. For example, 

  1. Having more, short virtual meetings with teachers and peer students online. Building a connected classroom with our teacher and classmates of younger ones will also help our students’ psychosocial well-beings. It does not need to be long and well-scripted. Even a fireside chat with our teachers, a joke around with their peer classmates will be very helpful. 
  2. Providing a curriculum less intense, more engaged and more organized. Building and keeping a good routine for our young students will help them in the long run. Helping them to learn to be self-disciplined and being resilient, being independent from a daily, not so rigid agenda will help our students. 
  3. If a teacher wants to engage more with their classroom and students, we should encourage that engagement. Sure, we don’t want to  overburden our teachers. 

When we look back in the future, we may realize it is NOT what the academic knowledge our children learn, but the way we deal with this unprecedented crisis. Our children will learn flexibility, adaptability, accountability, discipline, compassion, and resilience. These great traits will benefit them all the way in the future.

Another topic I would like to highlight: we need to use this opportunity and time to prepare on how to integrate distance learning into our curriculum, especially if we are not sure how/when we will come back in the fall. If we are not able to get this right, those less-fortunate students will be impacted more disproportionally.

I truly appreciate our superintendent, teacher and staff’s dedicated effort during this time.

Thank you. 

PG County Public School Report: Facilities for Education

Here is a copy of PG county public school: facilities for education. Their average building age is 41 Years Old. The report itself is four years old.

The report listed some benefits about good education facility and environment. I wish they provide a reference link to those data points.

  1. Building temperature can lower overall student performance by 0.2% in test scores for every 1 degree increase in temperature
  2. There is a 5% reduction in attention levels in poorly ventilated classrooms with too much CO2.
  3. Math and English scores can be improved through increased ventilation by 2.9% and 2.7%
  4. Improved lighting increased reading fluency by 36%.

They proposed using P3 to build new schools and even for maintenance effort. Here is the full report: