Update on HCPSS Double Busing Evaluation

Update on HCPSS Double Busing Evaluation

I know many parents and students are impacted by the double busing issue which was due to severe driver shortage. My daughter’s afternoon bus schedule is impacted by an hour too. We have been asking the school system to keep examining this. Here is the latest update:

We will keep the current implementation in place. We will continue to examine the situation and make adjustments. Both the data and justification are attached in the following letter.

After evaluating the opportunities and considerations it is our recommendation to keep the existing structure of the double busing in place. We could revisit this for the spring semester as certain variables may change over the coming months. The two main variables would be known or committed ridership and an increase in drivers. As new drivers are placed into operation, we are trying to eliminate the most impacted routes, which could result in different outcomes in the data. 

If you have any questions, please contact Scott W. Washington, Chief Operating Officer at scott_washington@hcpss.org, or Brian Nevin, Director of Student Transportation at brian_nevin@hcpss.org. 

Fall 2021 USNA Admissions Candidate Visits

2021 United States Naval Academy Admission Candidate Visit

Senator Van Hollen’s office is excited to share the information below regarding admissions candidate visits to the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA).  We encourage you to share this invitation with students and others who may be interested in attending.  Please note that these visits are intended for current high school seniors and others applying for admission to USNA this year.

If you have any questions, please contact USNA Admissions at (410) 293-1858 or online at https://www.usna.edu/Admissions

Senator Van Hollen is very responsive to constitutes. I had the honor to meet him a few times in the past.

2021 Update on Cafeteria Protocols and Self Check Reminders

These are latest update for the school opening on August 30,2021.

Last week, a message was sent detailing several updates related to the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Below is additional information authorized by the superintendent related specifically to cafeteria protocols and the self check process that every family will be expected to perform daily before sending their child to school.

Cafeteria Updates

There are several updates related to cafeteria protocols to further reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19. All schools will have outdoor eating spaces available on campus for student use as weather and staffing permits to lessen the number of students in the cafeteria. In an effort to maintain a healthy environment in cafeterias, the following actions are being implemented: 

  • Additional tables have been ordered and will be distributed to schools to help ensure outside eating areas are furnished as well as to allow maximum spacing indoors. 

  • Based on the availability of products from vendors, large tents that are compliant with local code will be provided to elementary schools to increase outdoor dining spaces. We anticipate a number of tents will be in place to begin the school year with additional tents being provided in September.

  • Plexiglass shields for indoor cafeteria tables are being secured for grades k-6 where students are largely unable to be vaccinated. These panels will provide additional protection between students who are unable to be vaccinated while eating when masks cannot be worn.


COVID-19 Self-Screening Symptoms Self Check

Parents/guardians should keep their children home if they are experiencing symptom(s) associated with any communicable disease, including COVID-19. In addition, parents/guardians are to perform the following COVID-19 health check every day before the student leaves home.

A child should NOT come to school with any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Diarrhea or vomiting

  • New onset of severe headache (especially with fever), or

  • New loss of taste or smell


For persons with chronic conditions such as asthma, the symptoms should represent a change from baseline.

Children exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 may not attend school. 

Please visit the HCPSS website for additional information on self screening, contact tracing and quarantining procedures. Additionally, visit the HCPSS website for more information on the 2021-2022 school year and answers to frequently asked questions.

Important 2021-2022 School Bus Transportation Update ( driver shortage, longer bus ride)

Important 2021-2022 School Bus Transportation Update ( driver shortage, longer bus ride)

Dear HCPSS families,

On Monday, August 30, 2021, HCPSS schools will welcome approximately 58,000 students back into our school buildings amidst many challenges that linger while the pandemic continues. One such challenge is a significant shortage of bus drivers.

Despite the efforts of partner organizations and groups across the county this summer to assist bus contractors in attracting more drivers, HCPSS contractors currently have only 80% of the drivers necessary to cover all routes, which equates to 93 current vacancies. School districts in many of our neighboring counties and across the United States are experiencing a similar driver shortage. 

In order to provide transportation services to all eligible students by using the existing buses and drivers available, many bus routes and bus stops will look different than what families have experienced in past years.

To accommodate the shortage in drivers, buses will run double routes for some schools, picking up and dropping off students in groups. For example, a bus would pick up and drop off students assigned to Group A and then circle back to pick up Group B. This will create a larger-than-typical window of time between when the first students are dropped off at school and the time instruction begins. The first group of students will be dropped off at school approximately 30 minutes prior to the arrival time of the second group. All students will have at least 10 minutes for breakfast prior to the start of the instructional day. The same process will take place after school with the goal of no more than 30 minutes between the time the first and second groups leave school. 

Students who are at school and awaiting instruction or bus pickup will be supervised by HCPSS staff. Please note that this will not impact the number of instructional hours students receive.

Though families are used to receiving their bus schedules two weeks prior to the start of the school year, HCPSS asks for your patience and understanding as we work through challenges with developing bus routes for this school year. The bus locator will be available on the HCPSS website by Tuesday, August 24.

When the full bus schedules are finalized and available online, all bus riders will have scheduled pickup and drop-off times to support families in their planning.

HCPSS staff will monitor bus ridership and driver vacancies and make adjustments to the schedule as we are able. It is our goal to limit the number of instances buses must double back for additional students and to minimize the impact on students and families. 

Anyone interested in becoming a driver is encouraged to call the HCPSS Transportation Office at 410-313-6732 as soon as possible.

Latest HCPSS School Year 2021-2022 Update

Latest HCPSS School Year 2021-2022 Update

We may have new updates. This update is the most-up-to-date guideline for five days in-person education for HCPSS from our superintendent Dr. Martirano.

We will ask all students and staff wearing masks. HCPSS will require all employees to provide proof of full vaccination or undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

We still have many unknowns and many challenges ahead. Let’s work together and address them one by one.

HCPSS Eliminates Health Fund Deficit Two Years Ahead of Schedule

HCPSS Eliminates Health Fund Deficit Two Years Ahead of Schedule

 July 12, 2021

This press release is being sent jointly by the Howard County Public School System and County Executive’s Office

Ellicott City, Maryland — Howard County Public School System Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano, joined by Board of Education Chair Dr. Chao Wu, County Executive Calvin Ball, County Council Chair Liz Walsh, and system and county leaders, today announced the school system’s health fund deficit will be eliminated this year (fiscal year 2022) – two years ahead of schedule.

The deficit, which began in 2015 and was first discussed publicly in May 2017 by then newly hired Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano, grew to $39.2 million before a combination of several efforts were implemented to halt the continuing deficit growth. The first step was to begin to fully fund actuarially projected health insurance costs and then begin to pay down the deficit. In 2019, a plan was jointly developed by the Superintendent and County Executive to eliminate the deficit by fiscal year 2024. Using savings within the school system’s operating budget, a one-time infusion of funds from the Howard County Government, and a lower-than-expected claims experience in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, the health deficit will be eliminated in this current fiscal year (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022) with an estimated $5 million positive balance if claims are consistent with actuarial projections. 

“This deficit has significantly constrained our operating budget for several years and limited our ability to adequately fund several priorities,” said Superintendent Martirano. “Eliminating the deficit became an immediate top priority for me and Board of Education members. Today truly is a momentous day as we can celebrate that our commitment and collaboration has finally addressed this deficit and that the Howard County Public School System will not be hampered by this looming deficit year after year. It is our responsibility and the responsibility of all future leaders in our county to ensure that our employee health care costs are fully funded.”

“The School System’s Health Fund Deficit represented a significant fiscal challenge that our Administration and County Council had to confront upon taking office. In just 3 years, we have accomplished something truly remarkable: we have taken a near $40 million deficit and turned it into a projected surplus of over $5 million,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “Our Administration, School System and Board of Education faced a daunting challenge, met it head on, and resolved the issue working together. I am proud of the work we’ve done to eliminate the Health Fund Deficit and am thankful to have good partners like Dr. Martirano, the members of the Board of Education, and our Howard County Council to make today possible.”

“This was not a problem created by this Board or this Superintendent, but it was ours to fix,” said Board Chair Wu. “Since 2017, this Board of Education has prioritized fully funding the actuarially projected health insurance costs, preventing the deficit from growing. We will continue to prioritize the health benefits that our employees receive and engage in sound financial practices to ensure we never find ourselves in this position again.”
 
“The County Council has shared consistently with the Superintendent’s and Board of Education’s goal to eliminate this health fund deficit as quickly as we possibly could,” said Liz Walsh, County Council Chair. “So much so that we voted unanimously in support of an amendment to dedicate an additional $2.5 million to this exclusive purpose. We can now all turn our attention to fully funding the present needs and future needs of our county school system and the children in our care at this very moment and for generations to come.”

The Superintendent detailed several collaborative efforts to eliminate the health fund deficit:

  • The efforts of the Board of Education’s steadfast commitment to fully funding the actuarially projected health insurance costs to stop the deficit from growing
  • The County Executive and County Council’s collaboration by dedicating significant contributions to deficit reduction
  • The strategic budgetary measures that were put in place to generate year-end savings in the HCPSS General Fund to help pay down the deficit
  • Unanticipated health cost savings in the Health Fund producing operating gains

“Today truly is a momentous day as we celebrate that our commitment and collaboration has finally addressed this deficit and our budgetary focus will not be on getting out of a multi-million dollar debt but on how the budget can support the very important programs and services that our students and staff need. This includes implementing the Blueprint for Maryland legislation and welcoming back all of our students back to school next month to normalized instruction,” added Martirano. 

 

HoCo BOE hiring board administrator

Our current board administrator Mrs. Kathy Hanks will retire soon. We will miss Mrs. Hanks greatly. Her professionalism is the best I have ever seen.

We are hiring for a new one.

Position Type:
  Central Office, Professional/Administrator to the Board of Education

Date Posted:
  6/25/2021

Location:
  Central Office, Howard County Public School System

Closing Date:
  07/11/2021

Here is the link for application

https://www.applitrack.com/hcpss/onlineapp/default.aspx?Category=Central+Office%2c+Professional

Administrator to the Board of Education
This position opens on June 25, 2021 and closes July 11, 2021.


DESCRIPTION
Under the supervision of the Chairman of the Board of Education (BOE), the Administrator to the Board of Education provides oversight and implementation of the daily operations of the Board of Education office including the supervision of assigned administrative staff.  The Administrator serves as a liaison between members of the Board of Education, Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) staff, and constituents.  The Administrator works closely with the Office of the Superintendent to coordinate joint meetings, the development of the quarterly agenda, and the response to urgent matters.

The ideal candidate for this position has exceptional ability to manage complex and time sensitive projects. With outstanding customer service and communication skills, this individual deals tactfully and effectively with school administrators, school system staff, external organizations, and the general public. The ideal candidate is skilled in the use a variety of computer software and cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, and video conferencing platforms. The ability to exercise judgment, resourcefulness, discretion, and confidentiality in this role is paramount.

To learn more about employment with HCPSS, please visit https://www.hcpss.org/employment/.

ESSENTIAL POSITION RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Schedules and participates in all Board of Education business meetings, work sessions, special meetings, and public hearings, documenting actions and discussions. Provides leadership in agenda management by preparing and maintaining all Board meeting agendas. Transcribes, prepares, and oversees distribution of meeting minutes. Oversees maintenance of official archive of all Board meeting minutes.  Maintains the confidentiality of materials.
  • Serves as the primary compliance officer for the Open Meetings Act as it pertains to Board meetings. Ensures all meeting are announced and agenda posted.
  • Maintains the Board calendar and strategically plans and implements activities related to official Board business. Establishes short-term and long-term priorities and milestones to address them on time.
  • Serves as first point of contact between the Board and the community.  Exercises independent judgment to answer questions from constituents and internal staff on matters related to the Board, originates a wide variety of correspondence, and refers inquiries to the appropriate person or department. Interprets and communicates HCPSS policies as needed to respond to and resolve inquiries.
  • Maintains effective communication and collaboration with the Office of the Superintendent.
  • Provides timely notice to the Board of sensitive or potential crisis situations within the school system.
  • Collects, researches, compiles, organizes, and presents information on a variety of issues at the request of Board Members. Maintains a list of Board requests for action, unfinished Board business, and future agenda items. Follows up with staff on outstanding action items.
  • Serves as the liaison for appeals to the Board of Education.  Collaborates with the Board’s attorney concerning Board requests and appeals by the public and employees. Processes appeals to the Board in accordance with established procedures. Arranges Board hearings in a timely manner. Informs appellant of the Board’s appeal procedures. Assigns hearing examiner and ensures relevant legal material is available for review prior to the hearing.
  • Coordinates Board retreats and orientation for new Board members. Schedules professional development for Board members as needed. Informs Board members of operating procedures and protocol for meetings, hearings, executive sessions, and other Board activities.
  • Establishes and maintains communication and effective working relationships with community and stakeholder groups, internal and external organizations, and agencies that provide educational related services.
  • Maintains the Board calendar and has authority for commitment of time. Arranges meetings between Board members and executive staff, elected officials, and other constituents as requested.

The above list is a summary of the functions of the job, not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of all possible job responsibilities, tasks, and duties.


MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS
Applicants must meet all the following qualifications, listed below, to be considered for the vacancy.

Education:

  • A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in public or business administration, public relations, communications, or a related field.

Experience:

  • At least (5) five years of experience working with senior leadership and executive level staff and providing leadership in the execution of highly complex projects and administrative tasks. 
  • Experience supervising and training staff.

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • Experience running effective meetings utilizing parliamentary procedure.
  • Knowledge of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.
  • Experience utilizing BoardDocs Pro or similar school board management software.
  • Knowledge of the Maryland Annotated Code for Education.
  • Knowledge of the general organization and functions of Maryland public school systems.

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS

  • Ability to work evenings and occasional weekends, frequently under pressure.

SALARY
This is a 12-month per year position in the Administrative, Management, and Technical employee group. The current salary range for this position is Group G, $102,020- $148,624. Salary placement will be in conjunction with salary procedures of the Howard County Public School System which considers relevant prior experience. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, this position is exempt from overtime.


APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS
Only applicants who submit all the requested information by the closing date of the vacancy will be considered for this position. Interviews will be limited to those applicants who, in addition to meeting the basic requirements, have experiences and education which most closely match the position qualifications and the needs of the school system. 

Please note that a completed application includes:

  • A complete application form that includes a listing of employment locations with dates of employment and names of direct supervisors.
  • All supplemental materials (i.e.: resume, letter of introduction, and transcripts) required to verify that you meet the minimum qualifications.

HCPSS requires an official evaluation of foreign credentials to verify educational qualifications.
For questions regarding this vacancy, please contact:

Sandy Saval
Human Resources Business Partner
Office of Human Resources
(410) 313-6689
sandy_saval@hcpss.org


Equal Opportunity Employer
The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  HCPSS ensures equal employment opportunity for all persons without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

20 recommendations from 2021 OBRC

Here are 20 recommendations from 2021 OBRC.

  1. The OBRC recommends the Board request the Superintendent to obtain and provide the Board with a health benefit participation comparison among peer counties to clarify the findings in SB and Company’s Agreed-Upon Procedures Report. (Recommendation approved 12 to 5 with 2 abstentions) 

2. The OBRC recommends that HCPSS modernize its technology curriculum to expand the introduction to coding as a second language and computer science as a core discipline from K-12. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

3. The OBRC recommends the Board fully fund the line item on page 290 of the Superintendent’s Proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Operating Budget of $174,000 for contracted services that “Increases funding to provide reading intervention and dyslexia tutoring services provided by Orton Gillingham.” (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

4. The OBRC recommends the Board direct the Superintendent to present a cost-benefit analysis of the expected expenditures and/or savings incurred or expected through advancing expertise, training and certification of critical education staff and shifting to in-house staff development in science based and data driven reading intervention programs (one example is Orton Gillingham) to provide student tutoring versus contracting with outside services. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

5. The OBRC recommends the Board direct the Superintendent to more clearly define the HCPSS implementation process and initiatives that allow HCPSS to sustain and fully comply with the Ready to Read Act of 2019 and the key performance indicators on page 289 of the Superintendent’s Proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Operating Budget and to decrease the achievement gap of students that are identified as failing the benchmark of proficient in reading, including defining the 5 year (or longer) plan and the expected operating dollars that would be expended and/or saved. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

6. The OBRC recommends the Board direct the Superintendent to conduct a comparative analysis, using surrounding school districts, of the special education teachers/teacher’s aides to student ratio and the respective average caseloads. The OBRC requests the analysis compare current job descriptions and responsibilities of special education related services and support staff (i.e. paraprofessionals and behavioral specialists), to provide information to assess if HCPSS is utilizing the most effective staffing formula models to provide mandated special education services. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

7. The OBRC recommends the Board direct the Superintendent to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for utilizing HCPSS employed and trained staff vs. temporary teacher’s aides, including the expected 

expenditures and/or savings incurred to convert staff from temporary to full-time employees and necessary steps and timeline for the conversion. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

8. The OBRC recommends the Board request detailed staff turnover reports for Programs 3320 & 3321 for fiscal years 2018 to 2020 to explain the discrepancies between the budgets and actuals for salaries. The Board requests the report include the number of vacancies on the first day of school, the last day of the first semester, and the last day of school. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

9. The OBRC recommends the Board request a detailed explanation of where excess funds for Programs 3320 & 3321 were reallocated/reinvested in fiscal years 2018 to 2020 (excluding the federal pass-through funding in fiscal year 2020 that distorts the final numbers). (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

10. The OBRC recommends the Board request that the fiscal year 2022 budget reflect the delineation between federal pass-through dollars in Program 3321 – Contracted Labor and traditional funding sources to clarify the massive increase in spending that has not been explained in the fiscal year 2021 budget or fiscal year 2022 budget proposal. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

11. The OBRC recommends the Board review salary increases and discontinue the practice of “me-too” salary adjustments for AMT staff not covered under the bargaining positions to achieve closer alignment with salary maximums in peer counties. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

12. The OBRC recommends the Board direct the Superintendent to provide the Board with a comparison of four similar size peer county models for administration of community service and pass-through programs such as Health Services, Infants & Toddlers, and Mental Health Services to clarify the cost impact on HCPSS. (Recommendation approved unanimously) 

13. The OBRC recommends the Board include full funding of $5,357,451 in the Operating Budget for the Funding Commitments for Special Education New Enrollment. (Recommendation approved by consensus) 

14. The OBRC recommends the Board ask the Superintendent to prepare a report that includes information from each department and/or division that has Policy 1080 implementation responsibility and budgetary impact. (Recommendation approved by consensus) 

15. The OBRC recommends the Board provide full funding from sources including the Operating Budget and other sources of funds for the new Digital Education Center. (Recommendation approved by consensus) 

16. The OBRC recommends the Board include full funding in the Operating Budget for Sustaining Technology Infrastructure and Cybersecurity Safeguards. (Recommendation approved 13 to 0 with 2 abstentions) 

17. The OBRC recommends the Board include full funding in the Operating Budget for Enhanced Efforts in Reading Instruction and Dyslexia Training. (Recommendation approved by consensus) 

18. The OBRC recommends the Board consider the one-time funding listed in the application for ESSER II in determining what areas may be reasonable to consider reducing in the primary Operating Budget, where one-time expenditures exist, with the intention to leverage the enhanced opportunities in state funding to meet HCPSS goals. (Recommendation approved 9 to 0 with 5 abstentions) 

19. The OBRC recommends the Board not set the management presentation schedule for the OBRC. (Recommendation approved 12 to 1) 

20. The OBRC recommends the Board give the OBRC an opportunity to provide monthly reports at Board meetings during the budget period of January to June to improve communication and feedback between the Board and the OBRC. (Recommendation approved by consensus) 

US tax system needs reform

Just saw the BBC news on US riches people barely paying tax: “US super-rich ‘pay almost no income tax“. This is a fundamentally flawed tax system. In the article, IRS and Mike Bloomberg talked about their privacy was jeopardized and they will hunt down those who leaked the information. Very interesting angle.

The growing wealth gap in USA is hurting the country and it is the No. problem to be sovled. The share of American adults who live in middle-income households has decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. During this time, the share of adults in the upper-income tier increased from 14% to 20%, and the share in the lower-income tier increased from 25% to 29%. Ref: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/07/6-facts-about-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s/

Another problem is that many Americans don’t mange finance well. Some 40% of Americans would struggle to come up with even $400 to pay for an unexpected bill. Ref: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/20/heres-why-so-many-americans-cant-handle-a-400-unexpected-expense.html

Then I did another search comparing Amazon (Jeff Bezos, the richest in USA) and Alibaba (Jack Ma, the richest in China).

For Amazon

That’s because Amazon actually owed money to the federal government in 2019. After two straight years of paying $0 in U.S. federal income tax, Amazon was on the hook for a $162 million bill in 2019, the company said in an SEC filing on Thursday.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/04/amazon-had-to-pay-federal-income-taxes-for-the-first-time-since-2016.html

For Alibaba:

Alibaba paid more than 7 billion yuan (HK$ 8.9 billion) in taxes last year, averaging around 20 million in taxes per day, Jack Ma revealed in a company letter on Monday, according to The Beijing News.

https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/1410260/alibabas-7-billion-yuan-tax-bill-among-jack-mas-proudest-moments

Latency and Disconnect in the new construction yield and school over-capacity

There have been continuous discussions of school prediction on new housing development is not reflecting the school overcrowding issue. Here I am sharing some numbers of 15 housing developments. We have the projected student numbers and the real enrollment in 2018,2019 and 2020. The real enrollment is as high as 6 times as projected for High School, 4.66 times for Middle School and 3.61 times for Elementary School. Why is there such a disconnect? Here are some of my thoughts.

  1. The first year projection (New Construction Yield for Howard County Council terminology) on new housing development does not tell the whole story.
  2. One example, when the house permit is approved in the first year and the house is sold on the second year, it will be counted as resale. For the general public, this should be counted as new development enrollment.
  3. We should look at accumulated enrollment number over the years on new development parcel until it is done. There is a huge latency and discrepancy while only considering the new student number at the first year.
  4. I propose that the impact number (New Construction Yield) should use a different formula:
    • total enrolled students after all houses are sold/total house number
    • it could be further divided by total year of development carefully if we need consider yearly yield.
  5. I am looking forward to the new number based on this formula for New Construction Yield.
  6. After all houses are sold, there will be continuous resale. Then we can make a simple assumption that those resale will follow the general housing market.

What is your thought? Please share it with me at chao_wu@hcpss.org. Thanks a lot for helping me understand this issue better. Together we hope we can get this right.

The ration between Real Enrollment over New Construction Yield

The real enrollment

The New Construction Yield:

The data is attached here for your reference. BOE board member VicKy Cutroneo put many efforts on this and shared this data with me.