Category Archives: redistricting

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. 

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.

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.

 

 

Participating in HCPSS 2020 Redistricting Process

The superintendent’s proposal for 2020 redistricting has come out on August 22, 2019. I am hearing some are saying this is not bold enough and more people saying their children will be negatively impacted.

I have been contacted by many people. I talked to many people. I also met many people. I am writing down almost all polygon numbers.  I read every email. As long as my time permits and you represent a large group of parents/students, I would love to talk, even meet your group.

I wrote a software program in Python to analyze the polygon move in the high school level and its ramification through each move. I don’t have many data as OSP, but the public shared data already helps me a lot. A move in one direction will affect many in other directions.

I strongly suggest every one shares your feedback (redistricting@hcpss.org) on the superintendent’s plan, the feasibility study plan and even your own big/little plan. Following policy 6010, make your case, for example,

  1. students being moved multiple times,
  2. feeder system improvement,
  3. a highway or natural boundary separating the community,
  4. HS 13 boundary map,
  5. a continuous community being split,
  6. an alternative and good FARM rate reduction approach/move,
  7. a better demographic diversity improvement approach
  8. a detailed resource to help disadvantaged students,
  9. evaluation on transportation route, time and cost (check https://chaowu.org/2019/08/28/hcpss-fy-2021-budget-ahead/  for our school obligation in 2021),
  10. unintended consequence of some polygon moves,
  11. new housing development plan affecting in the capacity soon,
  12. etc.

Please remember : don’t say bad words of other schools or communities. That will not advance your advocacy.  Please note: all public and written testimonies will be public online for many years in the future and everybody will be able to read them.  So try not to include your private information there.

Furthermore, what is your thought on future redistricting plan (we will discuss it in 2022 if HS 13 construction is done in 2023 ) based on the current direction on capacity and equity from our superintendent?

HCPSS student number by polygon

Here is the data associated with polygon. School attendance boundary is assigned by polygon number.

HCPSS Student Number by Polygon

POLYGON NUMBER

Please click here find your polygon number at http://hcpss-gis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=06528401636a4a48b1ef681c66a61a07

The data is downloaded from HCPSS website https://www.hcpss.org/f/schoolplanning/2019/data-enroll-projections-suppressed.xlsx?c

2020 HCPSS Superintendent’s proposal for redistricting

Updated: The final redistricting proposal approved by the BOE on Nov 20 2019 is here: https://chaowu.org/2019/11/22/hcpss-redistricting-final-result-for-2020-2021/

——–

Superintendent Dr. Martirano proposed his redistricting proposal tonight (8/22/2019). Here are the proposed moves.

Elementary School Move

elementary school move

elementary new map

Middle School Move

middle school move

middle school new map

High School Move

high school move

high school new map

HS 13 Boundary

HS 13 boundary

I don’t have the polygon numbers yet for HS13. I will add them when I have it.

The whole document is attached here for your reference:

08 20 2019 Attendance Area Adjustment BR

08 20 2019 Attendance Area Adjustment PowerPoint

Polygon Number

Please click here find your polygon number at http://hcpss-gis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=06528401636a4a48b1ef681c66a61a07

Your comments can be sent to redistricting@hcpss.org.

Here are some timelines for the process.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 6.48.30 PM

Public Hearing:

All public hearings will be held at the Department of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, with satellite rooms available for overflow.

  • Tuesday, September 17, 7 p.m.
    • Families currently zoned for Centennial HS, Howard HS, Mt. Hebron HS, Oakland Mills HS
  • Tuesday, September 24, 7 p.m.Families currently zoned for Atholton HS, Hammond HS, Long Reach HS, Wilde Lake HS
  • Thursday, September 26, 7 p.m.
    • Families currently zoned for Glenelg HS, Marriotts Ridge HS, Reservoir HS, River Hill HS

Board Work Session

The Board of Education is currently scheduled to have seven public work sessions to discuss the suggested boundary review. The public may attend a work session but may not participate. The BOE is expected to make a preliminary decision during their final work session on November 18.

  • Thursday, October 10, 6:30 p.m
  • Thursday, October 24, 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 30, 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 5, 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 12, 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 14, 6:30 p.m..
  • Monday, November 18 Preliminary decision

Board Final Decision

The Board of Education is scheduled to make their final decision on any boundary line adjustments.

Some HCPSS 2019 AAC Meeting Summaries

There were four Area Attendance Committee meetings. The detailed meeting minutes are here: https://www.hcpss.org/school-planning/boundary-review/#aac-meetings

I am copying some of their meeting presentations here for our readers. The following slides are extracted from https://www.hcpss.org/f/schoolplanning/2019/aac-presentation-07-09-19.pdf

Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 4.25.48 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-24 at 4.25.58 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-24 at 4.26.05 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-24 at 4.26.14 PM

School Population Change:

hcpss_12_2008_2019

Here is another animation which shows how our school population changes over the last 11 years in Howard County. The red dots highlights higher student populations.

school_population

Public input.

The four public input sessions have concluded; however, you can continue to provide feedback to help inform the Superintendent’s recommendations, by completing the online survey or submitting alternative boundary solutions by August 1.

Superintendent Proposal on August 20

The Superintendent will make his recommendation to the Board of Education on Tuesday, August 20. The Board will gather feedback from the community during public hearings on September 17, 24 and 26, and will hold work sessions on October 10, 24 and 30, and November 5, 12, 14 and 18. Find more details including how you can provide testimony.

BOE Nov. 21 Decision

On Thursday, November 21, the Board will make a decision on redistricting for the 2020-2021 school year.

Promoting Student Diversity in Schools

This is the presentation delivered to the school board by Mr. Mark Blom, General Counsel. He presented this at the National School Boards Association’s annual conference on Promoting Student Diversity through Student Assignment Initiatives.

Promoting Student Diversity in Schools by Mark Blom

There is a survey data on this topic and very interesting.

pew survey on school versus diversity

Here is another post related to Mr. Blom’s article.

https://chaowu.org/2019/04/05/a-roadmap-from-desegration-to-diversity-in-americas-public-schools/