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:

Final report from 2019-2020 Charter Review Commission

Here is the final report from 2019-2020 Howard County Charter Review Commission. County charter is like a constitute for our county. There were so many meetings for a whole year. Thanks for the committee members.

Main recommendation:

  1. The Commission recommends expanding the County Council from five members to seven members, comprising seven individually-elected districts.
  2. There are many other recommendations on how to implement this change and on how to modify some other commissions.

It is a rather dense report. Please read it. The commission provides analysis and rational for each recommendation.

Then one open question: will BOE election be changed to seven individually-elected districts? We have 7 board members right now.

2021 HCPSS 30.9 million dollar budget gap

We are grateful that the county executive Dr. Ball recommended a funding level of $620.3 million, which is 2.7 million above the MOE formula and another 6 million dollar one time funding to reduce the health fund deficit. The total increase of funding is 13.1 million more than FY 2020 approved budget. Note the MOE is using last year’s student enrollment number, which is around 800-1000 students less than the real student number. This translates to 10.8-16 million MOE funding shortage (assuming per student spending 16k a year).

So there is a gap of 30.9 million dollars between the board approved 2021 operating budget and the county executive proposed funding, while assuming the state funding will not decrease.

As quoted in Baltimore Sun article, I said:

with such a dramatic gap between the need and the reality, all stakeholders, including the school, the county government, the county council and the community, need to prioritize our spending and change our spending habit.

2020 Proposed HoCo Recording Tax Increase (CR-85-2020)

Based on the newly proposed recording tax structure ((CR-85-2020) by Council Members Christiana Rigby and Dr. Opel Jones, I did some calculations for the recording tax. Note: the recording tax is used to document the loan transaction. This is separate from mortgage interest and other annual property taxes. It is a one-time tax.

Quick summary:

For house value less than 250k, there is a 20% tax decrease. Then the decrease goes down slowly. At 300k, there is no tax change. Then the tax begins to increase.

When the house value crosses around $530k, there is a 50% increase. After the house value crosses $750k, there is a 100% increase. For a house value at 1 million dollars, the recording tax increase is $6500, i.e., 130% increase.

For Howard County, the median house price is 498k (ref: This means a 39.8% recording tax increase.

Here is a spreadsheet for your reference(5k step increase in house value). You can download it here:

Here is a plot, comparing old tax, new tax, tax increase and tax increase percentage:

A different scale (200k-800k house value)

Here is the news release from the county council.

My board member report on 2020-4-16

Revised for publication on 2020-04-16

We are entering a new phase of our education. We finally started our distance learning for high school students. I am glad to  hear many positive feedback from our parents. Middle school and elementary school will start next week. I wish this will give our students and families some relief, engagement, feelings of belongings and education. We are all together. 

I wish parents and students keep sharing their feedback with our school system such that the school system is tracking what the school system is doing, and keep improving the methodology, delivery approach and community communication.  In the current situation, I am especially worried about our delivery model for kids with special needs, younger kids having few parents’ involvement, kids who are already struggling or lagging on their subject. 

We probably will not go back to school for this semester. High School seniors will probably graduate without a prom or a graduation ceremony. Other students transition to a new middle school or a new high school even do not have a chance to say goodbye to their friend. I wish the school, community and parents are keeping a close eye on their children’s mental health. More video games, more screen times and less physical activity time for several months are very challenging for every student in this pandemic era.  

We need to be really careful on our spending. We will receive our 2021 operating budget in five days from the county executive. In Scott E’s blog, according to Dr. Holly Sun, Howard County’s Budget Director, Howard County is estimating a revenue loss of over $35 million in the current fiscal year, with major losses in income tax, recordation, and hotel tax. A significant revenue impact is also anticipated for FY 2021. These revenue losses don’t qualify for any known federal aid, which usually only covers expenses related to emergencies.

Here I am asking our school, pause any non-urgent spending until we hear from the county executive on the 2021 operating budget. 

As a board and a school system, we need to prepare for a difficult time ahead of us. We need to scrutinize any spending and probably think about a hybrid education delivery mode in the future, to incorporate distance learning as another education tool. 


HCPSS Seeks Citizen Members for Ethics Panel, Apply by May 8, 2020

The Howard County Board of Education is seeking citizens to serve on the Howard County Public School System’s Ethics Panel.

The Ethics Panel oversees the school system’s Ethics Regulations, advises the Board on matters related to conflict of interest and financial disclosure, and provides advisory opinions to employees on the applicability of the Ethics Regulations to specific situations. A complete copy of the Ethics Regulationis available online.

Any Howard County resident at least 18 years of age is eligible to serve on the Ethics Panel. Candidates cannot be an employee of the school system, an HCPSS student, an incumbent member of the Board, or an owner or individual employed by an entity doing business with the Board. Appointees serve a five-year term.

Howard County Citizens interested in serving on the Ethics Panel are asked to send a letter of interest and their resume to the Office of the General Counsel at deadline for submission is May 8, 2020.