2021 HCPSS superintendent’s proposed budget

Here are the big numbers and timeline. The total requested budget will be 964.1 million dollars. It is 62.7 million more than last year approved budget.

The FY 2021 Proposed Budget totals $964.1 million, representing an expenditure increase of $62.7 million, or 7.0 percent.
If advanced by the Board of Education, the revenue to support this request will require an increase from the county totaling
$63.2 million. Overall, the total revenue request from the county is $670.4 million, or 10.4 percent over FY 2020.

Here is the timeline.

Here is Dr. Martirano’s presentation.

Here is the budget book.


Previous two years cut list:

Applications for the Student Member of the Board of Education 2020-21

The Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland authorizes the election of a student member of the Howard County Board of Education.  Howard County Policy 2010 specifies that Howard County students in grades 6-11 shall have the opportunity to elect the Student Member of the Howard County Board of Education to a one-year term. 

Please refer to the two attachments on this email including both the letter to school leaders detailing their role in the election process and the complete Student Member of the Board of Education Application explaining the position and the expectations for students. HCASC made an electronic version of the application for the Student Member of the Board position available on the HCASC website https://hcasc.hcpss.org/

HCASC: Many Students, One VoiceAttend the January 2020 HCASC Meeting. HCASC’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 8 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Homewood Center. Attend the December 2019 HCASC Meetinghcasc.hcpss.org

 and also provided access to the applications through the offices of Student Services at each high school.

It is now time to receive applications for the next Student Member of the Howard County Board of Education.  Any current sophomore or junior in Howard County may apply for this position. The student must be regularly enrolled in an HCPSS high school, academically eligible, and a junior or senior in the 2020-2021 school year. The student elected by the students of Howard County will serve a one‑year term on the Howard County Board of Education, July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.HCASC students will plan, manage, and host the student delegate convention on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 to review the Student Member of the Board of Education applicants and nominate the final two candidates who will run for the Student Member of the Board of Education position. Delegates will represent every middle and high school in accordance with Policy 2010.

The HCASC advisor and current Student Member will hold an information meeting for candidates and their parents or guardians on February 25, 2020 to further explain the campaign process and guidelines. The candidates selected will then participate in the campaign process by creating and distributing campaign materials, including a video produced by HCASC and HCPSS that will show at all voting schools on election day April 22, 2020.Thank you for your continued support of the Student Member of the Board and all of the students in Howard County Public Schools. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions regarding the Student Member of the Board position, convention, election process, or student voice.

FY 2021 Capital Budget Program FY 2022‐2026 & Long‐Range Master Plan FY 2021‐2030

FY 2021 Capital Budget Capital Improvement Program FY 2022‐2026 & Long‐Range Master Plan FY 2021‐2030

Board Action

The board voted to move HS 13, Hammond High and Talbott Spring projects forward. That means HS 13 will move forward, and construct to start in May 2020.

In May 2020, we may know whether we can move forward (go out for bid) with Hammond High or not. The board need make a decision at that time. We are worrying about local funding match and state funding math at the same time unfortunately.

Paying down HCPSS health fund deficit

Here is the letter from HoCo BOE to the county executive. HCPSS saved around 15 million dollars last year. The board wanted to ask the county approval to use this 15 million dollars to pay down the existing 39 million health fund deficit.

If HCPSS uses this 15 million dollars for FY 2021 recurring operating budget , HCPSS will have an ever growing deficit in 2022. First, the 39 million health fund deficit will not decrease. Second that 15 million dollars will become a deficit, or 27 million dollars if the 12 million dollars from FY 2019-2020 deficit is included again. Note in FY 2019-2002, HCPSS used a one time balance to fund the recurring budget. Now immediately coming into this FY 2021 budget cycle, we have an existing 12 million deficit already, on top of the 39 million health fund deficit.

This is exactly one of many reasons that we got 50 million dollars health fund deficit before, using one time fund to pay recurring cost. We should not repeat old mistakes again.

2021-2024 HCPSS capital project consideration

There are four scenario HCPSS is considering now, among HS 13, Systematic Renovations , Hammond High Renovation/Addition, Talbot Springs Replacement. Please see the tables attached. These were shared with the county council this Monday morning.

Important factors in the funding of a State CIP are:

  1. Local funding is required up front due to the reimbursement nature, even on projects where a local match is not required,
  2. State funding currently is a reimbursement of 55% of eligible costs of construction costs only,
  3. All costs outside of construction (planning, design, engineering, acquisition etc.) for eligible projects are 100% locally funded,
  4. Not all line items within the local CIP are State eligible and those projects therefore are 100% locally funded. Examples include relocatable classrooms, site acquisition, school parking lots, playgrounds,
    technology, and planning and design.

Based on what we are now, we need move forward HS 13 and Systematic Renovation. Depending how much extra money the county can give to HCPSS, HCPSS may move forward with the other two projects.

Please advocate and ask the county executive and county council for support. Unfortunately the fee from the increased development impact fee will not be materialized until next year, otherwise it will be able to fund more needs for HCPSS.

Some other public communicated letters between BOE and the County Executive are attached here for reference too.

One community feedback on FY 2020-2021 budget

Now more parents understand that HCPSS will face another tough budget year of 2021. Even before the superintendent presents his budget to the board, the board begins to receive many feedback from the community.

With the permission from the original sender, here is one email talking about the 2021 budget. Some of the points are very thoughtful and useful. At such a difficult budget time, every penny is important to HCPSS.

The document talks about cost saving measures related to: testing, renovation, printing, textbooks, busing, building usage fee, staffing formula, technology usage, etc.

2020-21 School Placements and Redistricting Exemptions (urgent)

2020-21 School Placements and Redistricting Exemptions

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

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

The exemptions apply to the following groups of students:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Remark for 2019-2020 HCPSS redistricting

Closing remarks for 2019 redistricting

Revised a little bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

HCPSS Redistricting Final Result for 2020-2021

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

High School Move

Middle School Move

Elementary School Move

Some passed exemptions:

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

Two failed exemptions:

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

Concerns with some HoCo Delegation 2020-2021 bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020-2021 HCPSS school calendar was approved

Board Approves 2020–2021 Academic Calendar


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

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

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

The 2020–2021 academic calendar can be viewed online.

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019

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

The audit report is here:

My updated redistricting plan

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

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

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

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

Here is the updated slide.

Here are the moves:

Speech at Achieve Success Together

Work Hard and Achieve Success Together 

Friday, 2019-10-25

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

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

My early life before college

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving up and moving forward

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

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

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

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

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

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