Here is a comparison by Category among five MD counties: Howard, Montgomery, Baltimore, Frederick and Anne Arundel.
In terms of administrative cost, HCPSS is on the average. Community Service, HCPSS is an outlier.
Here is a comparison by Category among five MD counties: Howard, Montgomery, Baltimore, Frederick and Anne Arundel.
In terms of administrative cost, HCPSS is on the average. Community Service, HCPSS is an outlier.
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
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:
Let’s continue to work together and bring the community together and serve all students.
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).
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.
Work Hard and Achieve Success Together
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our auditor Cohn Reznick has informed HCPSS that HCPSS CAFR will likely include a “GAAP” departure, which includes a qualified or adverse opinion. This change may impact our county’s AAA bond rating, which means the county may borrow less with higher interest rate in the future.
So HCPSS will work with the county executive and the county council to create a concrete, workable plan to reduce the health fund deficit and avoid another adverse opinion next year. Three parties should be on the same boat for this crisis we are facing now. Otherwise, this will tirgger down and impact many people.
The reason for this adverse opinion is that HCPSS was not able to reduce health fund deficit. Health care claim for FY 2019 were 10.2 million over the budgeted amount of 130.6 millions. Even after some internal fund transfer, the deficit grew from 37 million to 39.2 million. During the FY 2020 budget cycle, a one time 12 million dollars, that was planned and supposed to be used to reduce the heath fund deficit, was used for FY 2020 operating cost such that the auditor failed to see HCPSS to have a plan and execute the plan.
Attached please see the memo BOE audit committee discussed with our auditor.
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?
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.
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.
Here is the 2020 HCPSS Comprehensive maintenance plan.
The is the comment I gave before the HCPSS BOE public hearing on the redistricting on September 26, 2019. It was revised a little bit.
One lady who supported the superintendent’s plan shouted to an Asian American father, in front of his two young children: “go back to Asia” on this Tuesday evening outside this building. It is so sad to see what is happening now. I feel so sorry for the family.
This kind of racist comment is hurting the community. It has been more than 10 years ago when I was shouted “go back to China” in Montgomery County by little school age kids. I have not heard that for many, many years. Now the same “go back to Asia” fell on my neighbor in Howard County in front of his young children. This is totally NOT acceptable.
There are other very offensive comments from the opposing side too which should not be tolerated. Let’s respect each other.
Let’s focus on the real issue here. Many schools are over-crowded. High School 13 is scheduled to come online in 2023. As the superintendent Dr. Martirano always says: all Howard County schools are great schools. However, there are still some performance differences across the board. The school system needs to find a correct, efficient and pragmatic way to address this. Unfortunately, the superintendent’s redistricting proposal has led to community pitting against each other, where division and resentment are the worst part we don’t want to see.
Everybody supports diversity, equity and inclusion. However, there are different point of views and various approaches to address the same issue that we are facing. Because we are diverse, we will have different point of views. I wish everybody understand and share this very basic philosophy and we should not expect we have a homogenous opinion.
However, how to treat the diversity as an asset, instead of creating more division, inciting anger or excitement will be a challenging task for all involved.
We will shoot ourselves on the foot if we rush to create a solution. Let’s calm down, take a step back and minimize the school redistricting impact upon on our children and community. For the good of our community, let’s take it very cautiously and seriously.
We can do better. I believe Howard County residents have the courage and intelligence to find a better solution.
Asian Americans will not go back, neither African Americans, white Americans, Latino Americans, nor any Americans on this free land. Instead, we should unite. Everyone of this county should try our best, devote our energy, work and build a better school system together.
Thanks for everybody here tonight.
People keep asking for this number. Here is what we received this morning:
The transportation cost for superintendent’s redistricting proposal is around 2.76 million dollars, if rising seniors and juniors are exempted and all of them take the exemptions. In policy, only rising seniors are granted exemption, but the board in general grants exemptions to our rising juniors.
Rising 5th graders or 8th graders with siblings are the other two groups who may be exempted in the past discussion. Because we want to keep siblings in the same school when redistricting happens.
Considering the budget constraint the school is facing in FY 2021, the more students are moved, the high this transportation cost will be.
Because of tight budget, we will pay a lot of attention on these numbers. Just give a perspective:
September 18, 2019
My name is Chao Wu, a board member of Howard County Board Education. My colleage already testified on behalf of the board. Here I am testifying as a general citizen.
I applaud our council members Yung, Rigby introducing this bill and Jones and Walsh co-sponsoring it. I also thank state delegate Vanessa Atterbery to lead and enable this bill in the state. I want to thank many community volunteers who have been advocating on this bill.
This is a long over-due bill that the county is waiting for. Our school system is facing a deep crisis, both in the operating budget and capital budget. We should all work together to address them little by little.
In the operating budget side, for FY 2021, we need extra 60 million dollars on top of FY 2020 approved budget to meet our obligations and another 37 million dollars to pay back the health care fund deficit. Without that, we will continue the same pain as last fiscal year in this May. We had to surplus teachers, cut programs and find ways to save every penny to balance the school budget.
In the capital budget side, overcrowded schools, widely deployed portable classrooms, all of them need money to repair or replace. We want to make sure High School 13 will be built on time. We want to make sure Talbott Springs Elementary School replacement and Hammond High School renovation will be back on the agenda as soon as possible. We also need another high school in Elkridge, HS 14, to balance our capacity. We need another Turf Valley elementary school to deal with fast student growth there. We also need renovate St John’s Lane Elementary School, one of the oldest schools.
Our school system mostly depends on local funds. With the proposed increase of the development impact fee, the county is expecting $150 million additional funds over the next 10 years. We wish we will begin to receive another extra 15 million dollars per year, starting next year to start our delayed capital projects.
Despite these huge difficulties we are facing, I am deeply appreciative of our teachers, staff and management team in the school. They are working together and help each student. Every light is on, even the room temperature is one degree colder or warmer, not so comfortable, to reduce school energy cost.
Please pass this bill. Thanks.
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.
The average FARM rate across HCPSS is around 22.5%. FARM stands for free and reduced meal. For a family of 2 parents and 2 kids, if they do not make 47k year, they qualify for FARM and will receive assistance (https://www.hcpss.org/food-services/farms/). Here we have a color plot to visualize this. Dark color means low FARM rate. Please see the legend.
The PDF file has really high resolution.
The plot is based on the public data shared on HCPSS website (https://www.hcpss.org/school-planning/boundary-review/) and I am attaching it here.
Disclaimer: I could not reproduce this plot myself because I don’t have a GIS software yet.
Here is some history about how polygon started and evolved over the years.
Here is the PDF file.
Finally I received the polygon numbers for High School 13 from Office of School Planning. There are two defined areas:
A community volunteer, named SP, helped me plot the map:
I calculated the student population based on the polygon numbers proposed by the Office of School Planning for the following 5 years, including 2018-2019 year.
With this proposed boundary, we have extra 1400 students over the capacity when the school opens in 2023. So there is a lot of work to do to narrow down the boundary. We need avoid moving students multiple times.
How do you like it? Looking forward to your feedback at email@example.com.
This was posted on my facebook. I think I should post it here too. The post was updated on September 10, 2020 based on staff info.
Many people asked me on school budget. Here are numbers(estimated). We will get better estimate during budget work session on 4:00-6:00PM September 10, 2019.
The school needs balance its’ budget such that we spend what we have.
For Fiscal Year 2021, starting from the beginning, we need extra 12 million for operating budget which is from this year deficit (we are funding some operating budget this year with one time funding), 10-11 million due to extra student growth(800 students*15000 per year=12 million), 25-28 million for teacher and staff salary increase (negotiated 4% as last year, not approved yet), 7-8 million dollar health care cost increase.
Furthermore, health care fund still has that 37 millions deficit hanging there. This 37 million dollars maybe go up/down. We will get an update on this number by the end of September 2019.
So in total, we need extra 59 million for operating budget, one time 37 million to pay down health care deficit. So the total is around 96 million dollars at least.
Other obligations that we know will have a budget impact but do not have estimates at the this time:
Thinking about during this year’s budget discussion, we were looking at saving 10,000 here and there. We are not sure how the economy will turn out in the next 12 months. We are also not sure how much the county and state would love to fund HCPSS.
We have a really tough, tough 2021 budget in front of us. I love to hear your ideas how to balance the budget.
Here is the data associated with polygon. School attendance boundary is assigned by 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