(5) 2020 Interview With Tess Yu, Howard High School

(5) 2020 Interview With Tess Yu, Howard High School

This is our fifth episode, a small milestone in this series. Ms. Tess Yu graduated from Howard High in 2020 and will join Johns Hopkins University in the fall, majoring economics. Tess shared her secret in high school: time management, even missing some homework is acceptable to balance some priority. She has presided over the Achieve Success Together (AST, https://achievesuccesstogether.org/) program, a tutoring program, for over four years now. The AST program offered free tutoring to students in low income families at many HCPSS schools. The tutors are HCPSS high school students. What is her favorite class? How to handle cyberbullying? What is her career goal? Please tune in this episode.

(4) 2020 Interview with Hunter Craig, Reservoir High School

(4) 2020 Interview with Hunter Craig, Reservoir High School

Mr. Hunter Craig graduated from Reservoir High School and will join Howard Community College, majoring social and political science. Mr. Craig has been very active in HCPSS and the community. He was involved in Howard County Association of Student Councils, more commonly known as HCASC. He was in the State Legislative Affairs Committee. He testified more than five times in front of the BOE. He took initiative to help combat covid-19, to work in the mental health care community, also to raise awareness because of the death of George Floyd. He talked about his struggle entering high school because of switching multiple schools and the moment to find his position in academics, club and school. He plans to finish HCC, then go to a law school, continue to get involved in the local community. His advice to high school students: just do it.

(3) 2020 Interview with Judy Zhou, Centennial High School

(3) 2020 Interview with Judy Zhou, Centennial High School

In this episode, I am interviewing Judy Zhou, who graduated from Centennial High School and will join Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. In this interview, Judy shared about her high school experience on political campaign, community service, launching her seminar to educate the community on US government, the secret to build a good relationship with counselor, the need for HCPSS to have a diverse and inclusive curriculum.

(2) 2020 Interview With Robin Robinson, River Hill High School

Live now: I am starting a youtube channel by interviewing HCPSS graduates.

In the second episode, Ms. Robin M Robinson, graduated from River Hill High School in 2018. She is a junior in Harvard University, studying statistics and economics. She played volleyball in RHHS and continue to play club volleyball. She practices taekwondo for more than 10 years. She talked about her challenges in high school. She appreciated the peer pressure for excellence. She emphasized the importance to have a good relationship with teachers. She also advices trying to be well rounded in the high school. She shared some experience while her guidance counselor was not aligned with her ambition in college application, she listened to herself and applied to Harvard University and got accepted. She also shared her experience as a bi-racial child and felt uneasy in the school, advocated for more education for our students at young ages. For the college life, she felt a little uneasy when she changed from pre-med to other career path. However, she feels there are so much to do and so many possibilities for her. She said: don’t worry about making friends in college. You will have new friends, even though you had more freedom in high school.

If anyone wants to be interviewed, please contact me. Thanks.

Final 2020-2021 HCPSS School Model

Today, the board discussed the 2020 fall plan again. The board voted to keep the first period and second period virtual. Because of the delay of school start time, the school will be virtual until the end of January 2021. This is not an easy decision, but we have to keep the safety of our students, parents, teachers and staff in the highest priority. We hope this will create a sense of stability and peace of mind for the school system.

There will be future discussions when the virtual learning should be transitioned into a blended model under which kind of conditions in the future.

I talked about the difficulty created by the 4×4 model for AP tests and no built-in recess time in the agenda.

I talked about the distant learning model, how to improve the education quality, how to make it sustainable ( digital learning center concept), etc. I asked the superintendent to create a system structure for future online education too. For example, at any given day, around 5-10% substitute teachers work in the school. They may take advantage of the online resources we created now.

There were many other discussions related how to improve the quality of distant learning.

Here is some document for your reference.

The board extended the first stage of one period of virtual learning (in the document) to two periods.

(1) 2020 Interview with HCPSS graduate, Megan Li, Marriotts Ridge High School

I am starting a youtube channel by interviewing HCPSS graduates.

In the first episode, I interviewed Ms. Megan Li, who graduated from graduated from Marriotts Ridge High School and will join University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Business School this fall. She shared her experience about college application, AP courses, debate team, FBLA, even materiality leave policy in the USA. Her advice for high school students is : take initiative. For the future, she wants to research the social impact of business. She hoped HCPSS would provide a more diverse curriculum. She volunteers a lot and loves to give back to the community.

If any other students want to share their experience, please contact me. Thanks.

HCPSS 2020 Fall Reopen Discussion

Here are three documents for you. Decision 5,4,3 passed by the board. The superintendent will come back later with the removal of Digital Education Center and a revised plan. Updated: 2020-07-09 22:30.

The first two are the superintendent’s recommendation on the fall schedule.

The second one is from Howard County Educator Association (HCEA).

Board Member Report on 2020-07-09

BOE board member report on 2020-07-09

Revised for publication

Welcome Mr. Koung to serve on the board. It is a tough job this year with so much unknowns. We look forward to working with you.

School Reopen Effort

School reopen will be tonight’s main focus. I believe the health of our students, teachers and staff are the highest priority. Whatever approach the school is taking, we will keep that in mind. Then how to implement a workable solution will involve all stakeholders. For example, we had a survey to understand our students/parents, teachers’ concern and need. 

At the same time, until we have a solid data to know how many teachers are committed to come back to the classroom, we are not able to make any sound decision for the fall easily. 

For some schools, maybe there are 10% teachers who want to come back to teach. For some subjects, maybe all the teachers want to teach online. So we need the solid data, not the survey data to make a sound decision. Our decision should be flexible and workable.

We need to work hard to give parents, students and teachers different options to suit their individual situation and need. If possible, they can choose online or classroom instruction. We need to put more efforts and priority into students who need more resources, for example, students with special needs, and students lagging behind already. 

Thanks for community members for your input. We know every one care about this schedule. Prof. Meagan Fitzpatrick from University of Maryland helped me to understand the various disease spreading modeling, which is very informative and useful.

Again, I want to emphasize the importance of our online teaching curriculum. I want our school to use this opportunity and develop a flexible/robust online curriculum and integrate them into the classroom curriculum for our future.

Equity, Inclusiveness, diversity and respect

Tonight we are going to talk about equity policy too. Equity, inclusiveness, diversity and respect are all working together. These objectives are mutually supportive and inclusive and we should work in such a manner. Also we need to take historical background and cultural sensitivity into consideration. We have a long way to go. During this process, I believe we should take a positive and affirmative approach to overcome any challenges, address each problem one by one, unite the majority of our people and embrace a better future. 


Finally, I appreciate the feedback from Jewish Federation of Howard County and I am sorry for the omission.  

I ask the board to reconsider my motion I made during last board meeting and amend it as following:

Move the Howard County Board of Education denounce any bias and racism towards African American, Asian American, Latino American, Muslim American, LGBTQ+ community, the Jewish community and any other groups who have been ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed and allocate resources in accordance with these values as a school system and a Board.

Note: the original motion and this motion passed unanimously.

Some Retrospect and Prospect after HCPSS FY 2020-2021 Budget Vote

Some Retrospect and Prospect after HCPSS FY 2020-2021 Budget Vote

By Dr. Chao Wu,

Board Member, Howard County Board of Education


After the FY 2020-2021 budget vote, I reflected and wrote a short essay on this. Hopefully this will help and guide us for the next year’ HCPSS budget discussion. The article has the follow sections:

  1. FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget Snapshot
  2. Funding Increase Needed for FY 2021-2022
  3. Funding Category is Complicated
  4. More Communication to the community
  5. Future Budget Process Improvement
  6. County Tax and HCPSS Budget

I want to thank every teacher and staff members who have been working really hard during this unprecedented time. I want to give every teacher a raise, a competitive salary among neighboring counties. I want to raise our substitute teacher salaries to be competitive with other counties too. 

Unfortunately, we have to make a budget based on how much money we have and what we can do. We are not laying off any staff. Job security for our staff is my number one priority in this challenging situation. We are still providing an average 2% salary raise for teachers and 1% for AMT staff. We are ramping up support for special education. We are fully funding the health care cost and gradually reducing the historical health fund deficit. We are able to continue on the equity path to provide quality education to all students. As an intermediate solution, we are seeing another class size increase for three consecutive years unfortunately. 

I thank our staff, the superintendent, and all bargaining units, who have come together and make the budget happen.

After the vote, I have been self-reflecting on the budget process and where we can further change and continue to improve, especially for our future budget.

FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget Snapshot

The board unanimously adopted its FY 2020-2021 budget on Thursday, June 18,2020. The operating budget is 918.7 million, an increase of 17.2 million over FY 2020. We used a 5 million fund balance for FY 20-21 budget. Among the efforts: 

  1. adding 106.8 new positions for special education
  2. increasing employee compensation on average by 2% in the bargaining units, with 1% increase for non-represented(AMT) staff
  3. accelerating HCPSS’ diversity, equity and inclusion work through addition of three new positions
  4. funding actuary projected employee health insurance cost fully, for three consecutive years

Unfortunately the class size will be increased for the third consecutive years. On average, elementary school will increase class size by one in FY 2020-FY 2021. Middle school and high school will increase class size by 1.25. 

Funding Increase Needed for FY 2021-2022

I have been asking HCPSS staff to project our future funding needs. Instead, I created a short table as follows with explanations below. Please note this is not an extensive or complete or accurate list. This is a rough projection. 

Budget Increase Need Per YearAmount
Student Growth Budget Need (800 new students)10.22 million ***
Fully Fund Health Care5 million
Possible COLA Salary/Step Increase for Our Workforce6 million
Total21.22 million

Student Growth Cost

Board Approved Tuition Rate:  In-State Elementary/ Secondary in the amount of $10,650 and Special Education in the amount of $31,950.

Each year, the school has around 800 new students, where 10% are special education students. The total county cost for student growth is around 10650*720+31950*80 = 10.22 million.  

So we need to invest extra 10.22 million dollars to catch up with the student growth each year. Please remember the county funding formula (MOE) for HCPSS is using the student population from the previous year such that this extra 800 new students are not funded in the formula. This is the common problem for many school systems which see a continuous student growth and the funding increase could not catch up with the increased need.

This section may be updated depending on how this calculation is revisited based on feedback from our staff and other people. Another calculation I am thinking is to use the average per student cost, which is around 16k. Then the total is 16k per student per year * 800= 12.8 million.

Health Care Cost Increase

On average, the health care cost increase is around 5 million dollars per year. In some years, it was an 11 million dollars increase. 

Salary/Step Increase

In the past 10 years, our workforce has received a salary increase between 1% and 5%. That is the reason I am writing a possible 1% increase at least. The 6 million dollars is an estimate based on this year’s 2% salary increase (12 million dollars). 

Historical Health fund deficit

We have a historical 32 million dollars health fund deficit inherited from former superintendents’ era, which has to be paid down over the years. With the plan worked out with the county government, we need to pay around 8 million dollars per year to pay it down. The original deficit was 50 million dollars.

Funding Category is Complicated

During the discussion, we heard the teacher salary (State Category 2) increase was fully funded. In reality, when there is an increase of salary, other expenses (benefits, retirement) will go up as well. We will not be able to give a teacher salary increase, but not give them the associated benefit increase. So unless everything associated with a full compensation package for an employee is fully funded, we could not call the salary increase fully funded. 

Second, many teachers’ salaries are not funded in State Category 2. For example, there are more than 1200 special education teachers whose salaries are not funded in Category 2. 

Third, the health care cost keeps increasing at a faster pace than anything else. In order to avoid the health fund deficit issue that happened before ( with an accumulated deficit of 32 million now), we need to fully fund the health care cost. The school system cannot run at a deficit by law. 

It is a little complicated and I want to make it easier for the general public to understand it.  

More Communication to the community

During the last two weeks of the budget discussion, we received thousands of emails asking the board not to cut the budget. In reality, the board is not generating money ourselves. We fully rely on the funding from the county and the state to operate. They give us money and we make a budget and balance the budget.

Furthermore, when the board was in negotiation with the unions, we were not allowed by law to discuss anything about employee salary and benefit publicly. We were not able to comment on the negotiations publicly. The public and our workforce definitely felt the frustration because of the communication restriction on these topics. We had to rely on the union leadership to relay the message back to union members. 

Future Budget Process Improvement

For the school budget, if we don’t ask for it, we don’t get it from the county government and the county council. At the same time, we know the county has so much need and we will not get the full amount we ask. So we have a very delicate balance here since we want to present a fair and reasonable budget for discussion. 

Furthermore, the county executive and the county council can claim they fully fund something by State Category. However, all categories are interconnected when our staff is preparing for the budget. In general, we are not able to separate one category totally from other categories while considering funding. 

Realizing our funding will be short for the near future, I have been advocating for a change in the budget process to avoid the last minute change and uncertainty which is painful and hurts the morale of our workforce.

We could consider a budget into two parts. 

  1. The first (basic) part is the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) budget which the county and the state are bound legally to fund the school. At the MOE level, we can check to see:
    1.  whether the class size will increase or not, 
    2. whether our workforce will be surplused or not, 
    3. where the special education will be fully funded or not,
    4. whether the health fund is fully funded or not, 
    5. whether the instruction materials are fully funded or not
  1. The second part is the add-on above MOE part. Based on our need and priority, how much extra money we need to fully fund the school system. 
    1. whether/how we can decrease class-size.
    2. whether /how we can add/change programs.
    3. whether/how much we can give our teacher a salary increase. 
    4. Whether/how we can renovate school service without increasing budget
    5. whether we can launch any new initiative to improve mental health service, further close the student achievement gap, and many others.

County Tax and HCPSS Budget

Many people are now realizing that HCPSS is facing a structural deficit issue. The funding increase could not catch up with the student population growth and other increasing needs. 

In reality, the share of the county funding into HCPSS is swinging up and down. HCPSS budget was previously mismanaged and underfunded such that we are facing such a difficult situation now. 

We hear there are people calling for higher tax. However, tax for our county residents is very high already. Our tax rate is top 3 in Maryland.  Raising tax may have a detrimental effect on our economy and in the end it may hurt our tax base in the long run. 

Furthermore, additional tax revenue does not mean it will be provided to HCPSS. I want to avoid the failed promise and fiasco that Maryland state gambling money would go into education when some people promoted the gambling industry. Yes, some gambling money went into education, but original money was diverted away. 

The county may receive 20 million dollar additional revenue by increasing some tax rate, but the county may give only 1 or 2 millions to HCPSS. I have been advocating for HCPSS to receive a larger share (percentage) of the county revenue. 

There are many “wants” in the county budget and we may need to shrink those “wants” and redirect the money to HCPSS. Our excellent school system is one of the most important reasons that many families come here and 90% of county revenue comes from property tax and income tax. 

We need to cherish the support and trust from families who live here and HCPSS must provide an excellent, equitable and individualized education for our students. 

Thanks for reading this.

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

Revised for publication.

First I would like to thanks our student board member Allison Alston, who has demonstrated a strong leadership. When I saw her performance at Reservoir High School’s Black History Month, I was really surprised and admired. You are a super star. We will miss you.

Today, I will talk about something different. The nation is watching the hardship, struggle and pain the African American community are experiencing. As a community member and a school board member, I share the same pain and the same concern:  Where are we going? How can we get to  the point where injustice will go away? When will everyone have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential?

Two recent events highlighted here:

  1. I read the petition from more than 400 HCPSS high school students shared with the board. A 2015 Glenelg High School graduate is leading the campaign. Glenelg High School unfortunately had been on the newspaper front page for several racist incidents. Just reading the petition, for example:
    1. Some students called black students “N word” and there were no consequences. 
    2. Some teachers could not remember Asian American Students’ names or faces in a small classroom for half the semester. Some of our staff could not pronounce students’ family names.
    3. Some staff or teachers discouraged African American students or Latino American students from entering  into AP classes. 
  2. Many community members called me regarding a recent social media post from an HCPSS administrator. They feel the post was insensitive and offensive. They  believe our officials  should have been more thoughtful and responsible when they express their opinions  publicly, which includes clicking the “like” button on social media platforms. 

All these events made me think: What can we do to eliminate explicit and implicit biases, microaggression, discrimination and oppression? How can we systematically implement the necessary actions steps?

The questions are tough to answer as we are naturally inclined  to find a fast and easy way out, yet unsuccessfully so. The inconvenient truth is, only when we are able to face the reality truthfully and do self-reflecting and soul-searching, we are able to move forward. We can aim big, however, we should act small, starting with incremental steps for which we have the ability to execute as well as to examine the outcomes each step along the way. 

I agree that HCPSS should include more anti-bias training to help our workforce to better connect with the students and families. These connections will create stronger motivations for our students to work hard and also provide more opportunities for them to excel. We also need to increase culture proficiency training.When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should work hard to reduce bias during the hiring process to increase workforce diversity and leadership diversity. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should include a more diverse curriculum to help our students expand their learning horizon which will promote better cross-group, cross-culture understanding and respect. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I want to make a motion: 


The Howard County Board of Education denounces any bias and racism towards African American, Asian American, Latino American, Muslim American, LGBT community,  and any other groups who have been ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed. 

2019 HCPSS Per Student Spending By School

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to report the per pupil expenditures of federal, state, and local funds including actual personnel expenditures and actual non personnel expenditures. The HCPSS finance office followed MSDE’s methodology to develop the school level per-pupil expenditure data that is being reported. All districts across the state followed the same methodology.

Expenditures are separated into:
 School-level per-pupil expenditures: local school system operating expenditures directly attributed to schools or allocated to schools based on certain criteria and reported as a per-pupil or per-student amount.
 District wide costs: expenditures that are not directly linked to a school.

Regional programs, the experience level of staff at the school, and Title I funding contribute to the differences in the per-pupil funding between schools.

Expenditures for students in nonpublic placements, pre-kindergarten, and infants and toddlers programs, are excluded from this per-pupil reporting.

Special Center

School NameState/Local AmountFederal AmountTotal Amount
Cedar Lane Special Center $                           95,663.00 $                     2,417.00 $                   98,080.00
Homewood School $                           72,023.00 $                     1,499.00 $                   73,523.00

High School Level

Wilde Lake High $                           15,994.00 $                         530.00 $                   16,524.00
Oakland Mills High $                           15,718.00 $                         566.00 $                   16,283.00
Hammond High $                           14,990.00 $                         517.00 $                   15,507.00
Long Reach High $                           14,946.00 $                         486.00 $                   15,432.00
Reservoir High $                           13,883.00 $                         471.00 $                   14,354.00
Glenelg High $                           13,838.00 $                         413.00 $                   14,251.00
Atholton High $                           13,659.00 $                         436.00 $                   14,095.00
Mount Hebron High $                           13,367.00 $                         418.00 $                   13,785.00
Howard High $                           13,079.00 $                         452.00 $                   13,531.00
River Hill High $                           13,048.00 $                         416.00 $                   13,464.00
Marriotts Ridge High $                           12,851.00 $                         384.00 $                   13,235.00
Centennial High $                           12,715.00 $                         407.00 $                   13,121.00

Middle School Level

Harpers Choice Middle $                           17,743.00 $                         525.00 $                   18,269.00
Oakland Mills Middle $                           16,385.00 $                         604.00 $                   16,989.00
Wilde Lake Middle $                           15,486.00 $                         502.00 $                   15,988.00
Lake Elkhorn Middle $                           15,404.00 $                         463.00 $                   15,867.00
Mayfield Woods Middle $                           14,794.00 $                         467.00 $                   15,262.00
Glenwood Middle $                           14,538.00 $                         441.00 $                   14,979.00
Patuxent Valley Middle $                           14,277.00 $                         435.00 $                   14,711.00
Thomas Viaduct Middle $                           14,133.00 $                         490.00 $                   14,623.00
Murray Hill Middle $                           14,099.00 $                         456.00 $                   14,555.00
Elkridge Landing Middle $                           13,682.00 $                         449.00 $                   14,131.00
Dunloggin Middle $                           13,629.00 $                         424.00 $                   14,053.00
Bonnie Branch Middle $                           13,607.00 $                         436.00 $                   14,044.00
Lime Kiln Middle $                           13,580.00 $                         409.00 $                   13,989.00
Folly Quarter Middle $                           13,392.00 $                         437.00 $                   13,829.00
Hammond Middle School $                           13,346.00 $                         382.00 $                   13,728.00
Clarksville Middle $                           12,829.00 $                         338.00 $                   13,167.00
Ellicott Mills Middle $                           12,641.00 $                         414.00 $                   13,055.00
Patapsco Middle $                           12,157.00 $                         355.00 $                   12,513.00
Burleigh Manor Middle School $                           11,840.00 $                         362.00 $                   12,202.00
Mount View Middle $                           11,610.00 $                         364.00 $                   11,974.00

Elementary School Level

Stevens Forest Elementary $                           17,241.00 $                     1,235.00 $                   18,476.00
Guilford Elementary $                           16,902.00 $                     1,106.00 $                   18,008.00
Cradlerock Elementary $                           16,569.00 $                     1,294.00 $                   17,863.00
Running Brook Elementary $                           16,593.00 $                     1,226.00 $                   17,819.00
Longfellow Elementary $                           16,371.00 $                     1,176.00 $                   17,547.00
Bryant Woods Elementary $                           16,245.00 $                     1,188.00 $                   17,433.00
Phelps Luck Elementary $                           16,140.00 $                     1,204.00 $                   17,344.00
Talbott Springs Elementary $                           15,838.00 $                     1,202.00 $                   17,041.00
Ducketts Lane Elementary $                           15,509.00 $                     1,145.00 $                   16,653.00
Deep Run Elementary $                           15,470.00 $                     1,154.00 $                   16,624.00
Waterloo Elementary $                           15,901.00 $                         520.00 $                   16,420.00
Dayton Oaks Elementary $                           15,404.00 $                         466.00 $                   15,870.00
Laurel Woods Elementary $                           14,399.00 $                     1,136.00 $                   15,536.00
Swansfield Elementary $                           14,350.00 $                     1,139.00 $                   15,489.00
Clarksville Elementary $                           14,916.00 $                         507.00 $                   15,423.00
Lisbon Elementary $                           14,730.00 $                         499.00 $                   15,229.00
Bollman Bridge Elementary $                           14,132.00 $                     1,076.00 $                   15,208.00
Bushy Park Elementary $                           14,595.00 $                         416.00 $                   15,011.00
Jeffers Hill Elementary $                           14,560.00 $                         444.00 $                   15,003.00
Rockburn Elementary $                           14,485.00 $                         477.00 $                   14,963.00
Thunder Hill Elementary $                           14,320.00 $                         494.00 $                   14,815.00
Bellows Spring Elementary $                           13,669.00 $                         481.00 $                   14,151.00
Hanover Hills Elementary $                           13,605.00 $                         488.00 $                   14,093.00
Atholton Elementary $                           13,588.00 $                         456.00 $                   14,044.00
West Friendship Elementary $                           13,543.00 $                         409.00 $                   13,952.00
Ilchester Elementary $                           13,487.00 $                         451.00 $                   13,938.00
Worthington Elementary $                           13,065.00 $                         394.00 $                   13,459.00
Veterans Elementary $                           13,003.00 $                         429.00 $                   13,431.00
Triadelphia Ridge Elementary $                           12,959.00 $                         457.00 $                   13,417.00
Waverly Elementary $                           12,968.00 $                         404.00 $                   13,371.00
Clemens Crossing Elementary $                           12,925.00 $                         364.00 $                   13,289.00
Manor Woods Elementary $                           12,491.00 $                         426.00 $                   12,917.00
Elkridge Elementary $                           12,331.00 $                         469.00 $                   12,800.00
Hollifield Station Elementary $                           12,313.00 $                         397.00 $                   12,710.00
Hammond Elementary $                           12,196.00 $                         464.00 $                   12,660.00
Forest Ridge Elementary $                           12,226.00 $                         426.00 $                   12,652.00
Pointers Run Elementary $                           11,951.00 $                         413.00 $                   12,364.00
Gorman Crossing Elementary $                           11,640.00 $                         405.00 $                   12,045.00
Northfield Elementary $                           11,416.00 $                         407.00 $                   11,822.00
Centennial Lane Elementary $                           11,328.00 $                         372.00 $                   11,700.00
Fulton Elementary $                           11,294.00 $                         401.00 $                   11,696.00
St. Johns Lane Elementary $                           11,009.00 $                         382.00 $                   11,391.00

There are very large variations on per-student spending between schools. Cedar Lane Special Center and Homework School are two different schools which rank the highest spending. Then

  • On the ES level, the highest/lowest ratio = 162%.
  • On the MS level, the highest/lowest ratio = 153%.
  • On the HS level, the highest/lowest ratio = 124%.

Here is the spreadsheet.

Hear what some of our students say about their HCPSS experience

The BOE received a student petition on addressing some racist events in the school. Victoria Owens, Glenelg High School, Class of 2015, is leading the campaign. Glenelg High School unfortunately has been on the newspaper front page for several racist incidents.

I highly encourage your read our students’ school experience and share your idea on how to change and improve the school climate in HCPSS. Some of the experiences are heart-broken. However, only when we are able to face the reality calmly and do self-reflecting and soul-searching, we are able to move forward.

I agree that HCPSS should include a more diverse curriculum to help our students expand their learning horizon worldwide which will promote better cross-culture understanding and respect, reduce racial bias during the hiring process to increase workforce diversity and leadership diversity, and increase culture proficiency training.

Here is the 105-page petition.

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.

HCPSS opinion on Blueprint for Maryland Future ( Kirwan commission)

This is the letter from HCPSS superintendent Dr. Martirano to our senators on the Blueprint for Maryland Future legislation (Senate Bill SB1000/House Bill HB1300). The full letter is attached here.

The letter talked about good side of the legislation:

There are more challenges laying ahead.

Challenges Specific to Howard County: Lack of Local aid increase/budget pressures

  • Local funding for teacher salary increases
  • Salary increases for Non-Teachers
  • Dual Enrollment costs
  • Administrative costs

Broader Implementation Challenges

  • Budgeting and reporting
  • Career Ladder Implementation
  • Early Childhood Education
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Accountability and Oversight

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.