Public testimony to support Council Bill 42-2019

Public testimony to support County Council Bill 42-2019

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.

 

Some history on 2019 HCPSS AAC

A lot of people asked me questions related to Area Attendance Committee(AAC). Here is the link https://www.hcpss.org/school-planning/boundary-review/faq/#aac.

2019 AAC Committee members were: Heidi Abdelhady, Bessie Bordenave, Justin Carguilo (student), Frank Eastham, Willie Flowers, Hector Garcia, Paige Getty, Quiana Holmes, Steven Hunt, Suleman Malik, Leonardo McClarty, Susan Otradovec, Lisa Schlossnagle, Larry Walker.

I originally want to wait until the work session to comment anything related to the redistricting process. As more details of the committee are shared, I would like to provide some historical background to provide some historical background and clarify some issues. Whether I agree with some of their viewpoints or not, I would first like to thank AAC members. They are community volunteers who are devoting their time to help the process.  It is not an easy job.

In 2017, the AAC members were recruited through an application/interview process. I, as a general residents at that time, applied for it and was interviewed. But I was rejected to serve in that year’s AAC. Then the superintendent chose around 10 people from that interviewing process to sit in the committee.

However, during the 2017 AAC session, AAC committee members had the authority to move polygons around and recommend their findings to the superintendent. Unfortunately some AAC committee members were personally attacked for how certain polygons were moved around.

Many board members feel that AAC members are shouldering too much burden for their volunteer work .  So in early 2019, the board changed the rule such that the superintendent will directly appoint AAC members and AAC members will not be able to actually move polygons.  Instead they serve in a policy advisory role only. Under the new policy, the AAC committee is under the superintendent’s direct leadership with the help from school staff. I want to clarify that there was no conspiracy anywhere when the board decided to move into this direction for AAC.

However, I do not think the current AAC is diverse enough to represent the whole school community.

Unfortunately there were some controversy revealed recently. One AAC committee member’s comments are totally unacceptable in my opinion. As a committee tasked to advise the superintendent, the aim should be to help all students to succeed. No kids should suffer. Let’s try our best to ignore those comments and not amplify it.

The policy may be revised if needed, considering we will have another redistricting discussion in 2022 to prepare HS 13 opening in 2023.

 

 

FARM rate across Howard County

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.

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 12.36.08 AM

 

The PDF file has really high resolution.

BoE – HoCo ES Percent FARMs Map v2 (PolyNums)

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.

data-farm-test-suppressed (1)

or https://www.hcpss.org/f/schoolplanning/2019/data-farm-test-suppressed.xlsx?b

Disclaimer: I could not reproduce this plot myself because I don’t have a GIS software yet.

Superintendent’s proposal for High School 13 boundary

Finally I received the polygon numbers for High School 13 from Office of School Planning. There are two defined areas:

  1.  high probability polygon (yellow color)
  2. moderate probability polygons ( dark green color)

A community volunteer, named SP, helped me plot the map:

HS 13 on focus

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 3.31.37 PM

Large map:

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 3.32.00 PM

High Resolution Map:

BoE – HoCo HS13 Impact Map Colors

Student Population using this boundary

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.

High School Level

HS 13 student number

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.

Middle School Student Number within this boundary

Middle school student number

Elementary School Student Number within this boundary

elementary student number

Data available for download

HS13_Polygons

HCPSS-Student-Number-by-Polygon

How do you like it? Looking forward to your feedback at redistricting@hcpss.org. 

HCPSS FY 2021 budget ahead

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:

  • Transportation contract costs(no-redistricting related)
  • Dual enrollment FARMS tuition increase
  • Non-public placement
  • Insurance/Risk management
  • Special Education

 

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.

Screen Shot 2019-08-28 at 12.54.05 PM

HCPSS student number by polygon

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

HCPSS Student Number by Polygon

POLYGON NUMBER

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

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

2020 HCPSS Superintendent’s proposal for redistricting

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

——–

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

Elementary School Move

elementary school move

elementary new map

Middle School Move

middle school move

middle school new map

High School Move

high school move

high school new map

HS 13 Boundary

HS 13 boundary

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

The whole document is attached here for your reference:

08 20 2019 Attendance Area Adjustment BR

08 20 2019 Attendance Area Adjustment PowerPoint

Polygon Number

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

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

Here are some timelines for the process.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 6.48.30 PM

Public Hearing:

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

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

Board Work Session

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

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

Board Final Decision

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

Some HCPSS 2019 AAC Meeting Summaries

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

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

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

School Population Change:

hcpss_12_2008_2019

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

school_population

Public input.

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

Superintendent Proposal on August 20

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

BOE Nov. 21 Decision

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

AAC community input sessions start tonight 2019-7-10

Reminder: Attendance Area Community Input Sessions begin this evening:

Wednesday, July 10, 7–9 p.m. at Oakland Mills High School

Families currently zoned for Centennial HS, Howard HS, Mt. Hebron HS, Oakland Mills HS

Saturday, July 13, 9–11 a.m. at Long Reach High School

Available to any family that is unable to attend their regional meeting.

Tuesday, July 16, 7–9 p.m. at Atholton High School

Families currently zoned for Atholton HS, Hammond HS, Long Reach HS, Wilde Lake HS

Thursday, July 18, 7–9 p.m. at River Hill High School

Families currently zoned for Glenelg HS, Marriotts Ridge HS, Reservoir HS, River Hill HS

While it is not required, community encouraged to RSVP

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeYQv-p8CQ0pjb6P1sF6MH-Ne9e1IF4wCwihEvkQP2CUNjC7g/viewform

2019 BOE OBRC Final Report

The BOE Operating Budget Review Committee (OBRC) presented a year-end final report. They identified four critical areas:

  1. Create a multi‐year Operating Budget that is integrated with a Strategic Plan
  2. Key Performance Indicators for programs
  3. Next Level with Equity, Inclusion and Diversity: Social Determinants of Health
  4. Revenue

I truly appreciate the committee’s year long commitment to provide the school board an independent angle to look at our operating budget.

Here is the document.

06 27 2019 OBRC Final Report BR

2019 HCPSS Equity Work Update

Here are some reports related to HCPSS Equity session on June 5th, 2019.

05 21 2019 Promoting Diversity through Student Assignment Initiatives PowerPoint

06 05 2019 Diversity and Inclusion WS Docs

06 05 2019 Equity Report BR

How to find the triangle between technical correctness, organizational implementation and political support and provide opportunities for all students is always a challenging work.

  1. Technical correctness analysis needs establish a baseline for the outcome we expect.  For example, when we talk about 100% high school graduation rate, we should know that is not technical correct. However, it will gain political support. A controlled study for technical correctness will be an important study to create a baseline.
  2. Organizational implementation needs check the reality due to the limited budget the school has. How to pull the resources together to support the equity work is not straightforward. Then organization change may happen if a new superintendent comes online. We should remember nationally a superintendent’s tenure is 3.2 years which is less than a four year contract. So a sustainable long term, organizational implementation plan should be created.
  3. There is no doubt that political support is always here. However, due to different understanding on how to achieve the goal and help our students’ to achieve their full potential, there is a high possibility that different opinions will arise. How a program should start and be implemented will vary.  Unfortunately these different opinions may be viewed as not supporting school equity.   We need overcome this type of accusation.

HCPSS 2019-2020 Feasibility Study

  1. Here is original document. 06 13 2019 Presentation of Feasibility Study BR
  2. The presentation is shorter and easier to read. 06 13 2019 Presentation of Feasability Study PowerPoint
  3. Note this is NOT the final boundary adjustment. Here is the timeline for the redistricting process: https://chaowu.org/2019/06/05/2019-boundary-review-process-in-hcpss-schools/This is the feasibility study which projects and proposes the boundary adjustment to the superintendent.
    1. The superintendent makes his redistricting proposal to the board in August.
    2. The BOE will have three public hearings on the superintendent’s proposal.
    3. Final vote will happen in Nov.
    4. Here are the three important dates. https://chaowu.org/2019/04/02/three-important-days-about-2019-2020-hcpss-school-redistricting/
  4. Here is the link to how to find your polygon number based on your home address: https://chaowu.org/2017/06/24/how-to-find-hcpss-school-polygon-map-number/

Proposed Sample Elementary School Adjustment

Sample_Elementary_Move

Proposed Sample Middle and High School Adjustment

Sample_Middle_High_Schools_move.JPG

Proposed High School 13 Boundary

high_school_13_boundary.JPG

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Here are the breakdown by regions how the boundary adjustment has been proposed. Each of them has several options for considerations.

Western Elementary Move Option 1

western_elementary_option_1.JPG

Western Elementary Move Option 2

western_elementary_option_2.JPG

Southwestern Elementary Move Option 1

Southwestern_Option_1.JPG

Southwestern Elementary Move Option 2

Southwestern_Option_2.JPG

Southwestern Elementary Move Option 3

Southwestern_Option_3

Columbia Move Option 1

Columbia_Option_1

Columbia Move Option 2

Columbia_Option_2.JPG

Columbia Move Option 3

Columbia_Option_3.JPG

Student Number Projection

If you have any feedback on the predicted numbers, please share it with me, especially the New Construction(NC) column.

Projection_High_SchoolProjection_Middle_SchoolProjection_Elementary_School

 

 

 

 

Thoughts before 2020 HCPSS budget vote

It is my first school budget. The process is painful and the result is painful.

It was so painful that I have to see so many dedicated technology teachers, math support teachers, reading support teachers, math instruction support teachers, and paraeducators will lose their positions due to our vote. Fortunately they will not lose their job and income.

It is not your fault at all. When a math resource teacher called me and cried, I really don’t know what to say that point. We don’t have much choices.

increasing class size, cutting music teachers, cutting GT teachers , cutting technology teachers, cutting paraeducator, cutting math support teachers or reading support teachers or more. There is no good choice and we have to balance the budget.

I am looking forward to seeing how to make next year budget better. The reality is very tough. We will have a 37 millions dollar health care deficit and around 12 million dollar operating budget deficit starting at our next budget discussion.

We need revenue and find efficiency.  We need clean our house first before any new initiatives.

  1. Managing our temporary worker system will bring some money.
  2. Charging daycare center running on school facility will bring some money. Right now, the rent is 1 dollar.
  3. Charging some school facility usage fee will bring some revenue
  4. We need increase school fundraising effort. (added after the post loaded here)
  5. We need examine every aspect of our operation.
  6. We need figure out how to increase our starting teacher salary to 50k to make our salary competitive . We need examine our health care benefit and reform it, and make it more sustainable as soon as possible. Our teachers and staff need our support.
  7. Running a school system is also like running a business. We need find efficiency. We need find result. We need innovate.

Furthermore, we need our county executive and county council’s continuous and strong support.

  • We need increase our development impact fee to at least 8 dollars per square fee, which is still lower than neighboring counties. This will bring tens of million dollars to the county revenue and ease the school over-crowding a little bit. This will decrease our need to rely on debt to fund county capital budgets.
  • If people consider increasing property tax and other tax, please make sure the development impact fee will be increased first
  • also make sure the increased revenue will go into education. We should always be mindful increasing tax will create an extra financial burden to many families too.

The school system can only do so much with limited revenue. I will make sure our school system will not go back to the same faulty path as previous school administration.

We don’t have a rosy road ahead of us at all. Let’s all work together to fix the problem, bring our school back to the right track gradually and still be one of the best.

Our students are counting on us. Thanks.

2019 High School Graduation Speech

Embrace the change

2019 High School Graduation Speech

River Hill (Wednesday, 5/29/2019, 7:00PM-9:00)/ Mount Hebron (Thursday, 5/30)

By Dr. Chao Wu

It is a great honor to speak with you, our seniors. You will soon fly around the world to find your passion, work on your dream and enjoy a new chapter of your life. I would like to encourage you to “embrace the change”.

As one of the great ancient Chinese philosophers, Lao Zi in Taode Jing, 2400 years ago, wrote:

Dao that can be talked about is not the eternal Dao itself;
A name that can be given is not the eternal thing itself.

I am extending a little bit here: you today will not be the same you tomorrow. Change always happens.

My life has been full of changes.

I did not have a high-school graduation ceremony, neither did some of the parents here. When I was in high school, our main purpose was to work hard and to get into college because there were very few other opportunities. At that time, there were only 30% or less high school graduates who can go to a college.

Then I received a really great score from the three-day college entrance exam and entered one of the best universities in China. It opened the door to me for many more opportunities.  Later I went to Singapore and then came to University of Maryland. Then I settled in Howard County and ran for the school board in 2018. With a dedicated campaign, I won a seat on the school board eventually.

In my life, I have been working really hard and preparing for the opportunities when it becomes available. There is no other way around since I came from a very humble, unprivileged family. I kept moving forward, and adapted myself to the three different societies that are quite different in culture, economic and political environments.

I strive to be the better of myself.

Change is permanent in our lives. Embrace the change.

The same for you, our proud and young graduates. Your new chapter of life will be different. You will not be under your parent’s radar any more. You will face never-ending changes and encounter differences in all spectrums. You will have countless opportunities to shape your own future.

The world is so big. You will be like a water drop in the ocean. However, please don’t forget your High School friends. Remember: your classmates next to you, may be your colleagues or even start-up co-founders. Can you have a hug with them now?

Embrace the change and follow by action

Embrace the change, understand the challenge and lead by action, not just words. Trust me, your future will be mainly decided by your own action.

The society is changing so much in recent years which is driven by the societal, economic and political landscapes not only in this country, but across the globe.

You are not immune to this change. For example, Artificial Intelligence will remove many repetitive, and non-challenging jobs. The call center and online service centers have been downsized dramatically. We need to educate and inform ourselves to avoid the risk going in this type of industry that is soon obsolete.

So invest yourself in the areas which require creativity and passion. Make sure those jobs will not be easily displaced by robot and AI.

Please take care of yourself, find new friends, and pursue the purpose of the life. It can be long. It can be complicated. It can have set-backs. However, never ever lose hope and call home often for support.

Finally, congratulations. The New World is waiting for you!

img_0521

Photo credit to Deb Jung, Howard County Council Member District Four.

Promoting Student Diversity in Schools

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

Promoting Student Diversity in Schools by Mark Blom

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

pew survey on school versus diversity

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

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

 

Tough choices and FY 2020 budget

Make tough choices and share the burden together

I would like to tell a story: A poor family had five kids. One year,  there was a shortage of food because of the natural disaster. They had to make a tough choice:

  • Every family member had less food and work through the tough year together.
  • Give two children to other families such that with less people they can have more food for each remaining family member.

This was a true story happened in my “Wu” family two generations ago. Due to severe food shortage, one of my grandfather’s brother was given to another family and even changed his family name. It was 70 years ago. My great grandparents regretted that decision when the family condition changed for better later. Now all of them experienced that passed away.

Now 70 years later in Howard County, we are facing a very tough budget shortfall. At the same time, we are facing a tough choice. Are we going to surplus our teachers out, who are our best assets and make our classrooms even more crowded, or all of us stay together and find a way to get through the tough time? Or every stakeholder shares the burden collectively?

Cuts and Savings, HCPSS FY 2020 Budget Update

Wednesday afternoon’s work session on the FY2020 school budget was tough. After the discussion, here are some highlights:

  1. After the discussion, increasing class size by 2 and surplusing teachers (123.7 cut: elementary technology teacher from 62.2 to 42; music teacher from 52 to 26; GT elementary from 79.5 to 42; GT middle from 60 to 20) and para-educators (104 cut: elementary paraeducator from 216 to 132; middle school math paraeducator cut 15, middle school reading paraeducator, cut 5),  are on-hold with a 10 million dollars deficit. There are a small number hiring increase (para-educator) in several areas too because of cutting teachers.
  2. At the same time, we are increasing the health care deficit with another 7 million dollars to 44 million dollars next year. We are creating an operating budget deficit for FY2021 since we are using a 10 million fund balance to fund incurring operating cost.
  3. We are not able put extra fund on the student mental health and well-being, restorative and inclusive support. program innovation, deferred maintenance and balancing capacity and changing school start time.
  4. We are now waiting for the county council to give us extra 10 million dollars if they can.
  5. The school budget discussion will be difficult for this year and many years forward.

Here is document: 05 08 2019 Budget Work Session Document

The link is here:

Click to access 05%2008%202019%20Budget%20Work%20Session%20Documentss.pdf