School board ap­proves $364.2M bud­get re­quest

Con­struc­tion con­tract for new ele­men­tary school also ap­proved

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

The Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proved Su­per­in­ten­dent Kimberly Hill’s $364.2 mil­lion bud­get pro­posal Tues­day night.

The bud­get con­tains ad­di­tional funds for lapsed em­ployee pay steps and for ad­di­tional ser­vices for the county’s in­creas­ing num­bers of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and English Lan­guage Learner (ELL) stu­dents.

The bud­get re­quests $188.7 mil­lion from Charles County gov­ern­ment, an in­crease of $18.1 mil­lion over last year’s $170.6 mil­lion fund­ing, and $170 mil­lion from the state, an in­crease of ap­prox­i­mately

$4 mil­lion over last year’s $166 mil­lion.

As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Bud­get and Fi­nance Randy So­tomayor said re­cent in­for- ma­tion has caused the school sys­tem to re­vise its teacher pen­sion and in­sur­ance pre­mium cost es­ti­mates, in­creas­ing the county re­quest by $81,700.

The school sys­tem is sched­uled to sub­mit its bud­get to Charles County gov­ern­ment Feb. 28. The Board of Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers has a pub­lic hear­ing on the bud­get sched­uled for May 9.

The school board also voted to ap­prove award­ing the con­tract for the con­struc­tion of a new ele­men­tary school on Billings­ley Road to J.A. Scheibel Con­struc­tion Inc. of Hunt­ing­town.

Scheibel was the low­est of three bids to con­struct the new school, though Scheibel’s $35.8 mil­lion bid was over bud­get by ap­prox­i­mately $5 mil­lion.

As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Sup­port­ing Ser­vices Michael Heim re­ported the county com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved a bud­get trans­fer re­quest for ad­di­tional fund­ing for the new school dur­ing their Tues­day morn­ing meet­ing.

The ques­tion of what to name the new school, how- ever, was put on hold as the board re­quested three ad­di­tional rec­om­men­da­tions, based on geo­graphic fea­tures, from its school nam­ing com­mit­tee. In De­cem­ber, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mended three names based on in­di­vid­u­als of im­por­tance to ed­u­ca­tion in Charles County: teacher Mar- garet Jamieson Thorn­ton, former Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Ron­ald G. Cun­ning­ham and former board mem­ber Charles E. Car­ring­ton. The school board has been lob­bied by sup­port­ers of each name.

The list of 26 nom­i­nated names for the new school in­cluded seven place names.

“Noth­ing is off the table,” board Chair­man Michael Lukas said after­ward in an email. “Per­son­ally, it’s a tough de­ci­sion for me and I would like more op­tions. We didn’t have time at Tues­day’s meet­ing to give the mat­ter the proper at­ten­tion it de­serves, and I wanted to make sure that at our next meet­ing we had am­ple choices.”

The school board also re­ceived a re­port from Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Amy Holl­stein re­gard­ing the new Syn­ergy Stu­dent In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem, which will re­place the cur­rent sys­tem be­gin­ning July 1.

“A lot of peo­ple have worked hours and hours to make sure all of our data is safe and all of our data is ready to go on July 1,” Holl­stein said.

Un­der the new sys­tem, par- ents will be able to log in from a com­puter or mo­bile de­vice, nav­i­gate be­tween their chil­dren, ac­cess grades as they are in­put and ac­cess med­i­cal records and school dis­ci­plinary mea­sures, said Peter Cevenini, chief of in­struc­tional tech­nol­ogy for the school sys­tem.

Teach­ers will be able to take at­ten­dance, eas­ily tog­gle be­tween classes, can in­clude stu­dent groups they’re re­spon­si­ble for and will have ac- cess to more than 500 pre­designed re­ports, Holl­stein said.

“The sys­tem is easy to use, so if I’m a se­condary teacher, I don’t have to log in ev­ery time I go to my sec­ond pe­riod class, my third pe­riod class. Ev­ery­thing is right there when you log in, and you just tog­gle be­tween the classes,” Holl­stein said.

Holl­stein said bul­ly­ing re­port forms and other forms will also be avail­able for par- ents on the new sys­tem.

“We want it to be a one-stop shop,” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said the new sys­tem will re­tain teacher in­for­ma­tion.

“We won’t have the prob­lem where some­times teach­ers put in grades and they’re lost,” Holl­stein said. “That’s a prob­lem we’ve had and that’s why we need a new sys­tem.”

Hollingsworth re­ported that staff mem­bers at each school will be trained in the new sys­tem and will be re­spon­si­ble for train­ing oth­ers in their school. Par­ent train­ing is also planned, she said, and sub­sti­tute teach­ers will also re­ceive train­ing in the new sys­tem.

“We want to roll this out so smoothly that when ev­ery- body comes back af­ter the sum­mer they’ll be ready to go,” Holl­stein said.

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Ele­men­tar y School fifth grader Ce­sar Eason com­mented, “So I guess in 2017, ev­ery- thing will be on the in­ter­net.”

“It’s a whole new world,” replied Holl­stein.

School board mem­bers and Su­per­in­ten­dent Kimberly Hill were also ac­com­pa­nied by fifth grade job shad­ow­ers who asked ques­tions of school sys­tem staff.

“Why is there so much test- ing?” asked Natalie Hol­lo­ran, a fifth grader from Mount Hope/Nan­je­moy Ele­men­tary School.

Hill replied that test­ing serves an im­por­tant role in demon­strat­ing stu­dent knowl­edge.

“As long as there have been schools, there’s been a need to as­sess where stu­dents are and what they are learn­ing,” Hill said. “The idea be­hind tests is to fig­ure out how best to teach kids. My per­sonal opin­ion: I don’t be­lieve there’s a whole lot more test­ing than there was when I was in school. But I think there’s a lot more at­ten­tion on test­ing, be­cause we’re be­ing told as a lo­cal school dis­trict, by oth­ers, which tests to give.”

Eason put for­ward a com­plaint re­gard­ing school lunches.

“Some­times at school they give us chicken strips, and then I get mad when I go up to the table and there’s not bar­be­cue sauce,” Eason said.

Jas­mine Queen, fifth grader from Dr. James Craik Ele­men­tary, asked why there is no salt for school lunches.

“Fed­eral guide­lines for the lunch pro­gram pro­hibits salt, be­cause they con­sider that to be un­healthy,” So­tomayor said. “But I will work on that bar­be­cue sauce.”

Tues­day be­ing Valen­tine’s Day, Linda McLaugh­lin, pres­i­dent of the Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Charles County, pre­sented Hill and the board with an over­sized card signed by teach­ers. Ear­lier in the day, she pre­sented the Board of Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers with bal­loons and cards from teach­ers de­tail­ing why they love teach­ing.

STAFF PHOTO SBY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Linda McLaugh­lin, pres­i­dent of the Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Charles County, presents mem­bers of the Board of Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers, in­clud­ing from left, Ken Robin­son and Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy, with Valen­tine’s Day bal­loons and cards from teach­ers about why they love teach­ing. The school board ap­proved a bud­get in­clud­ing funds for two missed teacher pay steps Tues­day evening. The bud­get now goes to the board of com­mis­sion­ers.

Charles County Pub­lic Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Kimberly Hill lis­tens as her job shad­ower, C. Paul Barn­hart Ele­men­tary School fifth grader Amanda Cartwright, in­tro­duces other fifth graders shad­ow­ing mem­bers of the board of ed­u­ca­tion.

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