School board approves $364.2M budget request
Construction contract for new elementary school also approved
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.
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.