School board re­quests more coun­selors, bus study

Draft op­er­at­ing bud­get goes to county for re­view

The Dundalk Eagle - - NEWS - By VIR­GINIA TERHUNE vter­hune@ches­

The county Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, by a 9-2 vote last week, asked the county to fund an ad­di­tional 37 po­si­tions in next year’s $1.6 bil­lion op­er­at­ing bud­get with a fo­cus on ad­di­tional so­cial work­ers and guid­ance coun­selors.

The pro­posed ad­di­tions are es­ti­mated to cost more than $3.5 mil­lion, and if funded by County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz, would in­crease the pro­posed op­er­at­ing bud­get pre­pared by school Su­per­in­ten­dent Dal­las Dance by less than half of one per­cent.

Amended and ap­proved with the re­quests by board mem­bers, Dance’s bud­get now moves to the county for fur­ther re­view be­fore go­ing to the County Coun­cil for a pub­lic hear­ing in April and a fi­nal vote in May.

There are no guar­an­tees that the re­quests will ul­ti­mately be funded, said board mem­ber David Uhlfelder. The op­er­at­ing bud­get is al­ready six per­cent above the man­dated min­i­mum amount and has his­tor­i­cally been trimmed to about four per­cent dur­ing the fi­nal re­view, he said.

The county ex­ec­u­tive, who con­trols county spend­ing, funds more than half of the school op­er­at­ing bud­get. The coun­cil can cut from the bud­get but not add to it.

Top­ping the list of school board fund­ing re­quests was an es­ti­mated $1.4 mil­lion re­quest by school board mem­ber Kath­leen Causey, who rep­re­sents the 3rd District cov­er­ing north­ern Bal­ti­more County, to hire an ad­di­tional 23 guid­ance coun­selors.

Res­i­dents have re­cently con- tacted the school board about the need for more coun­selors and so­cial work­ers in lower-in­come schools. Hir­ing ad­di­tional sup­port staff for stu­dents will also free up time for teach­ers to stay fo­cused on aca­demic is­sues, Causey said.

Also per­son­nel re­lated was a re­quest by school board vice-chair Marisol John­son (2nd District), who rep­re­sents the Ran­dall­stown area, to hire 12 more so­cial work­ers – 10 for mid­dle schools and two at the high school level. John­son es­ti­mated the cost at $853,000.

Board mem­ber June Ea­ton, who rep­re­sents the 7th Coun­cil District that in­cludes Dun­dalk and Es­sex, sup­ported John­son’s re­quest. Ea­ton said stu­dents can’t learn prop­erly if they’re deal­ing with fam­ily prob­lems or don’t have enough to eat.

Stephen Verch, who rep­re­sents the 6th Coun­cil District that in­cludes Mid­dle River, won sup­port to add a bud­get an­a­lyst po­si­tion. The an­a­lyst would help board mem­bers eval­u­ate the school depart­ment’s large and com­plex bud­get. The po­si­tion was re­quested last year but was not funded, Verch said.

Also ask­ing for a sin­gle ad­di­tional po­si­tion was board mem­ber Ni­cholas Ste­wart, who rep­re­sents the 1st Coun­cil District that in­cludes Ca­tonsville. Ste­wart re­quested a new work­force de­vel­op­ment co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion.

The job would in­volve co­or­di­nat­ing the school sys­tem’s seven ex­ist­ing work­force-re­lated pro­grams and also work­ing with out

side pro­grams. “Bal­ti­more County pub­lic schools would ben­e­fit from hav­ing a cen­tral point of con­tact re­spon­si­ble for co­or­di­nat­ing pro­grams and ef­forts in­ter­nally across all of­fices and ex­ter­nally with gov­ern­ment part­ners in or­der to en­sure the most ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient use of re­sources,” said Ste­wart in a res­o­lu­tion.

Trans­porta­tion study

Re­cently ap­pointed board mem­ber Julie Henn, who lives in Per- ry Hall and serves at large, won sup­port for two re­quests, both re­lated to over­crowd­ing.

Henn asked that $1 mil­lion be added to the op­er­at­ing bud­get for con­tracted trans­porta­tion ser­vices to re­duce over­crowd­ing on buses, a sit­u­a­tion that she says has re­sulted in stu­dents fall­ing off seats and sit­ting in the aisles.

Henn also asked that $250,000 be added to hire an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor to do a one-time eval­u­a­tion of en­roll­ment and pro­jected en­roll­ment at schools around the county. The re­sults would be com­pared to the school sys­tem’s eval­u­a­tion, which is a fac­tor in de­cid­ing where to build new schools and ad­di­tions to ac­com­mo­date growth.

Par­ents at Perry Hall Mid­dle School have come be­fore the board sev­eral times, in­clud­ing Tues­day night, to re­port prob­lems with over­crowd­ing, which they say are pro­jected to get worse in the years ahead as en­roll­ment in­creases.

A re­quest for a one-year freeze on the phased im­ple­men­ta­tion of the S.T.A.T. pro­gram pre­sented by at-large board mem­ber Ann Miller did not win sup­port from a ma­jor­ity of the board.

The S.T.A.T. ini­tia­tive, which pro­vides stu­dents with com­put­ers to use in their course­work, has been funded by Dance at the ex­pense of aca­demic pro­grams, Miller said.

The ini­tia­tive is half­way through the third year of im­ple­men­ta­tion and there’s still no quan­tifi­able ev­i­dence that the in­vest­ment so far is im­prov­ing stu­dent per­for­mance, she said.

Board mem­ber Causey sup­ported Miller’s re­quest, say­ing money could also be saved on the pur­chase of com­puter de­vices, but the re­quest failed to win ma­jor­ity sup­port of the board.

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