Har­ris tours Bene­dic­tine School

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

RIDGELY — U.S. Rep. Andy Har­ris, R-Md.-1, vis­ited the Bene­dic­tine School on Tues­day, April 18, to learn more about the school and the vast range of ser­vices it of­fers to chil­dren and adults with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

The stop was the first through­out the First Con­gres­sional District on his sched­ule this week, while Congress takes a re­cess.

Har­ris took a tour of part of the sprawl­ing cam­pus out­side Ridgely, see­ing class­rooms, res­i­den­tial halls and the school’s graphic de­sign busi­ness, and talked to ad­min­is­tra­tors about the school’s fu­ture.

Stu­dents pre­sented Har­ris with gifts cre­ated by the school’s mul­ti­ple in-house busi­nesses, and Har­ris gave the school a U.S. flag that flew Feb. 13 over the U.S. Capi­tol Build­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in recog­ni­tion of the school’s mis­sion.

The Bene­dic­tine School was founded in 1959, by the Sis­ters of St. Bene­dict, and to­day serves 67 stu­dents, ages 5 to 21, from through­out Mary­land and the MidAt­lantic re­gion, most of whom live on cam­pus full­time.

In 1982, it added its Adult Ser­vices pro­gram, now serv­ing more than 120 adults ages 22 and up, of­fer­ing em­ploy­ment in its own busi­nesses, in­clud­ing graphic de­sign, a green­house, land­scap­ing, a bak­ery and mo­bile clean­ing ser­vices, or em­ploy­ment train­ing for adults seek­ing jobs else­where.

The Adult Ser­vices di­vi­sion also pro­vides res­i­den­tial sup­port to more than 70 adults liv­ing in 18 homes in An­napo­lis, Eas­ton, Hen­der­son, Denton and Ridgely.

In to­tal, Bene­dic­tine em­ploys about 425 full- and part-time peo­ple, mak­ing it one of the largest em­ploy­ers in Caro­line County.

Scott Evans, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Bene­dic­tine pro­grams and ser­vices, is the first lay per­son to head the or­ga­ni­za­tion in its his­tory, af­ter co-founder and long­time ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sis­ter Jean­nette Mur­ray re­tired in 2012.

Evans said the school has trans­formed many times over the years to meet the chang­ing needs of its stu­dents, and is fac­ing yet an­other tran­si­tion in the near fu­ture.

For one, the Sis­ters of St. Bene­dict, who are part of a dio­cese based in Wilm­ing­ton, Del., will move to the Wilm­ing­ton area in the next cou­ple of years, as con­vents merge due to de­clin­ing num­bers.

Evans said only two ac­tive sis­ters work on the cam­pus now.

To pre­pare for that shift, Evans said, Bene­dic­tine’s board of di­rec­tors bought 130 acres from the sis­ters, to make sure it still be­longs to the school if the sis­ters leave.

Bene­dic­tine is also talk­ing to po­ten­tial lo­cal, state and fed­eral part­ners, who might be able to use the mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture al­ready in place on the cam­pus.

For in­stance, the Caro­line County Depart­ment of Recre­ation and Parks is in talks to use the school’s pool to of­fer sum­mer swim­ming lessons, Evans said.

“We weren’t in a po­si­tion to do that be­fore, but now we can look at what re­sources we have, and see how we can be of fur­ther ser­vice to Caro­line County and the en­tire East­ern Shore,” Evans said.

New fed­eral reg­u­la­tions are also com­ing, Evans said. Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices rule change.

Passed in 2014, it says all set­tings for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties must be in­te­grated into the com­mu­nity, and non-res­i­den­tial set­tings must meet the same stan­dards to en­sure peo­ple re­ceiv­ing sup­ports are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the greater com­mu­nity just as much as they would were they not re­ceiv­ing Med­i­caid ser­vices.

The com­pli­ance dead­line is March 2019.

Evans said while he agrees with the spirit of the rule change, he is wor­ried about the dead­line.

“Not hav­ing our fund­ing changes an­swered is our big­gest con­cern,” Evans said.

Har­ris said he would look into the dead­line.

“If fed­eral reg­u­la­tions are im­ped­ing your abil­ity to do what you need to do, let me know,” Har­ris said.

PHOTO BY ABBY AN­DREWS

Sis­ter Mary Agnes, left, one of two Sis­ters of St. Bene­dict still ac­tive in the Bene­dic­tine School, has been a mem­ber of the con­vent for 60 years, and has worked at the school for 42. She met U.S. Rep. Andy Har­ris, R-Md.-1, right, dur­ing his visit to the school.

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