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Cecil County Public Schools Board of Education Election

Primary election has implications for Cecil County Board of Education

April 26 is primary day in Maryland. One might think “Oh, it’s just a primary. I don’t need to vote,” and in some years that may be the case.

But not this year.

The primary election in Cecil County has real consequences for the future of our county–especially for our schools where two of the five seats on the Cecil County Board of Education are up for election.

Structure of the Cecil County Board of Education

The board of education is comprised of five districts and members are elected by the county at large. Board members are elected on a non-partisan basis per state law so no party affiliation is listed on ballots. Terms last four years and a member can serve two terms.

Much of the work of the board of education is governed by Maryland state law and, once elected, board members take an oath to operate in accordance with state laws.

Md. EDUCATION Code Ann. § 4-108 (2016)
§ 4-108. Duties in general

Each county board shall:

  1. To the best of its ability carry out the applicable provisions of this article and the bylaws, rules, regulations, and policies of the State Board;
  2. Maintain throughout its county a reasonably uniform system of public schools that is designed to provide quality education and equal educational opportunity for all children;
  3. Subject to this article and to the applicable bylaws, rules, and regulations of the State Board, determine, with the advice of the county superintendent, the educational policies of the county school system; and
  4. Adopt, codify, and make available to the public bylaws, rules, and regulations not inconsistent with State law, for the conduct and management of the county public schools.

CCPS Policy BBA: SCHOOL BOARD POWERS & DUTIES link

The following specific duties and powers of the Board are enumerated in Title 4 of the Education Article:

  1. Required to maintain throughout Cecil County a reasonably uniform system of public schools designed to provide quality education and equal educational opportunity for all youth.
  2. Appoint a County Superintendent of Schools who shall serve as the executive officer, the secretary, and the treasurer of the Board.
  3. Determine the educational policies with the advice of the Superintendent. The Board is subject to statutory law and to bylaws, rules and regulations of the State Board of Education.
  4. Prescribe rules and regulations for the conduct and management of the schools.
  5. Establish schools subject to the approval of the State Superintendent of Schools and determine the geographical attendance areas for all schools with the advice of the County Superintendent.
  6. May establish and maintain day and evening schools for adults.
  7. Hold property vested in the Board.
  8. Purchase or otherwise acquire grounds, school sites or buildings, or rent, repair, improve and construct school buildings.
  9. Employ an architect or architects.
  10. Secure the services of attorneys at law to represent the Board when deemed necessary by the Board.
  11. Establish such advisory committees as the Board deems necessary.
  12. Acquire land for the site of a school or for enlarging a school site for playgrounds or for other school purposes by instituting condemnation proceedings in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
  13. Consolidate schools.
  14. Arrange for transportation of pupils subject to applicable laws and bylaws.
  15. Appoint, on the written recommendation of the County Superintendent, all principals, teachers and all other certificated personnel and fix their salaries subject to the provisions of Section 6-201 of the Education Article.
  16. Establish, upon the written recommendation of the County Superintendent of Schools and subject to the provisions of the Education Article and regulations of the State Board of Education, curriculum guides and courses of study including appropriate programs for mentally and physically handicapped children.
  17. Cause to be taken, under the direction of the County Superintendent, a school census.
  18. May enter into agreements with the County Commissioners for the cooperative or joint administration of programs.
  19. Appoint during the month of February, a Superintendent of Schools for a term of four (4) years beginning the first day of July next succeeding the appointment. (This appointment must be approved by the State Superintendent of Schools.)
  20. Enter into contracts validated by the written approval of the County Superintendent of Schools.
  21. Suspend or dismiss certificated personnel in accordance with the provisions of applicable law and bylaws of the State Board of Education.
  22. Prepare a budget with the advice of the County Superintendent of Schools.
  23. Have all accounts audited and made public.
  24. Make reports to the State Board of Education.
  25. Have Annual Report prepared and published.
  26. Cause the American flag to be displayed in each school during school hours.
  27. Provide and equip the Office of County Superintendent.
  28. Provide such means of transportation as are necessary for the effective and efficient performance of the official duties of the Superintendent and her professional assistants.
  29. Upon the recommendation of the County Superintendent, adopt procedures for the selection and purchase of textbooks and other school supplies.
  30. Establish policies for promotion and graduation of pupils, subject to rules and regulations of the State Board of Education.
  31. With the assistance of the County Health Department, provide adequate school health services and instruction in health.

NOTE: The list above is descriptive, but is not all inclusive in detail.

Candidates for Board of Education in Cecil County

In District 1 (Chesapeake City), current board of education member and former county commissioner William Manlove is running for re-election against Kevin Emmerich. In District 2 (Elkton), current board of education member Lauren Camphausen is completing her second term and is not eligible for re-election. Her seat is being contested by Erin Doordan, Jim Fazzino, and Ron Lobos. According to election laws, the two candidates for District 1 will compete in the general election and the three candidates for District 2 will be narrowed to two in the primary and those two will compete against each other in the general election.

How important can a board of education election be?

In the last two years, I’ve learned just how critical it is to have a board of education that works well as a team and with the administration. The board of education meetings I’ve attended might not have been exciting but they were professional and productive and I’ve never doubted the intentions of the participants.

I can’t say the same for all the candidates running for board of education.

Your vote counts in this election

Regardless of our party affiliation, we all need to vote in the primary on April 26. (Early voting runs from 4/14/16-4/21/16) But before you vote, learn more about the candidates’ intentions and motivations for running for board of education.

Visit the candidates’ Facebook pages

Erin Doordan

Kevin Emmerich

Jim Fazzino

Ron Lobos

This isn't a field house

Alright, Perryville, I’m calling you out!

Updated 2/6/17 to include FY18 budget info and change county contacts

If your child is in the Perryville High School “feeder pattern,” (which means he or she attends or will attend Perryville High School. This includes students attending Charlestown, Bainbridge, Conowingo, and Perryville Elementary schools and Perryville Middle School), it’s time for us to speak out together in support of capital projects that are critical needs at the school.

This year’s CCPS small capital budget request to County Executive Alan McCarthy includes three projects for Perryville High School. Two are long overdue, one is part of a system-wide school safety initiative. Regardless, if we don’t advocate for these projects, there is little chance they will be included in the County Executive’s proposed budget FY 2018 which he will present to the County Council on 3/31/17.

CCPS budget request FY18

County-funded Projects Requested for Perryville High School

Tennis court resurfacing–Cost $200,000

Requested since the FY 2014 budget

Enhanced security at building entrance–Cost $250,000

The building is secure and visitors must be buzzed in the locked doors during the school day but, once a person comes in the front door, there is nothing to prevent them from traveling the short distance down the hallway into the cafeteria, auditorium, or gym. All spaces that are used by classes during the school day. Funding for security enhancements at Elk Neck Elementary, Elkton Middle, Rising Sun High, and Kenmore Elementary is also included in the FY 2018 capital budget request.

Field house–Cost $2,000,000

Perryville is the only high school in the county without a field house. I’m not sure why the county has refused to fund this project for so long but it’s become quite clear that the school won’t get one if we don’t speak out in support of it. This has been part of the budget request since at least 2009

If you have ever said the words “Perryville needs field house,” I’m calling you out.

In the six years I’ve spent on the sidelines of sporting events, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people complain about the absence of a field house at Perryville. The time for grumbling is over. It’s time to email or call County Executive McCarthy and let him know you support funding for a field house at Perryville.

perryville calling you out

Out of sight, Out of mind?

Three years ago, when I first spoke to the county council, at least one of the council members assumed that the building housing the snack shack, press box, and cramped bathrooms was our field house. (Are you done laughing yet?) Sitting in that meeting I realized that the members of the council were not familiar with the facilities at most of our schools and that’s when I started posting photos on this blog.

There aren’t that many schools in the system or in any one council member’s district, how is it acceptable that they haven’t visited at least most of them during their terms in office? It’s little wonder our young adults aren’t active in local politics when they have never heard of these officials or seen them on school property–even at graduation.

Officials rush to attend events with ribbon cuttings and reporters–they need to also show up at events like concerts, plays, and sports to see the good things happening in our community schools as well as the needs. When you don’t have to set foot on the properties that you’ve refused to maintain or improve or see the students who attend those schools, it’s easier to treat them as just another line item in a budget.

For the last decade, the county has funded few of the capital projects that CCPS has requested, leaving us with a huge, expensive backlog that is growing more expensive with each passing year. As construction costs climb, continuing to defer these projects will result in the county paying more for projects that have been identified for years.

Athletics are Underfire

There are groups in this county who believe Cecil County should not fund ANY sports or athletic facilities at our public schools and they are vocal in their misguided thinking. In fact, this may be an issue that differentiates the candidates in our upcoming local elections.

What Can You Do?

Contact the County Executive and members of the County Council and encourage them to fund the small capital budget CCPS request. County Executive McCarthy will submit his proposed budget to the County Council on 3/31/17 so it’s important that he hears from us now.

County Executive

Alan McCarthy–amccarthy@ccgov.org
(410) 996-5203

 

Director of Administration

Al Wein–awein@ccgov.org
(410) 996-8300

Mail:

County Administration Building
200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 2110, Elkton, MD 21921

lets-talk-about-data

What’s all this talk about transparency?

Every Cecil County budget cycle is a battle and this year will be even more contentious with a primary election on April 26 that will include fights for county executive, county council, and school board. This primary and the general election in November have the potential to change Cecil County for years to come and, so far, it’s not clear if that change will keep us moving forward in our uphill battle or send us crashing backwards to the ground.

Several of the candidates have said they will push Cecil County Public Schools to be more transparent with their financial reports and student test scores.

LOL…literally…LOL

I’m not sure how CCPS could be more transparent in these areas.

Transparency of Cecil County Public Schools’ Financial Reports

Nearly all CCPS financial documents are easily found on the school system’s website. You don’t have to call anyone to request the documents, fill out any forms, or even create an online login. Just look for them and print them. Annual reports, budget request presentations, proposed annual budgets, and approved annual budgets back to FY 2006 are all available on the CCPS Budget page, free for anyone who wants to take the time to read them. If you don’t want to kill a tree, you can download them to your computer to read at another time.

If it makes you feel any better, the team that puts these reports has received a long string of awards for governmental financial reporting so we can safely say they’ve got this area covered.

Curious how the school system is doing month to month and against its annual budget?

CCPS chief financial officer Thomas Kappra presents year to date budget reports at the board of ed meetings. These reports compare the current year’s expenses and revenue to both the approved budget and last year’s actual results.

Can’t attend the board of education meeting?

If you can’t attend a board of education meeting you can still access the YTD budget reports via the CCPS Board Docs portal. Board Docs could be your favorite tool for researching the current events in the school system. Meeting agendas and supporting documents are posted on the site in advance of the meetings and other documents (mostly personnel-related) are posted after receiving board approval. Here’s a link to the FY 2016 Budget Update from the Feb. 8, 2016 meeting.

What types of supporting documents are posted on the CCPS website?

Aside from the budget updates, you can also find reports supporting purchasing activities, like bids and contracts on the website.

Here are a few examples:

Natural Gas Supply Contract–CCPS joined with large employers in Elkton to negotiate natural gas prices as a group

Dump Truck Purchase–CCPS purchased a used truck, previously owned by Cecil County Government, at auction. (Pause for a minute to let that sink in. The truck was supposedly too old for the county to keep but the school system had to buy it at auction. You would think there would be a way to transfer a cast-off vehicle between county agencies but that doesn’t appear to be the case.)

Medical Claim Audit Services–CCPS secured an outside auditor to review medical claims for FY 2014 and 2015 and evaluate them against industry and contractual standards. Such an audit is prudent because health care expenses for current and retired employees are one of the biggest line items in the CCPS budget.

Transparency of Cecil County Public Schools’ Test Results

I’ve also heard people calling for transparency with Cecil County’s test results. Fortunately for them, the Maryland Department of Education has already taken care of this by publishing test results, demographics, and other statistics for each local education agency (LEA) in the state on its Maryland Report Card website. There’s enough data here to keep you busy for days.

Pushing for more transparency makes a nice quote in the paper but the reality is that the information is already out there–just waiting for you to start sifting through it.

Prepare to Vote in the Primary 4/26/16

If you believe a strong school system is the foundation of a thriving community, please do your own research about the candidates in the upcoming primary election and come out to vote.

Decade of Neglect

The Results of a Decade of Neglect

Updated 2/13/17

You don’t have to attend too many budget hearings or council meetings before you recognize the ceaseless cries of “The county needs to live within its means.” The howls come from a relatively small group who vocally demand that the county cut “out of control” spending. It’s like reciting lines from a bad movie you’ve seen many times but just can’t resist watching when it’s on TV.

Yawn. Until those demanding “fiscal conservatism” roll up their sleeves, start reading the financial documents, and cite specifics, these are just opinions. And you can’t effectively run a business, a county government, or a school system on opinions.

But we do agree on one point

Imagine how shocked I was to realize I agree with them on one point: Cecil County hasn’t been living within its means. For too long the county has been neglecting some of its obligations because it couldn’t figure out how to cover all of its expenses. Adequate schools, well-maintained roads, and properly equipped emergency services aren’t extravagances, they are the cost of living in modern society.

During the FY16 budget season, there was hot debate over necessities: replacement AEDs OR emergency communications systems OR long neglected capital projects at county schools.

We aren’t choosing toppings for a pizza–it shouldn’t be an either/or decision. In many cases ALL the requests are necessary.

At different points in that budget cycle, both (former) County Executive Tari Moore and (current) Council Member Alan McCarthy remarked that Cecil County needs to start addressing mandates that aren’t currently being met regarding emergency radio communications (deficiencies in that system made the news again that spring), water treatment, and school services.

Cecil County, ALL of these items are our responsibility whether we individually agree with the mandate or not. It’s not a matter of IF we meet these needs, it’s a matter of how. The county can choose how it plans to comply with and fund these programs but they must be implemented.
Unfortunately, for the last decade, Cecil County has neglected sufficient funding for capital improvements so there is now a backlog of expensive but still critical needs. One glaring example is the Cecil County Public Schools’ list of deferred maintenance projects that now totals over $49 million–up $5 million over last year.

How does CCPS determine facilities needs?

Public school facilities in Maryland are overseen by the Board of Public Works (BPW), Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC), and the  Public School Construction Program (PSCP)  Those entities have a:

“…strong interest in the proper maintenance of Maryland’s public school facilities. For all types of facilities, the useful life of the structure is greatly extended through a preventive maintenance program that protects the asset and corrective maintenance activities that address emergent deficiencies. Good maintenance defers the need for repairs and major renovation, and reduces the cost of renovation when it is eventually needed. Regular maintenance ensures that the operation of the building, including its energy efficiency, will remain optimal even under adverse weather conditions. For schools in particular, good maintenance helps to protect the health of young students and establishes an environment in which the focus of administrators, teachers, and the students themselves can remain on learning, rather than on the building. “ PSCP Annual Report

Each fall CCPS is required to prepare a Comprehensive Maintenance Plan (CMP) detailing the maintenance activities that are projected to occur in the next 10 years. CCPS is also required to prepare a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) detailing current and future major renovations and new buildings. The CMP and CIP must be submitted to the State Public School Construction Program for review and approval.

What are “Deferred Maintenance” Projects?

Projects on the deferred maintenance list are too costly to complete from funds in the annual maintenance budget and end up as part of the CCPS capital budget request. Unfortunately, few projects have received county funding in recent years so the list continues to grow as CCPS does the best it can to address projects on the list with the available funds or the projects expand to become a large capital request (like when “repair” becomes “replacement”).
Lest you think the list of deferred maintenance projects is the result of some failing of CCPS, the state praised the school system for its work in the Maintenance of Maryland’s Public School Buildings FY 2014 Annual Report published on Jan. 15, 2016:

“Five schools were inspected in January 2014. Original existing square footage at these schools dates from 1937 to 2005, with adjusted building ages ranging from 47 to 11 years at the time of inspection. All of the inspected schools were first constructed before 1980 and have received various additions and renovations. The survey results demonstrate the good maintenance practices and outstanding custodial care that the IAC has come to expect in Cecil County. The school receiving the lowest score and having the oldest adjusted age, the Cecil School of Technology, is scheduled to have its program moved in Fall 2015 to a newly renovated facility in Elkton, Maryland. This is significant because of the innovative approach CCPS took to meet their need for an expanded career and technology program: rather than building a new facility or renovating the existing school, they purchased and renovated a commercial research and development facility that came with a high-bay area, advanced science laboratories, conference space, and a sophisticated electrical system. The entire project cost considerably less than a replacement school. Sited in an industrial park, the building will facilitate alignments between the educational programs and industry sponsors.” 

Small Capital Budget Requests Have Gone Unfunded

Now that we have some background on maintenance and capital improvements, let’s talk about the history of a few of the projects in the capital budget request.

The school system’s capital request is divided into the following categories:

  • Large capital projects which are funded jointly by the state and county
  • Small capital projects which are the responsibility of the county

Since the state provides roughly 60% of the funding for large capital projects, let’s focus on the small capital projects.

A Grand Slam of Dilapidated Tennis Courts

During the discussions for the FY 2016 Cecil County Budget, the sad state of the tennis courts at three high schools was a frequent topic. The CCPS budget request included $375,000 for the replacement of tennis courts at Rising Sun, Elkton, and North East High Schools. But these projects shouldn’t have been news to anyone following county budgets because tennis courts have been a part of the request for several years:

  • Rising Sun High School tennis courts Funded in FY17 budget
    • Requested since 2013. The FY 2017 request will be its 5th year on the list.
  • North East High School tennis courts
    • Requested since 2014
  • Elkton High School tennis courts
    • Requested since 2014. Not included in FY 2017 request.

Replacement of the tennis courts at Perryville High School are included in the FY 2017 request and were in the request in FY 2015.

That means tennis courts at four of the county’s five high schools need to be replaced. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that CCPS may find some economies of scale in replacing them all at once.

Cecil Manor Elementary School Needs to be Connected to Municipal Water 

Since 2014, CCPS has requested funding to connect Cecil Manor Elementary School to nearby municipal water lines. What’s the downside to the school remaining on well water? From a dollars and cents perspective, local well water tends to speed the deterioration of HVAC eqauipment, one of the most expensive systems in any building. From a water quality perspective, higher than normal nitrate levels are reported at the school from time to time. This contamination is mostly due to nearby agricultural activity.
CCPS funded this with the BTOP discount

Long and Bumpy Roads

Without adequate funding for maintenance and capital projects, CCPS estimates it would cost upwards of $1 million just to put a dent in the school system’s paving needs. Most concerning is the deterioration that is evident in the bus loops–spots where heavy buses drop off and pick up hundreds of students 180 days a year. The bus loops at BoManor Thomson Estates, and Kenmore Elementary are especially damaged. (A budget amendment in FY 2014 funded some paving at Perryville, North East, and Rising Sun High schools. CCPS worked in cooperation with Cecil County Department of Public Works to complete those projects as cost effectively as possible.)

Cecil County, the Schools are YOUR Responsibility

CCPS is a component unit of Cecil County government with no taxing authority so paying for maintenance and improvements is largely the responsibility of the county. Choosing to continue this trend of minimal funding for small capital projects is a choice to disregard the county’s obligation to maintain facilities built using taxpayer funds.
Below is the small capital budget request CCPS submitted to Cecil County for FY17. I’ve noted which line items were funded and the source of the funding. The projects in the request are prioritized, with the most important at the top. The county funded the first two lines because they are multi-year obligations–then they skipped over quite a few mechanical systems requests to fund tennis courts at Rising Sun High School. I’m not denying that the RSHS tennis courts required resurfacing. I even went out to see the conditions for myself.
Fortunately, CCPS applied for and received a discount of $400,000 on the BTOP program and used that money to fund the next three projects on the list.
Cecil County Public Schools FY17 small capital budget vs funding
The projects on this list won’t go away–if you ignore them they will only become bigger, more expensive projects. And at $11 million, this list represents less than one quarter of the total projects on the $49 million deferred maintenance list.
CCPS small capital budget request vs funding, 2015-2017
It’s time to face the facts and start funding capital projects again so CCPS can begin to whittle away at this list.

Tell the County You Support Adequate Capital Funding in the FY 2018 Cecil County Budget

New Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy is now working with his team to draft the budget that he will send to the County Council in on March 31. Once the County Council receives the budget, they can either approve it as proposed or cut from it. The council can’t add to the budget so we need to voice our expectations NOW.

How can you advocate for public education in Cecil County?

There are several ways:

  • Attend the County Executive’s town hall on Wednesday at 6 PM
  • Email County Executive Alan McCarthy at amccarthy@ccgov.org & Director of Administration Al Wein at awein@ccgov.org
  • Call the County Executive at (410) 996-5203 or Mr. Wein at (410) 996-8300

If snail mail is your thing, you can send that to the County Administration Building at 200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 2110, Elkton, MD 21921

No matter which method of communication you prefer, show your support for adequate public education funding in Cecil County.

Related Posts

Proposed Budget Cuts Cecil County Road Maintenance Budget in Half

The Cecil County Budget: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Paying for College in Cecil County

An Ode to High School Guidance Counselors

During the public comment portion of one of last year’s Cecil County Public Schools Board of Education budget meetings, a citizen remarked  “…the board often talks about preparing students for college but rarely talks about preparing students to pay for college…” His comment was later reported in the Cecil Whig.

While I haven’t heard much discussion about financial aid for college at the board of education meetings I’ve attended in the last few years, that doesn’t mean county high school students and families don’t receive information and support on the college application process or financial aid opportunities. In fact, our older son graduated from Perryville High School 2015 and the guidance office couldn’t have done more to help students find scholarship money.

Introduction to the College Application Process

In the first semester of his junior year, the guidance office held parent meetings about the college application process. My son’s guidance counselor told us about online resources to research colleges and scholarships and gave us a timeline for applying. He encouraged students to start drafting essays, participating in extra curricular activities, and performing community service to make themselves more attractive to colleges. He even added tips like asking teachers for recommendations at the end of junior year so they could write the letters during the summer break. He also explained that the PHS guidance office kept a file of scholarship applications that was updated frequently and encouraged students to check it regularly.

Financial Aid Workshop

In the first semester of his senior year, the guidance counselor held a parent meeting specifically about financial aid. A representative from the financial aid office of Cecil College explained the importance of the FAFSA application and the process for completing it in order to meet state deadlines. Parents were provided with a booklet of scholarships compiled by the guidance departments of the county high schools. Inside this handy booklet scholarships were categorized in several ways including:

  • Academic area of study (education, STEM, nursing, etc.)
  • Extra curricular activity (both community service and sport specific)
  • High school

The booklets were also given to seniors with their 1st marketing period report card.

College Fairs

Each fall CCPS organizes a college fair that is hosted at one of our high schools. Here’s a promotion I received about the 2014 fair:

“I’d like to remind everyone that the 2014 CCPS College and Career Fair will be held at Elkton High School this upcoming Wednesday, October 1st from 6 PM until 8 PM. There will be over 70 colleges, universities, technical schools, and armed forces recruiters available to speak with students and families.

There will also be four presentations available with very important information. The topics of these presentations are:

  • Junior Year Timeline (not applicable to seniors)
  • The College Application Process
  • NCAA Athletics
  • Financial Aid

The format of the fair allows everyone to be able to attend two of these four workshops, which is a great way to learn about the various topics and prepare yourselves for the upcoming months.”

I ran across the promotional email for the 2013 college fair and the line up was very similar. I believe the 2015 College Fair was held at Rising Sun High School.

Scholarship Nights & Emailed Updates

At the individual school level, PHS held a scholarship night in the spring of 2015 to match students with other available local scholarships. And we received countless email messages from his guidance counselor as scholarship opportunities arose during the year–a quick search of my email box lists 56 messages from that year and I know deleted some.

I’m sure the guidance office provided other support that I wasn’t even aware of.

Can’t Beat the Value of a Community College Education

While some families may only consider four year colleges, Cecil College is an affordable local option and CCPS works closely with the college to help students make that transition. Last year, they even administered the college placement tests at PHS.

LIke any college, Cecil College has an active financial aid office to help students in need. It also has its own foundation that provides scholarships to students for academic merit.  Here are articles from the Cecil Whig about the 2015 and 2016 scholarships.

Additionally, CCPS adopted a policy to allow students to receive high school credit for courses taken at Cecil College. In the fall semester of this school year, a professor from Cecil College came to Perryville High School each week to teach Psychology 101. Taking college classes at your local high school (and I think for a reduced tuition)?! Yes, please, we need more of this!

I’ll admit that I am partial to community college education since I received my associate’s degree from Harford Community College over 20 years ago and went on to get my bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore. (If you are in Harford County, be sure to check out the Alfred O’Connell Scholarship program at HCC.)

Because I had such a positive experience at Harford Community, we planned for our sons to start their college careers at Cecil College. Our older son is in his second year at Cecil and we couldn’t be happier with his experience there.

Paying for college in Cecil County is a challenge, just like anywhere else, but to say CCPS doesn’t help students find financial aid is nowhere near accurate. I encourage you to talk with your child’s guidance counselor to learn about the many resources available.

 

Cecil County Budget Process

New Year, New Cecil County Budget Season

As we countdown the final hours of 2015 and tack-up new calendars for 2016, many are busy planning budgets for the 2017 fiscal year.

I know–you can barely contain your excitement for this event. You’re anticipating the months-long process like it’s Christmas, your birthday, and a visit from the tooth fairy all in one! Ok, well, maybe it’s more like a trip to the dentist–for a root canal.

Either way, the Cecil County budget awaits and it must be planned, debated, argued, and approved.

I started blogging about budgets almost two years ago because our schools were having to beg, plead, and grovel for funding. Our students and, by extension, our communities were suffering.

You wanted parents to get involved–here we are!

Last year’s budget season went differently. Education supporters packed meetings and flooded the email boxes of Cecil County officials, contributing to the Cecil County Council’s decision to make very few changes to the school system’s budget. The schools finally received funding to start healing some of the damage caused by 7 years of reduced funding.

Alas, this year will be different

They say “Two steps forward, one step back,” and that will most likely be the case with this budget season. County Executive Tari Moore’s decision to not seek re-election will undoubtedly factor into the budget negotiations this year. Last year, she courageously presented a budget to the county council that included increased funding for education and an actual plan for making needed capital improvements.

With the added drama of a primary election for county executive in April, those of us who support adequate public education funding must continue to make our voices heard.

The Budget Process

  • The Board of Education will spend the month of January preparing a budget that will be submitted to Cecil County Executive Tari Moore in mid-February.
  • At the end of March, the County Executive submits a proposed countywide budget to the County Council.
  • During April and May, the Board of Education will make a budget presentation to the Cecil County Council and a public hearing will be held with everything culminating in a County Council vote on the budget at the beginning of June.

Actions You Can Take to Support Education Funding

To make it easier, you can just copy these email addresses and paste them into an email: tmoore@ccgov.org, amccarthy@ccgov.org, jbowlsbey@ccgov.org, dschneckenburger@ccgov.org, gpatchell@ccgov.org, rhodge@ccgov.org

County Executive Tari Moore
County Council Alan McCarthy District 1
Joyce Bowlsbey District 2
Dan Schneckenburger District 3
George Patchell District 4
Robert Hodge District 5

 

 

Cecil Couny School of Technology

New School of Technology Opens Opportunities for Cecil Students

If you’ve followed Cecil County news for any amount of time, you’ve surely read a few stories about the new Cecil County School of Technology. For a while, many of those stories were about the contentious debate over purchasing the former Bassell property on Appleton Rd. in Elkton. As the renovation project neared completion, the storylines were about the final students attending the old North East location or anticipating the arrival of the new school’s first students in August. In the last few weeks, we’ve read about the ribbon cutting celebrating the official opening of the school and the open house for county sophomores considering technology education for their junior year.

New School of Technology was a Long Time Coming

The story of the School of Technology began more than a decade ago when Cecil County Public Schools identified the need to replace the building housing its technology education programs. Initially planned as a “comprehensive high school” where students would spend their whole day, the project was eventually scaled back to the format Cecil County has been using where students start their days at their home school for a few classes like English and are then bused to the technical school for the rest of their classes.

Once the property purchase was final and the county’s commitment to fund the project was secured in 2013, renovations moved quickly. Despite what others may say loudly and repeatedly, CCPS continues to be resourceful and demonstrated exceptional “out of the box” thinking on this project as they envisioned a building that once housed laboratories being fitted out for technical education. By re-purposing an existing building and using as much of its existing infrastructure a possible, they completed the project at a cost of $68 per square foot. To put that into perspective, the Dorchester County Career and Technology Center cost $247 per square foot when it was built in 2008.

More Space=More Students Served

The new School of Technology facility will allow enrollment to swell to twice its current size when the new class arrives on campus this winter. Those arriving students will have the opportunity to participate in new programs like interactive media productions, criminal justice and homeland security, and computer networking and other new programs are planned for future expansion.

For more information about the Cecil County School of Technology, visit their website.

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parents guide to high school sports

Welcome to High School Sports: A Guide for Parents

Updated 7/6/16 to include information about driver’s education, attendance, and end of year celebrations

Welcome to high school sports! It will be exciting, hectic, frustrating, and hopefully fun for athletes and their families but it can also feel like a whole new world.

After four years of high school sports, I’ve learned that, at least in our family, teenagers aren’t great at getting information from their coaches to their parents. If this is your first year of high school sports, you may feel bewildered by the whole process while other families seem to already be familiar with the program. Here are a few tips to help the sports seasons run smoother for you:

Paperwork!

Students are not permitted to practice without the required paperwork which includes a physical. Please check with your student’s school to determine exactly what is necessary and plan accordingly. Here’s a link to the Cecil County Public Schools online physical form  (the packet contains the physical form as well as other forms that require guardian signatures for proof of insurance, concussion testing, and sudden cardiac death awareness) and a link to the emergency card. For good measure, here’s a link to the CCPS parent information packet but there are no signatures required.

Bookmark countysportszone.com

Your son or daughter most likely won’t come home with a printed schedule but all sports schedules are posted on Countysportzone.com. You’ll want to bookmark that site on your computer or phone because you will be referring to it often. Sometimes postponements due to weather or changes to the schedule are posted here before the players are even notified. If you are leaving work on a rainy day to head to a soccer game, check countysportszone.com before leaving work.

Carpooling is a necessity

Some times your son or daughter will need to be at school at unusual times. This is especially true during fall pre-season practices before school starts when practice may start at 9 AM and end at noon or for winter sports when multiple teams are sharing the limited indoor facilities. Transportation at these times may be difficult for some familes to accommodate. Fortunately, other families are often willing to take a neighbor to or from practice. Remember–it takes a village to raise a sports team so please help teammates get where they need to be when you can.

Learn about practice and school attendance rules

Student athletes must participate in 10 practices before being considered eligible to participate in a game. Keep this in mind when scheduling summer vacations because practices start mid-August, before the school year begins.

Additionally, students must meet the county’s full day attendance policy in order to participation in practices and games. There are any number of reasons for a student to miss part of a school day, however, you should be aware of the policy in advance. Here’s a link to the CCPS attendance policy.

Write in pencil

I hope you like spontaneity! If you keep a paper calendar, be sure to write games in pencil because there will be changes.

Playoffs extend past the currently posted schedule

If your athlete is on a varsity team, they may play in playoffs at the end of season. The dates for the games are posted on the MPSSAA website but we won’t know the details until the draw that happens after all regular season games have been played. Keep this in mind if you schedule any vacations during the school year. Here’s a link to the MPSSAA calendar page which also includes a long range calendar of major events for the next 5 years or so.

Give your athlete a zipper bag and large trash bag

Teams will usually play or practice regardless of the weather. Depending on the situation, they may end up playing in the rain and there may not be anywhere to store their bags. A gallon-size zipper bag is great for cell phones, wallets, and other valuables and the large trash bag is big enough to hold their backpacks and duffel bags. These two bags don’t take up much space and you’re better safe than sorry.

Find another parent

Coaches communicate with parents to different degrees; some are great at sharing schedule updates or feedback after the games via email or Facebook group but this isn’t always the case. If the coach is a teacher, he or she may only be able to access email during their planning period or lunch. There may not be “team moms or dads” but there are always a few parents who are plugged in to the details. If your athlete is new to the team, find one of these parents and exchange cell phone numbers. You never know when you might need to get information from an adult. If you are a parent who knows the ropes of high schools sports, please befriend the new parents on the sideline.

Make sure your student athlete is doing the student part

The school system has eligibility requirements. but some teams may have eligibility requirements that are more strict than those of the school system. An athelete is of no use to the team if they are ineligible for practice or games. Eligibility for the beginning of the fall season is determined by the grades at the end of the school year so if your son or daughter plays a fall sport, remind them that allowing “spring fever” to impact their school work will make them ineligible to play in the fall. Here’s a link to the CCPS Interscholastic Athletics Regulations and Procedures 

Bring a chair

Depending on the sport, you may need to bring your own chair to games. In Cecil County, there is little to no seating for fans on the sidelines of games outside of football. It’s easier to keep a lawn chair in your car all season then to stand for a whole game.

Games will start on time (and some times a little earlier)

If you show up at the field right at game time, you may miss the first few minutes of play. This is especially true if teams are trying to get a game in with bad weather on the way. Wondering why the facilities at Cecil County schools aren’t as nice as those in the surrounding area? click here for the answer

Honor the game

We all want our athletes to succeed but the games doesn’t always go our way. Players, coaches, and officials are human and will make mistakes. Please do your best to honor the game and respect the participants. No one wants to sit on the sideline and hear others criticize the game on the field. Please. Don’t. Be. That. Person. Here are some tips from the Positive Coaching Alliance

Plan for driver’s education

Learning to drive and getting a driver’s license are two of the most stressful and memorable milestones for both teenagers and parents. In preparation for that first license, the state of Maryland requires driver education training that includes 30 hours of classroom training and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Trying to fit those classes around already packed school, sports, and family schedules can feel like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube (something I never bothered to master).

It couldn’t be farther from your mind as they are facing their first day as a freshman in high school but it will sneak up on you. If at all possible, have a solid plan for getting that training well before it’s required. Teenagers can’t get a learner’s permit until they are 15 years and 9 months old but they can take the classroom training before they have their permits.

To avoid missing practices or games for driver’s ed, our older son took driver’s ed over several consecutive weekends one winter when he wasn’t playing a sport and our younger son took it during summer vacation before his junior year.

End of season celebrations vary by team

Each team celebrates the end of the season in a different way. Some organize potluck dinners at school, others meet off-site. The events may include player recognitions and often include the distribution of gifts to departing seniors and coaches. Often arranged by team captains or parents, players may be asked to contribute towards those gifts.

What other tips have you learned?

CCPS awarded for financial reporting

CCPS recognized for excellence in financial reporting and governmental budgeting

How many of us think about the engines under the hoods of the cars we drive every day? Sure, there are gearheads and enthusiasts who are fascinated with the mechanical details and specifications but I would bet most of us don’t give much thought about these machines we rely on to get us where we’re going. If things are going well, our engines keep us moving with little effort on our part. Today’s engines can alert you to tend to routine maintenance or give you a heads up that something is about to go desperately, expensively wrong; heck, the engine in my car tells me when I’m not driving as efficiently as I could be!

In business and industry, you might consider the accounting, budgeting, financial reporting, and purchasing functions (“business services”) to be the engine that keeps the organization moving forward and on track. And, like our trusty “rides,” these employees keep the business of the business running smoothly day in and day out with little thought from those of us outside the department. But the deliverables from these departments are criticial to the efficient function of the organization. Their annual  budgets set the course for the year and their financial reports serve as the monthly and yearly analysis of the organization’s performance against  those budgets.

The same holds true in a school system.

When we talk about schools, we naturally think of the students and teachers but there are whole teams of people who support the work in the classroom. At Cecil County Public Schools, one of those teams is the business services department. And, again this year,  the work of this team has been recognized for excellence  in financial reporting and governmental budgeting.

For the 12th consecutive year, the CCPS business services department has achieved the Government Finance Officers Association’s (GFOA) Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Association of School Business Officials’ (ASBO) Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting. This year’s recognition was for the CCPS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. In order to be awarded a Certificate of Excellence from these two organizations, a school system must publish an easily readable and efficiently organized Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The report must satisfy both generally accepted accounting principles and applicable legal requirements and the individual program standards.

For the 4th consecutive year, the CCPS business services department has earned the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award and the ASBO Meritorious Budget Award. This recognition was for the 2014-2015 budget. In order to receive these awards, a school system must publish a budget document that meets program criteria as a policy document, as an operations guide, as a financial plan, and as a communications tool.

Commentary

I’ve spent a lot of “quality time” with the financial reports the business service department publishes and refer to them often when writing. If you are interested in the performance of the school system and its plans for the future, the documents on the Budget page of the CCPS website are a great place to start. And during the fiscal year, you can check the board of education section of the website for monthly financial reports.

Congratulations to the CCPS business services team for continuing the school system’s tradition of fiscal transparency.

Greeting to Our Cecil County Council

Greetings to Our Cecil County Council!

5/31/15: Read the latest on the budget crisis in Cecil County

On the eve of the Cecil County Council’s final deliberations on the FY 2016 budget, some of the council members appear to be wavering on their support of the education budget.

I’d like to suggest that we each take a few minutes this evening or early tomorrow morning to send one last email to the council and administration reiterating our support for the school budget.

Let’s fill their email boxes with greetings from the citizens of the county!

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or concerned citizen, your voice needs to be heard.

Here’s an email you can cut and paste:

I am a resident of [insert town name here] and I support adequate funding of our public schools. (If you have a child or children in school,  include this line–My child/children attend [insert school(s) name(s) here])

As you make final deliberations on the FY 2016 budget, I encourage you to approve the CCPS budget as proposed.

It is time that Cecil County does the right thing for the current and future students of Cecil County Public Schools, the system’s employees, and the families who support them.

Respectfully,

[your name]

Send to these email addresses:  tmoore@ccgov.org, amccarthy@ccgov.org, jbowlsbey@ccgov.org, dschneckenburger@ccgov.org, gpatchell@ccgov.org, rhodge@ccgov.org, awein@ccgov.org, cwhiteford@ccgov.org, wrobinson@ccgov.org