Author: fkbowman

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: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

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.

Related Stories

The dawn of vocational education in Cecil County

Tech school program for at-risk students shows early progress


Parents Guide to High School Sports

Welcome to High School Sports: A Guide for Parents

Updated 7/22/2018

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:


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 Athletics page where you can find the latest forms required for participation.


Your son or daughter most likely won’t come home with a printed schedule but all sports schedules are posted on 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 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 families to accommodate. Fortunately, other families are often willing to take a friend or 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 participate 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 the 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 groups 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 athlete 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.

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.


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.


[your name]

Send to these email addresses:  [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Cecil County Graduation Rates

Throwing money at education doesn’t fix the problem

How many times have we heard someone use those words to argue against adequately funding education?

This doesn’t happen just in Cecil County or only in Maryland. This rant gets repeated across the country and online ad nauseum as if repetition and volume makes it true.

But who said public education in Cecil County was broken? Has someone showed data that points to glaring failures of the system?


In fact, the data shows that education in Cecil County is clearly working.

During these last 5 years of nearly flat spending on education in Cecil County, Cecil County Public Schools managed to increase graduation rates while also reducing dropout rates. Did this happen by chance? No. This happened because CCPS developed metrics for measuring student success and processes for assisting students who need more support. In fact, the county developed a system of using academic profiles to identify students at risk that has been so successful that the model has been shared with other districts in the state.

Now, despite what you may have heard about the huge numbers of administrators at CCPS headquarters on Booth Street, these systems were implemented at a time when the system was forced to cut non-instructional positions due to inadequate funding. For the sake of the students, CCPS had little choice but to buckle down and do the work which they did and continue to do.

So, is throwing money at education going to fix the problem? That depends on how you define the problem.

If you define the problem as one of a system that has used its resources in the most efficient manner possible but is stretched too thin, yes, increased funding will fix the problem.

If you define the problem as a system whosefacilities are in dire need of replacement or repair, yes, increased funding will fix the problem.

Cecil County–it’s time for you to adequately and consistently fund public education in order to fix the problems you’ve caused in our schools.

The Cecil County Council will vote on the budget for FY 2016 on June 2. Please email them today to tell them that you support education funding. Not sure what to say? Here’s a letter to copy and send.

Copy and paste these email addresses:  [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]


Maryland Report Card-Cecil County

Cecil County Dropout Rates

Cecil County Budget Vote June 2

Cecil County Budget Vote June 2

Time is running out!

On June 2, the Cecil County Council will vote on the FY 2016 budget. If you haven’t contacted the council members yet to ask them to support adequate funding of public education, please do so now.

If you aren’t sure what to say, here’s an email you can copy and paste.

Or you can borrow something from the the letter I sent to the editor of the Cecil Whig (below):

Letter to the Editor: Originally posted on 4/8/15

Moore’s budget bucks status quo

Last month, Cecil County Executive Tari Moore presented a budget for fiscal year 2016 that blazes a trail for a new era for Cecil County.

She stood up to the status quo that has contributed to the economic and social issues that have dogged our county and recognized that fiscal restraint had become a barrier to prosperity and growth.

A key part of her proposed budget was the recognition that strong schools with adequate plans for consistent, long-term funding are critical to a thriving economy. This is a significant development because in recent years funding for public education has been a favorite target for county officials and outspoken interest groups.

At recent public forums, we’ve heard local businesses explain how they rely on the schools to supply a steady workforce of educated employees and consider the school system to be a critical factor for new employees they recruit from outside the county. At other times, economists have explained the considerable returns seen in the county’s economy from its investment in public education. And it’s an established fact that school quality greatly influences the home-buying decision and contributes to higher resale values.

Despite mountains of data that public education drives local economic activity, there are still groups pushing against adequate funding.

The Cecil County Council will host a public hearing on the topic on May 12 at 7 p.m. at Elkton High School. If you support public education, please attend the hearing or contact the council in advance of their budget vote on June 2.

Letter to Editor Cecil Whig

Hurdles to approve education budget in Cecil County

Education allies: Our work isn’t done

When Cecil County Executive Tari Moore announced her proposed budget for FY 2016, we cleared the first hurdle in the race to secure adequate funding for public education in the next fiscal year and beyond.

But the race is far from won and our work is not done.

Now the budget is in the hands of the Cecil County Council

The county council is currently holding meetings with the different agencies in the county to learn more about their plans and budgetary needs for the coming year. After those meetings, the council will hold a public hearing on the budget on May 12 before voting on the budget at the June 2 meeting. link to the budget hearing schedule

Based on the county charter, the county council can not add to the budget proposed by Ms. Moore but it can cut the budget.

Our next task: same as the last–keep up the pressure & keep telling our story

Between today and the June 2 vote, we need to continue to remind the members of the county council about the positive results our schools have produced as well as the many needs of the system. We need to impress upon them that we will continue to fight for appropriate funding for education once the budget for FY 2016 is approved.

And we, as a group, need to remain just as persistent and active as those who spend most of the year railing against our schools without ever educating themselves on the topic. While they continue to rant about the makes of the cars people drive or the “bloat” that they cry about but never identify, or parrot rhetoric from organizations outside our county, we need to continue to tell the story of the positive influences the schools have been in our communities and families.

Every voice counts!

We may not all be public speakers or able to attend county council meetings but we can each contribute to the cause by contacting our elected officials, writing letters to the local newspapers, or finding some other way to tell our story.

Here’s a letter you can use:

Send to these email addresses:  [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Subject: I support the CCPS budget

As you consider the Cecil County budget for FY 2016, I encourage you to show the same courage and vision County Executive Tari Moore exhibited when she presented the proposed budget.

Our county is suffering because we have been willing to accept the status quo for too long. Fiscal restraint has become a barrier to growth and prosperity and the current situation is not sustainable.

When the economy crashed a few years ago, Cecil County Public Schools took several for the team. They cut staff and found ways to save money like installing a solar field and pilot testing 4 day work weeks during summer months in order to save on energy costs. Now it is time to work in cooperation with the school system to build a reasonable plan for meeting the needs of our schools and addressing their aging facilities.

Please approve the education budget as proposed.


[your name]

Letter to Cecil County Council

Icon made by Freepik from is licensed under CC BY 3.0
letter to Tari Moore

Letter to Cecil County Executive Tari Moore

Sent to Cecil County Executive Tari Moore this morning in response to her proposed budget for FY 2016:

Thank you.

Thank you for having the courage to stand up against the status quo in Cecil County in order to do the right thing for the current and future students of Cecil County Public Schools, the system’s employees, and the families who support them.

For too long, the status quo could be better described as status no.

Thank you for pushing your team to find compromises that can begin to heal the damage inflicted on our school system and, consequently, the county at large and for having the courage to commit to a formal plan for addressing our aging school facilities.

Thank you for demonstrating that being a public servant is about serving all of the public.

A link to the FY 2016 Proposed Budget in Brief

Rooftops and Raindrops, Reprise

Rooftops and Raindrops (Reprise)

Last spring, one of the most popular articles on my site was about Cecil County continuing to deny the necessary funding for school construction and major renovations. For me, the image of students at Conowingo Elementary setting out buckets in their classrooms to catch the rain coming in through a leaky roof was both shocking and heartbreaking and I couldn’t understand why the county allowed such a situation to get that far. (Fortunately, looking at the CCPS FY 2016 Construction Budget Request, the state of Maryland is funding a roof replacement project at Conowingo.)

But this is only one example of a much bigger problem.

Ongoing Water Issues at Leeds Elementary

During the last few weeks and months, parents, teachers, and students have attended Cecil County Council meetings to talk about the facilities needs at their schools and encourage adequate funding of the CCPS budget in general. We’ve heard about ongoing water issues at Leeds Elementary that have meant up to two weeks without running water and staff members having to pour buckets of water into toilets in order to flush waste.

We’ve also heard county council members direct parents to CCPS or tell speakers that they didn’t know what the solutions are for the issues at Leeds Elementary (the 23:31 mark of this audio). Who do they think they’re kidding? I’m sure the council read the same article I did in the Cecil Whig about the school system’s plans for closing Leeds and moving students into a renovated Kenmore Elementary.

It’s time for our elected officials to stand up for our schools and work in cooperation with CCPS instead of deflecting parents who aren’t familiar with the budget process back to CCPS only to learn that the county controls the funding for such projects.

Facilities Concerns at Thomson Estates

Leeds isn’t the only school with issues. At last week’s county council meeting a mother from Thomson Estates Elementary (2:45 mark of this audio) told the council about the leaking roof and HVAC systems that left students wearing shorts in the winter and coats in the summer. (Mind you, these aren’t teenagers who dress however they please regardless of the weather; these are small children in kindergarten through fifth grade.)

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Each year, Cecil County Public Schools is required to create various reports regarding the current state of its facilities as well as future needs. They create a 5-year capital improvement program that details the needs for new construction, renovation, and replacement of schools. Once created, the plan must be submitted for approval by state and local (county) agencies.  Such a plan helps ensure that necessary and appropriate facilities are available and that an insurmountable backlog of projects doesn’t build up over time. CCPS also is required to develop an educational facilities master plan that looks at the facilities needs 10 years down the road. Sounds reasonable enough…plan your work, work your plan.

Comprehensive planning is necessary because there is typically a 4 or 5-year timeline for a school to be constructed or renovated with a multitude of approvals for the specification, design, and construction.

Required: Long-term Planning and Commitment to Projects

Unfortunately, while the school system puts together plans to address its facilities needs for five or 10 years into the future, Cecil County government has repeatedly deferred approval for much needed projects and, at least in the last two budget seasons I’ve been following, the county government seems to treat the school system’s requests as exorbitant while funding other projects in the county that many see as a luxury.

Here’s the bottom line:

Cecil County, the funding for maintaining, renovating, and building school facilities is your responsibility. CCPS depends on state and county funding and has no taxing authority. Further, for each large capital project that the county denies funding, there is generally some amount of state funding that is being left on the table (at least prior to a new governor taking office in January).

How About That Strategic Plan?

I’d like to refer you to the Fiscal Stability section of the Cecil County Strategic Plan adopted last spring:

GOAL 4: Forecast and align projected revenues and capital expenditure needs over a five-year period to strengthen the linkages between community infrastructure and the financial capacity of the County.
4.1 Adhere to statutory and self-imposed debt affordability criteria.
4.2 Provide priority consideration to the funding needs associated with the County’s Strategic Plan.
4.3 Fund the backlog of deferred maintenance projects within acceptable limits.

Hmmm. Let’s see:

  • Replacements for Chesapeake City and Gilpin Manor Elementary Schools were requested as far back as FY 2013 (3/25/15 edit: Gilpin Manor was actually included in the FY 2004 CIP) and have been repeatedly deferred. In fact, according a proposed capital plan from Cecil County Executive Tari Moore for FY 2016, the Gilpin Manor project wouldn’t start until FY 2017 which would push completion to FY 2020 and the Chesapeake City project wouldn’t start until FY 2018 with completion in FY 2021.
  • Kenmore Elementary which needs to be renovated before the students from Leeds Elementary can move there? The start date for that project would be moved out to FY 2019 with completion in FY 2022. That’s seven more years of water issues?!?
  • Renovations at Thomson Estates Elementary would be pushed off until somewhere in the far distant future.

That’s some very strategic planning right there.

Cecil County proposed CIP FY 2016 construction

Buckets: Sadly, They’re Not Just for Conowingo Elementary

If Cecil County can’t find a way to adequately fund its public schools, the least they can do is provide each student in the county with his or her own bucket which, depending on the needs of the specific school, could be useful for situations including catching rain water from roof leaks or carrying water for toilet flushing.

County Executive Tari Moore is preparing her budget recommendations now for presentation to the Cecil County Council in early April. Once the council receives the budget, they can only cut funding, not increase it. The time to contact our elected officials is now.

To make it easier, just copy these email addresses and paste them into an email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]