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Howard County Board of Education Primary Results (Unofficial)

Posted by Jim Walsh on Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vote for four:
1. Sandra French 17461
2. Frank Aquino 17363
3. Larry Walker 10569
4. Brian Meshkin 9748
5. David Proudfoot 9707
6. Cindy Vaillancourt 9412
7. Robert Ballinger 8860
8. Leslie Kornreich 8006
9. David Gertler 6525
10. David Thalmeier 5678
11. Marcelino Bedolla 4724


Posted in Education, Howard County, Howard County News, Jim Walsh | 3 Comments »

Thorton Spendning – What’s the old adage about insanity?

Posted by Ed C on Monday, September 17, 2007

Remember the adage: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I suppose a candidate for proving this would be Maryland’s Thorton spending. From the Examiner Advocates: $500M in Thornton funds misspent:

Yet this year, the special funding total still will increase to $1.3 billion, for a six-year total of almost $3.5 billion.

Reading and math scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have plateaued on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the past five years, according to the think-tank analysis.

I was going to write more, but the Editorial: Wasted dollars waste young lives pretty much sums up what I would have liked to have said.

One thing that puzzles me though are the comments by State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick:

State schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick dismisses NAEP scores as inappropriate for measuring achievement of Maryland’s students. “The NAEP is not aligned to our curriculum,” said Grasmick, noting that NAEP only tests a sample of students.

Okay, but according to Peggy Carr of the National Center for Education, on the NAEP test:

“It’s not aligned with any one curriculum, and that’s by design because it represents the basic skills students should know, regardless of what students are taught.”

So, do the Maryland State tests adequately measure student achievement in basic skills? What is the Maryland curriculum? I’d think that reading, writing and arithmetic would be in there somewhere. If they are, shouldn’t a bunch of teachers and schools administrators be able to figure out a test to measure it? Maybe not:

As William Kirwan, the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland said recently, “exit requirements [for high school] are not at all aligned with entrance requirements of college.”

If Maryland is going to spend $3.5 billion dollars, wouldn’t you think that a few percent of that money could be used to create (or buy) a fair, objective test?

Here is my proposal. We spend a few dollars and team up with another state, say Wisconsin (pop. rank 18) or Arizona (pop. rank 20) (Maryland pop rank is 19) or any state with a similar number of students / teachers and create tests that are given to every 4th, 8th and 10th grader. We have teachers from both states create the tests and then get them reviewed by the NAEP people, the Dept of Education or educators from the State’s universities to verify that it really tests the basics. To measure reading and writing skills, the test should include short essays on material presented in the test to minimize the impact of having the subject covered in a particular locale.

To grade the tests, we send our students tests to Wisconsin and they send us theirs. The tests would be graded by say 3 teachers each and the final score would be the average. Throw in some random sampling and quality control and we’re done. The teachers could do the grading in a day. Because each state would be doing the same thing the only “additional” cost would be for some shipping. Hopefully each state would be a neutral arbiter for grading, because it really isn’t doesn’t matter that much to the Cheese-Heads how a particular Maryland school district performs, besides we would have those quality control samples if it became an issue.

So, the total cost for both Maryland and Wisconsin would be for X teachers to create 3 tests, a day of salaries to give the test (which we would have spent anyway), a day of salaries to do the grading, some money for shipping plus whatever review and quality control would cost. So for a fraction of the $500 million that was “wasted” last year both Maryland and Wisconson could get a netrual, comprehensive assement of every student’s progress.

Would it work? Probably not, but it seems obvious the current method isn’t working, so how about we try something, anything else and see if we can get a different result this time, otherwise its just insane.

Posted in Ed C, Education, Maryland | Leave a Comment »

How Does Maryland Spend Our Money?

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, March 18, 2007

On Tuesday, March 20th, there is a hearing on HB 1252: Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act 0f 2007.

The bill introduced by Delegate Warren Miller (R-Howard County, District 9A) and supported by other Howard County Republicans Delegate Gale Bates and Senator Allan Kittleman (via SB 995) would let anyone find out:

Synopsis: Requiring the Department of Budget and Management to develop and operate a searchable website that includes specified information for State financial assistance and expenditures over $25,000; specifying parameters of the website; authorizing the Secretary of Budget and Management to designate agencies to participate in the development, operation, or support of the website; etc.

The Examiner covered this bill here.

Marylanders keep being told we face a looming structural deficit. This bill would provide an open, transparent and non-partisan way to see how our money is really being spent.

Posted in Budget, Education, General Assembly | 1 Comment »

HoCo Dem State Legislators Seeking to Reduce Pay of 900 School Employees

Posted by Ed C on Monday, February 19, 2007

The Democrats in the Howard State Delegation are seeking to reduce the pay of about 900 school employees with House Bill 881 . Okay, that’s not the way they portray it, but that will be the effect.  The bill will enable the Howard County Education Association to collect mandatory fees from employees that are not union members. The voting on the bill was along party lines.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, “Union officials were jubilant. Ann DeLacy, the union president, I think this is a great achievement”

Section 5, part (v) of the bill states:

1. The agency or representation fee shall be based only on the expenses incurred by the employee organization in its representation in negotiations, contract administration, including the handling of grievances, and other activities, as required under this section.

2. Any political activities of the employee organization designated as the exclusive representative may not be financed by the funds collected from the agency or representation fee.

Seems reasonable, for those employees that may object to union activities, these provisions appear to provide some restrictions. Right?  Well, what does the union say:

“DeLacy said the extra money could be used in several ways, including more professional development support to help teachers advance their careers, for hiring staff members and perhaps for expanding union office space.”

The bottom line, the union gets more money from 900 school employees whether they like it or not.

Posted in Ed C, Education, General Assembly | 1 Comment »

SMS Update

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, December 11, 2006

I have written about this extensively.

The Baltimore Examiner reports that the Howard County Public School System has established a Technical Advisory Committee to address this and future technology needs for our schools.

Article here.

It is about time.

The implementation of the SMS upgrade has been problematic (I am being generous).  The school system did not do an adequate job of investigating the system as many many other school districts experienced the exact same problems as Howard County.  One could read the press reports from other communities and think they were reading about local coverage of our own problems.

The school system was trying to save money by avoiding a forklift upgrade of the entire system, but it backfired.  A+ for initiative.  F for implementation and due diligence.

I certainly hope that the administration will be forthcoming with the new advisory committee.

Posted in Education, Howard County | 6 Comments »

Replacement for Sigaty/Watson/Kaufman…Gordon

Posted by bsflag2007 on Monday, November 27, 2006

The Ghosts of BOE Meetings Past, Present, and Future are all right here in the room – will Mr. Ulman learn from them?
Just in case it is not as obvious to him as it is to me…. how about a little primer?

Enter stage left the Ghost of BOE Present…

(lifted from the Baltimore Sun)

”…. Watson was the only member to vote against each motion that will move pupils to Veterans Elementary School in Ellicott City, which is scheduled to open in August.

“I just didn’t feel that enough effort had been placed on moving the neighborhoods closest into the school,” Watson said after the vote last week.

Diane Mikulis, the vice chairman who will return to the board along with Patricia Gordon when the panel expands to seven members next month, said she was comfortable with the plan.

“This is the best of the worst,” Mikulis said. “I think that this is what we need to do.”

Bob Mead of Wheatfield could not believe the board’s decision.

“Are you serious?” he asked. “Most of the parents want their kids to go to the new school instead of driving them all over the county. It just makes sense.”…..”

Well, Bob Mead of Wheatfield, there’s the problem — “it just makes sense”.

Kids going to their own neighborhood school….. what a novel concept! A new school has been built, and kids are going to need to be moved around …. but instead of moving them around so that they go to the closest school, or the one they might reasonably go to the longest… let’s have one more round of our own “HCPSS musical chairs”.

And outgoing Courtney Watson was the only one with the …forsight …. to question this plan?

Lesson from the “present” for Mr. Ulman — new appointee needs to have some backbone, some ability to “stand alone” if necessary to argue for the things that MAKE SENSE.

Whether you like Courtney Watson, or not, she has often stood up against popular and easy for the greater good, the harder “right”. Without her – who will step up? Sandie French? She’s what we need to stand up TO.

Mr. Ulman will be appointing a replacement not just for MKS, but for Courtney and Josh as well —- Josh may not have won the election, but he was an important part of the turn around at BOE – the neutering of the bullies, as it were. What will happen without some backbones and voices of dissent? Are we destined for a return to group think – indoctrination retreats – abdication of responsibility to lawyers?

The Ghost of BOE Past can be summed up in one name … “Sandie French”. ’nuff said.

Lesson for Mr. Ulman — your appointee will have to be able to stand up to a fair amount of Bullying – have a chat with Laura Waters and Virginia Charles…. and Jim O’Donnel…. and have a good long talk with MK Sigaty.

Or just watch the tapes of the BOE meetings — see Ms. Sigaty getting a little terse when she says “Let’s not just look into it, let’s do something.” (paraphrasing) – but is sure sounded to me like she was getting frustrated.

Learn from the past – protect the future.

And finally, our good friend, the Future.

The HoCo BOE /HCPSS has the worst record of planning for the future … I mean, really profoundly lacking in vision and planning. I am hopeful that at least Mr. Aquino has the real world business experience to help make some reasonable choices – and maybe the legal background to rein in the out of control HCPSS Lawyers …. but that’s about it for potential change on the new BOE.

Ellen Giles may have an encyclopedic knowledge of local history and policy- but like so many other “experts”, she spends a lot of time and energy explaining why something “will not work”. Like, “we’ll never have public services in the western part of the county…ever”. She can tell you names and dates of every conversation ever held about extending water and sewer — and she will. This is why she deems it unnecessary to be looking for land for schools “out there”…. because it will never be developed as fully as the east.I bet that’s the same thing the “experts” said 30 years ago. Let’s ask Ellen, I’ll bet she can tell you who said what, when…

Larry Cohen seems like a nice man – with a ton of experience in the educracy. Time will tell if he will use that insider knowledge to fix the parts that don’t work well – or if he is too invested in the history, culture, and camaraderie of the status quo. Hope springs eternal.

And then we have Pat Gordon. A nice enough old gal – 83 years old… says she is too “tired” to stand up for what she says she believes. An election cycle “place holder”. Don’t worry Mr. Ulman – you’ll be able to appoint a second BOE member, so you can afford to “take a chance” on the first appointment.

The Ghost of BOE Future is giving you, Mr. Ulman, a chance to change the trajectory of this sorry, stagnant, uninspired, “doesn’t make sense” path…. will you?

There are folks who would make terrific school board members who are just terrible politicians.

I guess we can’t hope for an actual jump across the aisle to appoint Roger Lerner — though he would be a great BOE member — unafraid to ruffle feathers, but too smooth and civil to be unnecessarily confrontational — smart, experienced, caring, all kinds of good things —- but a republican in a Democratic county… unlikely to overcome that particular obstacle and unwilling to sell his soul on the campaign trail for a few votes.

But you, Mr. Ulman, as the elected leader of the WHOLE county – not just the ones in your party – wouldn’t it be a nice idea to acknowledge the need for “everyone” to “feel” like they are being represented? Is there any doubt the Democrats are represented on the BOE? Take a page from Eisenhower. Consider Roger Lerner.

But then, even more underrepresented are the “independent voices”. The anti-status quo folks who are “never” going to get an elected representative with the current electoral system. With seven seats on the board – would it be sooo bad to have one of them represent 1/7th of the citizens? Allen Dyer has worked long and hard at great personal expense to right wrongs, protect the integrity of the local republic, he’s a combat veteran, a trained lawyer, a gifted computer geek —- and he’s proved himself willing to be David to the Goliath of the BOE educrats… let’s not forget it turns out he was RIGHT when he said the BOE was breaking the law … and that illegal stuff involving money was happening behind closed doors.

You say the voters have already spoken about these guys? No, I don’t think so. The voters made choices based on all kinds of weird criteria —- but tens of thousands of them DID vote for these guys — I don’t recall a box for VOTE AGAINST either of them.

I have some other ideas for terrific BOE appointees. Call me, we’ll talk.

Cindy Vaillancourt

Posted in Cindy V, County Executive, Education, Howard County | 3 Comments »