THE HUB - Feature Article

  • Budget Recommendation Focuses on 7 Key Areas

    Posted by George Arlotto, Ed.D on 12/23/2020

    As our team developed the Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget recommendation I recently presented to the Board of Education, we focused our efforts around six key areas: class sizes, special education, English Language Learners, early childhood education, social-emotional wellness, and compensation. A seventh – technology – quickly emerged because the pandemic that still grips our county and nation has made remote access critical to today’s education.


    My $1.37 billion recommendation addresses these vital areas of our school system in the most prudent way we can given the current circumstances. It contains 225.9 new positions across our school system, 97 percent of which – all but 6.5 positions –are employees who interact with and impact the lives of children every day.


    The classroom positions include 129 to continue to address class sizes as part of a four-year plan to adequately tackle this issue, and 22 more at Crofton High School in the second of our three-year buildout of that staff. Another 2.5 positions will be dedicated to our Triple-E program so will be able to finally staff programs at Oakwood and Richard Henry Lee elementary schools. There are also two positions for new programs at the Center of Applied Technology – North, one for aviation mechanics and one for barbering.
    I’ve also included funding for 13 new kindergarten teacher assistants and 30 new special education positions, 15.6 of which will be dedicated to our specialty sites and 14.4 of which will go to support comprehensive schools. This will continue to allow us to better meet the unique needs of each student in the least restrictive environment.


    There are six positions to support English Language Learners, perhaps the fastest growing student group in our school system, and 5.5 more positions – three school counselors, 1.5 social workers, and one school psychologist – to better address the social-emotional needs of students.


    We have been fortunate to take advantage of federal and state grant funding to enhance the technology for our students and employees since the pandemic began. That funding will disappear in the coming months, however, and we must allocate resources to sustain the services that have become necessities. There is more than $7 million in my recommendation to this effort, an amount that includes $3.1 million for the refresh and replacement of student Chromebooks and employee laptops, $1.9 million for the learning management system and Google suite, and $1.5 million for the continuation of our i-Ready diagnostic assessment and adaptive learning tool at the elementary and middle school levels. This tool addresses a key recommendation of the Eliminating the Opportunity Gap committee: to provide access to a personalized learning portfolio that provides more access and feedback for every family and student.


    An additional $588,000 is included to launch a virtual learning and home instruction program that will provide a continuum of options to secondary home instruction students. Our plan is to open the program in September for 40 students in sixth and ninth grades and expand it over the next three years to a full virtual program for middle and high school students. This program has the potential to have a significant revenue offset as we bring some homeschooled students back into our school system.


    While we must negotiate with our bargaining units to determine the exact nature of compensation increases, I have included sufficient funds to provide a step increase or equivalent for all eligible employees, a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees, and the second half of the mid-year step increase for teachers that our Board approved last month.


    Whether it is with the people who guide our students daily or the delivery of programs, support, and instruction, we have the opportunity every single day to positively impact the lives of children. Every second spent with a child is a chance to inspire. That’s what this recommendation is designed to allow us to continue to do.


    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@aacps.org. 

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent George Arlotto Recommends $1.37B FY2022 Operating Budget, $234.5M Capital Budget

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 12/17/2020

    Superintendent George Arlotto tonight recommended to the Board of Education a $1.37 billion Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget that includes 205 additional classroom teaching positions to continue to address instructional needs and increases in technology funding to continue to enhance the virtual learning environment for students and staff.

    The recommendation, a $52.3 million increase over the current year’s budget,  contains a total of 225.9 new positions, 97 percent of which – all but 6.5 – are employees who interact with children every day and 91 percent of which are direct classroom positions.

    “We are placing every additional position in this recommendation where it will impact children,” Dr. Arlotto told the Board in his budget address.

    The classroom positions include 129 as part of a four-year plan to continue to address class sizes, 22 at Crofton High School in the second of a three-year buildout of that staff, and 2.5 for the Triple-E program to staff programs at Oakwood and Richard Henry Lee elementary schools. Two positions are also included for new aviation mechanics and barbering courses at the Center of Applied Technology – North.

    Thirty positions are allocated to support students with special needs at specialty sites and in comprehensive schools, and 13 more would fund kindergarten teaching assistant positions to assist in classrooms of the school system’s youngest learners. An additional six positions would go to the English Language Acquisition program, which now supports more than 6,150 students.

    Dr. Arlotto’s recommendation also includes funding for three additional school counselors, 1.5 social workers, and one school psychologist to help support the social-emotional needs of students.

    “I want to be clear, however, that this is just one more step on a path to boost the school counselors at the elementary level as we continue to strive to meet the social-emotional needs of our young learners. Addressing these issues at an earlier age can help avert more serious issues in our older grades,” Dr. Arlotto told the Board in his address.

    The recommendation also includes more than $7.5 million to continue technology enhancements funded in the current year by soon-to-be expiring state and federal grants. Those include programs to continue to provide Chromebooks for every student and laptops for every teacher, a new learning management system to enhance virtual learning, Google Voice availability to allow families to contact teachers and staff regularly in the virtual environment, and the continuation of the i-Ready diagnostic assessment and adaptive learning tool at the elementary and middle school levels. This tool addresses one of the Eliminating the Opportunity Gap Committee’s key recommendations to provide access to a personalized learning portfolio that allows more access and feedback for every family and student.

    Nearly half of Dr. Arlotto’s recommended increase – $25.1 million – is allocated to compensation increases for employees. While final determinations will be made through negotiations with employee bargaining units, the funding will allow for a step increase or equivalent for all eligible employees, a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees, and the second half of the mid-year step increase for teachers approved by the Board of Education in November.

    “Whether it is with the enhancement of educational facilities in which our students learn, or the delivery of programs, support, and instruction, we have the opportunity every single day to positively impact the lives of children,” Dr. Arlotto said in his address. “Every second spent with a child is a chance to inspire.”

    CAPITAL BUDGET RECOMMENDATION

    The $234.5 million capital budget recommended by Dr. Arlotto contains $188 million for new construction, replacement projects, renovations, and additions. More than $80 million of that is directed toward the transformation of the current Old Mill complex in Millersville, with $76 million dedicated to the construction of Old Mill West High School and $4.8 million slated for the design and construction of the new Old Mill Middle School South, which will be built at the current Southgate Park.

    The recommendation also contains $93.5 million for construction of replacement facilities at Quarterfield ($23.7 million), Hillsmere ($20.2 million), and Rippling Woods ($29.9 million) elementary schools, and a new West County Elementary School ($19.6 million).

    The recommendation also includes $10 million for full-day kindergarten and prekindergarten additions at Van Bokkelen, Sunset, Brock Bridge, and Meade Heights elementary schools, and $4 million for a four-classroom addition at Southgate Elementary School.

    BUDGET HEARINGS, WORKSHOP

    The Board of Education has scheduled two virtual public hearings and a virtual public workshop on Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation. Public hearings will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, and Thursday, January 7, 2021. Both are limited to 100 speakers who will be allotted two minutes each.

    Those wishing to sign up to speak at the January 5 hearing may do so here.

    Those wishing to sign up to speak at the January 7 hearing may do so here.

    Due to space limitations, members of the public can only sign up to speak at one of the two budget hearings.

    The Board will also hold a virtual public workshop on Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. No budget-related public testimony will be taken at the workshop or at the February 17, 2021, meeting at which the Board is scheduled to adopt its budget request. Should the Board offer amendments at the February 17 meeting, testimony will be taken on the amendments.

    Dr. Arlotto’s full Fiscal Year 2022 operating and capital budget recommendations, as well as a text of his budget address and a Budget in Brief document, will be posted at www.aacps.org/fy2022budget on December 17.

    Comments (-1)
  • BOE Launches Survey to Garner Input on 2021-22 School Year Calendar

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 12/10/2020

    Posted on 

    To help inform decisions on the 2021-2022 School Year calendar, the Board of Education has designed a survey to solicit the input of parents, students, employees, and community members.

    The survey gauges, among other things, preferences on whether to start the 2021-2022 School Year before or after Labor Day, and whether to leave the length of Easter/Spring Break at six days as proposed in the calendars presented to the Board of Education on November 18, 2020.

    The survey is available now and will run through 4 p.m. on Friday, December 18, 2020. It can be taken here. Surveys can only be taken once on a computer device.

    Survey results will be provided to the Board of Education and Superintendent George Arlotto and published on the AACPS website here prior to the Board’s scheduled adoption of a 2021-2022 school year calendar on January 6, 2021.

    The calendars presented to the Board by the AACPS Calendar Committee can be found online here.

    Comments (-1)
  • All Means ALL, Especially in This COVID-19 Fight

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 12/3/2020

    Along the COVID-19 pandemic road we have traveled over the last eight months, there have been an untold number of course changes and uncertainties.


    What group of people is the most susceptible to catch the virus? What are the appropriate precautions we should take? Who should get tested? What is the contagious period? Who should be quarantined, and for how long?


    Our school system has relied on leaders like Gov. Larry Hogan and County Executive Steuart Pittman to establish the restrictive and preventative measures they believe will best serve our state and county. We have relied on health experts – most notably Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman and his talented and tireless team – to provide us with the most up-to-date advice as we have encountered varied twists and turns.


    We have taken what they have provided and attempted to answer the myriad questions we have had and that have been posed by the many parts that comprise our school community.


    Chief among them: When is it safe to open our school buildings? How do we best address the needs of all our students as we do so? What about athletics and other extracurricular activities that are so crucial to the development of children? How do we ensure that we don’t just open schools, but keep them open?


    One of the constants of this journey is this: Everyone is frustrated and wants our students and staff back in our classrooms as soon as possible. Our Board of Education and I are right at the top of that list.


    I completely understand and respect the sentiments of those who would have reopened all our schools fully by now. I don’t believe for one second that they are careless or that they don’t have the best interests of our children at heart. They do.


    I believe, however, that as we plan the path forward, we must continue to exercise caution and prudence above everything else. We must look at the science, and the fact is that the key indicator our Department of Health has used to ascertain COVID-19’s impact on our community shows things aren’t getting better.


    On Oct. 7, the day our Board voted to approve full implementation of the hybrid reopening plan about a month later, the case incidence rate – a measure of the average number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents over a seven-day period – was 9.5. Under the metrics Dr. Kalyanaraman and his team created, that put us on the line between hybrid and virtual instruction. By Nov. 4, the rate had risen to 15.1, just above the metric threshold for virtual learning. That night, the Board voted to maintain virtual learning until the second semester. On Nov. 16, the day hybrid learning was supposed to start, the case rate was 28.2. Two days later, it was 32.9.


    We are on a sharp incline on this roller-coaster ride. So, how do we crest the peak? How do we, to use an oft-spoken phrase, bend the curve so the numbers decline to the point where students can sit at desks in front of teachers in classrooms across our county?
    We must rely on a three-word phrase we utilize daily in our school system: All Means All.
    All of us must wear masks, wash our hands often, and watch our distance. All of us must resist the urge to gather in large groups, be that for “homecoming” photos in lieu of dances being missed by students, for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, or for other special occasions.


    The fact is that this virus doesn’t care what your viewpoint is. It has wrecked asunder all our lives for the last eight months. It continues to attack our community, and we must fight back – together.


    In this fight, if all doesn’t mean ALL we’ll never reopen classrooms, where the buzz of student learning and laughter and the magic that teachers create permeates our schoolhouses every day.


    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@aacps.org.

    Comments (-1)