BoardNotes: January 2021

Highlights from the Caroline Board of Education Meeting

Caroline County Board of Education meetings are livestreamed and may also be viewed after the meeting has concluded. For information about the Board of Education, including agendas and meeting schedules, please visit the Leadership page of our website.

OPENING ITEMS

Swearing-In of Newly Appointed Board Members

Caroline County Clerk of the Circuit Court attended the meeting in order to swear-in newly appointed board member Michele Wayman and recently reappointed board member Kathy Dill.

News Release

CONSENT AGENDA

Personnel

The Board approved personnel items as presented by Debbie Siachos, Supervisor of Human Resources Debbie Siachos.

INDIVIDUAL ACTION ITEMS

Primary Internet Services Provider (eRate)

The Board voted to award a contract to Comcast Business Communications, LLC, in the amount of $25,430.40 annually ($127,152.00 total for five-year contract) for the provision of primary business/enterprise class internet access services to CCPS offices and schools. The term of the contract is July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2026.


This award provides for current and additional bandwidth needed to supplement existing internet services to CCPS offices and schools over CCPS’ WAN. CCPS intends to seek E-Rate reimbursement for all E-Rate eligible products and services provided under this contract. The funds associated with this project are provided for in the unrestricted operating budget.


The bid process and procedures complied with Board policy and applicable state laws and regulations.

REPORTS

Board Member Reports

Note: Board Member Rick Barton teleconferenced into the meeting for the closed session and early items on the open meeting agenda, but was unable to remain for the entire meeting due to illness.



Ms. Wayman stated that she does not take her appointment lightly, appreciates the opportunity to serve, and intends to "do my best for the children of Caroline County." Mr. Newcomb said he knows she will be a great asset to the Board and continue to be an asset to Caroline County.


Ms. DiGiacomo shared that she participated in an NCHS Zoom class with Ms. Butler's students who were working to create videos. She also participated in volunteer efforts such as an NCHS staff food drive to benefit the Ridgely Food Bank and helping with the delivery of the Caroline County Commissioner's food donations to families. In addition, she attended the Leo Club virtual meeting as the Lions Club liaison. Mr. Newcomb applauded Ms. DiGiacomo for setting the example of active engagement and volunteerism, even during COVID. Ms. Dill agreed that these activities send a positive message to staff.


Mr. Newcomb reported that he attended a Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) virtual Legislative Committee meeting. Based on what he gathered, he is hopeful that school systems will be held harmless regarding 2020 enrollment numbers being used to determine 2021-2022 state funding. He also shared that prior to the opening of session, approximately 800 bills had been pre-filed, with 220 of them identified as possibly impacting education.

Superintendent's Report

Dr. Saelens shared a presentation during her report which covered the following topics:


  • Academic Achievement: Negative Impact of Covid-19 on Grades - Discussion included questions regarding student accountability, student cameras while on Zoom and strategies for alternatives, social-emotional care and mental health services, student attendance and mastery of standards, and outreach to students.

  • Recovery Plan Phases - Discussion included a review of each phase, and explanation of the small number of students in the building in Phase 1, and the decision-making process to move between phases.

  • Eastern Shore of Maryland Education Coalition (ESMEC) Blended Virtual Program

Assistant Superintendent & Directors Report

Highlights from all areas of the school system during November were shared in the Instruction & Administration Snapshot.

Student Representative Reports

Student representatives Zachary O'Brian from North Caroline High School and Gillian Cheezum from Colonel Richardson High School virtually provided reports on activities from schools in their respective ends of the county.

Finance Report

Erin Thornton, Comptroller, presented the Finance Report.

RECOGNITIONS

Holiday Card Artwork

Danielle Ridgell, 7th grader at Lockerman Middle School, was recognized for her artwork being selected for the 2020 Caroline County Public Schools Holiday Card. The artwork is produced on the card that is received by all employees and a host of recipients outside the school system.
Big picture

Resolution for Community Development Block Grant

Dr. Saelens shared a Board resolution which endorses the efforts of the Caroline County government in securing a Maryland Community Development Special Project Block Grant for the establishment of a Judy Hoyer Earning Learning Hub at Greensboro Elementary School. She stated, "Kudos to (Director) Tearesa French for her passion. Without her, none of this would be possible. If she envisions it, she makes it happen." Dr. Saelens also said this space could also be used by various partners, thereby meeting a need in the community.


Assistant Superintendent Milton Nagel added that the Caroline County Commissioners, after allowing for public comment, unanimously approved the application.

PRESENTATIONS

Legislative Update

Dr. Saelens reported on priorities for the upcoming Maryland Legislative Session as outlined by the Eastern Shore of Maryland Education Coalition (ESMEC) and the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM):

  • Rural Broadband as it relates to students' accessibility to technology
  • Sustained state funding as outlined in the Maryland Blueprint for Education
  • Holding school systems harmless on student enrollment and future funding
  • Funding for construction projects, especially in small districts
  • Local control

CARES Funding Report

Milton Nagel provided a report on the use of CARES funding received from the county during the pandemic. Mr. Nagel explained that when the pandemic hit in March, the federal government provided funding through the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) which mostly addressed technology needs. Also at that time, the Caroline County Government reached out to the board of education to ask what needs would not be met under the MSDE direct allocation, and might be eligible under the county's CARES act guidelines. As a result, the county reimbursed the board of education just over $500,000 that otherwise would have come out of the board's operating budget.


The largest line item was funding for a third bus run which enabled CCPS to transport more students to school when in Phase 4 of the Recovery Plan. Mr. Nagel also cited the need to buy refrigerated trailers to handle the logistics of feeding students.


Mr. Nagel shared that this offer by county government was not the norm in all districts, and the good relationship between the county and school system was appreciated during these unusual times.

Indoor Air Quality Report


Mr. Nagel introduced a report on indoor air quality in schools. Supervisor of School Construction & Maintenance Chuck Petrick, Supervisor of Plant Operations Brett Morton, and Phill Haun with Haun Environmental Consulting presented a report detailing ongoing indoor air quality measures, processes and procedures for ensuring proper air quality, and the occurrence and resolution of mold. They also shared CCPS statistics as they relate to the complexity of maintaining proper air quality control.


Discussion included questions about the energy management system, process and procedures for reporting issues, and the need to ensure reporting mechanisms are in place and shared with staff.

Telework Report


Supervisor of Human Resources Debbie Siachos provided a report on the current status of telework for CCPS employees. The report covered the rationale and considerations for having staff in-person unless approved for telework, statistics as they relate to having staff at work, and considerations for moving forward.


Discussion included questions regarding approval for temporary telework, giving employees the option to telework, the difference between instruction in the past year and this year, the inequity of teleworking options, mental health considerations for both working options, decisions of surrounding school systems, and current COVID metrics.


Dr. Saelens also discussed the upcoming Staff Engagement Survey that will be distributed at the end of January.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Due to the meeting being closed to the public, citizens were invited to submit public comment via email at publiccomment@ccpsstaff.org. The Board received two emails for the January meeting:



  • Michele Curler on the topic of seniors and athletics
  • Carey Nepert on the topic of return to in-person learning

Discussion of Items for Future Board Action

Proposed 2021-2022 School Calendar

Director of Student Services Derek Simmons discussion the calendar development process and presented draft calendars for the 2021-2022 school year. Dr. Simmons shared that a calendar survey for staff and community is currently underway and will remain open until the end of January.

FY 2022 Operating Budget

The Board voted to table this item until the next Board meeting.

List of Future Discussions

The Board was provided a list of future meeting dates with discussion topics as requested.