The swipe card student monitoring system in two Harford County high schools has been "highly successful," according to the Safety and Security Citizen Advisory Committee's report to the Harford County Board of Education at its meeting Monday night.
The committee, along with others for career and technology education, family life education, gifted education and special education, presented annual reports to the board with findings from the previous school year, as well as recommendations for the upcoming year during the board's work session meeting. Nearly all of the committees asked for more funding and/or staffing.
The controversial swipe card system implemented at Bel Air and Edgewood high schools, requires all students — and teachers — to have an ID card to swipe through electronic readers upon entering the school. The readers record and send the information to the student's teachers.
Dave Hobson, the committee's chairman, told the board since instituting the swipe program school secretaries, who recorded attendance throughout the day, now have time to "execute other duties, such as monitoring detention, tardiness and absence excuses."
Teachers, Hobson went on, are also benefiting from the program. They are able to begin classes sooner, he said, because they don't spend as much time recording attendance or accounting for late student arrivals.
Board member Robert Frisch said he was concerned about the students having two swipe cards — one to enter the school and one used during lunchtime.
Superintendent Robert Tomback said that having only one card for both systems was "something we would like to do," but different vendors are serving the two systems. Integrating the two is something the board is pursuing.
Alysson Krchnavy, a school board member, said she was skeptical of the swipe card system at first, but her high school-age daughter "has no trouble using her swipe card."
Video surveillance on 13 Harford County Public Schools buses have also been "very effective in resolving issues with a high degree of confidence," Hobson said.
HCPS buses with the cameras are equipped with three: one above the driver, one aimed toward the back of the bus and one in the back pointed toward the front, the committee's report said. The cameras also have night vision, audio and GPS, which records the bus route, the bus speed, when lights are activated and when the driver applies the brakes. Video footage is available for about two weeks.
An example the report gave of the camera system's effectiveness involved an incident when a driver had difficulty controlling a group of middle school students. Footage taken by the cameras showed "unsafe and inappropriate behavior by students on the bus," the report read. The driver's management techniques were also shown. Ultimately, there were interventions for the students and driver and a resolution was reached.
School resource officers have also been beneficial to the schools, Hobson said. The committee reported that information shared by the officers have helped both in solving and preventing incidents. Feedback from teachers, students and parents has also been positive.
The committee recommended that each program be continued throughout the 2011-2012 school year, and that the swipe card system be expanded to other high schools, based on funding availability. The effectiveness of each program will continue to be under review.
Board member Nancy Reynolds asked if either Hobson or Bob Benedetto, chief of security for HCPS, had any data that would justify the cost of the programs.
"We're still exploring it," Benedetto responded. There is data available, however, about the number of students who receive detention, tardiness and unexcused absences, he added.
Career and technology education
Susan Garrett, the staff liaison for the Career and Technology Education committee, and committee chairman David Kohlway made several recommendations to the board, including moving the CISCO Networking Academy from Joppatowne High School to Harford Tech and utilizing the John Archer School, when vacated, to expand program offerings.
Career completer programs are offered at all of Harford's 11 high schools, Kohlway said, with concentrations in arts, media and communication, business finance and information technology, health and human services, science, engineering and technology and career research and development. There are 31 programs in total.
The committee's focus has moved from preparing students with trade specific skills to academic and technology education "to be successful in a wide range of career opportunities," Kohlway said. About 79 percent of students in grades 10 through 12 are enrolled in career and technology programs.
The committee set before the board several short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.