Parents told a Harford County Public Schools advisory committee on gifted and talented programs that they feel their children are "greatly underserved" and cited poor communication when it comes to such programs, according to the committee's annual report issued earlier this month.

The chairman of the Citizen Advisory Committee for Gifted Education also said some parents are sending their children to private schools or out of the county because they feel Harford doesn't have adequate gifted and talented programs.

Meanwhile, with the success of surveillance cameras on Harford County Public School buses, the Visitor Management System and remote access controlled doors at schools, the Harford County school system's Citizen Advisory Committee on Safety and Security is recommending that HCPS continue using the security measures and consider expanding them.

HCPS' five citizen advisory committees gave annual reports to the school board during its meeting Oct. 8.


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Gifted and talented

The Citizen Advisory Committee for Gifted Education held public forums in April and May at library locations around the county.

During these forums, a presentation was given on the county's gifted and talented program and the services provided by HCPS. Group discussions were also held.

According to the committee's report: "The most prevalent concern expressed by the participants included 'poor communication' and 'inconsistency regarding [gifted and talented] policies and services.'"

Participants at the forum said their children are "greatly underserved," the report read, "especially in the regular classroom and that curriculum for gifted and talented learners did not match their ability."

The committee also posted an online survey between Sept. 2, 2011 and Feb. 1, 2012 asking for community feedback on the gifted and talented program.

In all, 1,421 people completed the survey — parents with and without students in the program — and, just like in the community forums, there was an overwhelming response of parents who felt that communication is the biggest issue.

Based on the feedback from the online survey and forums, the committee made the following recommendations to the board: provide training and support teachers working with gifted and talent students in middle school; create and distribute a parent handbook on the program; and provide consistent levels of gifted and talented services at all schools.

Committee chair Yvonne Golczewski said parents are sending their kids to other counties or to private schools to get the kind of gifted and talented classes their kids need.

Board member Thomas Fitzpatrick said he was "concerned about this [lack of] communication thing. That doesn't make sense to me."

He added that it seems odd when just a handful of parents know about the gifted and talented services provided at the schools.

Board member Nancy Reynolds was also concerned about the communication issues, and said the parents handbook should alleviate some of those problems.

Safety and security

The safety and security committee evaluated the effectiveness of the bus cameras, VMS and Proxy Card Access System for door locks over the past school year and found that each measure has proven to be successful.

Last year, 13 HCPS buses were equipped with cameras with the intention of keeping the bus drivers' attention on the road and help in tracking incidents. This year, the school system will have 12 more buses with cameras. An additional 12 buses will be equipped later in the school year.

The committee recommended pursuing an external "red light" pilot program that would help enforce laws prohibiting passing schools buses that have stop signs activated.