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Harford school board president to skip meeting with legislators

Harford County Board of Education President Nancy Reynolds has informed county legislators she doesn't plan to attend a requested meeting in Annapolis Friday, called in part to clear the air over what some legislators consider a major protocol gaffe by school leaders.

Reynolds, Superintendent Barbara Canavan and other school leaders were asked by the chairman of the county's legislative delegation to meet, so they can talk about the school system's failure to send a representative to the Maryland Board of Public Works annual review of local school construction projects on Feb. 5, as well as to discuss pending state legislation that affects the school system.

The Harford delegation's meeting agenda for Friday lists Canavan, HCPS Chief of Administration Joe Licata and HCPS Executive Director of Middle and High School Instruction and Performance Joseph Schmitz as attending.

In an e-mail Thursday afternoon, however, Licata said he couldn't confirm Canavan would attend.

Del. Rick Impallaria, the delegation chairman, was notified by e-mail Wednesday afternoon that Reynolds wouldn't be present.

"On behalf of the Harford County Public Schools Board of Education I want to thank you for your support of the HCPS Capital Improvement Program," read the e-mail, which was signed by Reynolds and sent through the school board's administrative clerk, Teresa Schmid. "I also want to thank you  for your invitation to speak at the delegation meeting on February 28; however, we will not be in attendance for that meeting."

Impallaria, who furnished The Aegis with a copy of the e-mail, said he wanted to know who was coming, particularly because Harford Del. Mary-Dulany James' legislation to create a commission to study vo-tech education opportunities in Harford County is still a pertinent point of discussion.

"I want to know if other members of the board will still attend," Impallaria said. "We opened up the request for the meeting with the entire board."

Board Vice President Francis F. "Rick" Grambo said he also would not attend.

"We've got a lot of work to do with the school system," Grambo said. "We want to talk to the delegation and keep them involved, but I think there has been some unfortunate misunderstandings."

Legislators discussed vo-tech education needs briefly during a meeting with Canavan and Reynolds in Annapolis on Jan. 24. With Harford Technical High School near Bel Air operating at capacity, there have been concerns raised among county business and community leaders about how more vocational education programs can be provided, short of building a second vo-tech school or expanding the existing Harford Tech building, both expensive propositions.

The legislators and Canavan and Reynolds appeared surprised that each side was working on a vo-tech study without the other's knowledge.

Twelve days later, nobody from HCPS showed up for the annual Board of Public Works session to review local school systems' requests for state construction funding and hear appeals from local school leaders on projects that did not receive requested funding. Harford and Frederick were the only local systems whose school leaders did not attend.

Harford school officials said they didn't go because schools were closed that day because of inclement weather, an excuse that hasn't sat well with Impallaria and some of other legislators.

Instead, Impallaria and County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, who drove to Annapolis that day from her home in Havre de Grace, gave a hastily crafted presentation on Harford's behalf. At stake was about $3 million of the $14 million Harford requested from the state for the 2015 fiscal year that was not approved by the State Interagency Committee on School Construction, as well as state authority to engage in planning for a new Havre de Grace High School.

Grambo said Wednesday the school board was assured ahead of time that their failure to appear who not weigh against their appeal to the Board of Public Works. He said the board spoke with the appropriate officials beforehand and was told there was no problem.

"I don't know where the perceived problem came from," he said.

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