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Superintendent Arlotto proposes ‘lean’ budget for technology, teachers at Anne Arundel public schools

Lean. That’s how Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto summed up his recommendations for next year’s operating budget.

The $52.3 million increase he presented to the Board of Education at its Wednesday meeting would be a less than 4% addition — “austere,” he said, compared to his more than 6% increase requests in the last two years.

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But the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic leaves little wiggle room.

“We think it’s a bare minimum for us to continue to move forward,” Arlotto said before Wednesday’s meeting.

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Nearly half of his recommended increase – $25.1 million – is allocated to pay increases for employees. The funding, subject to bargaining, will allow for a step increase or equivalent for all eligible employees, a 1% cost-of-living increase and the second half of the mid-year step increase for teachers approved by the board in November. The first half of the step-increase will take effect in January, as per the agreement with the county teacher’s association approved in November.

The rest of the recommended increase would include 205 additional classroom teaching positions and the funding to keep every teacher and student supplied with Chromebooks.

Two teaching positions would go to CAT North for new programs.

One, a teacher for the premier aviation maintenance technician program, would teach using the jet Northrup Grumman donated to the county last year. The second would be a position for its newly established barbering program.

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Crofton High School would get 26.4 staffing positions to start bringing in 11th graders. The fiscal year 2023 budget request would be to finish staffing the school and get 12th graders in.

Other additional positions would include six English language acquisition roles, 13 kindergarten teaching assistants, 30 special education positions and three school counselors. Those counselors would likely go to Piney Orchard, Four Seasons and Waugh Chapel elementary schools.

Seven staff members would also be added to assist with a new virtual learning and home instruction program.

Arlotto recommended $4 million be allocated for teacher and student computer devices. The first year of the four-year lease on Chromebooks and laptops for every student and teacher was funded by grant money.

“We’re not going to take those computers away from those kids or take those laptops from those teachers,” Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz said. “We want everyone to be nimble. The future of technology is tennis shoes on and a device in-hand.”

The iReady student assessment technology, which measures and recommends recovery strategies for learning gaps widened by the coronavirus pandemic, will also need $1.5 million to continue being used in Anne Arundel schools. Its first year was funded through the CARES Act.

The capital budget, proposed in September, focuses $188 million of the $234.5 million recommendation on new construction, replacement projects, renovations and additions.

More than $80 million is for the transformation of the Old Mill complex in Millersville and $93.5 million to replace Quarterfield, Hillsmere and Rippling Woods elementary schools, and a new West County Elementary School. There is also $10 million recommended for full-day kindergarten and prekindergarten additions at Van Bokkelen, Sunset, Brock Bridge, and Meade Heights elementary schools, plus $4 million for a four-classroom addition at Southgate Elementary School.

The board will have public hearings at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, and Jan. 7 and a public workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 19 before it is scheduled to adopt the budget request on Feb. 17.

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