The Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education — with three new members — got its first look at the fiscal year 2020 budget Wednesday, which included discussions around needed mental health-related positions.
While Wednesday was the first major discussion on next year’s budget with the school board, CCPS Superintendent Steve Lockard presented it with the caveat that the presentation was not the official budget request.
“Today’s work session is really meant as a starting point in the conversation,” Lockard said, later adding that this is a chance to be transparent and that a lot of Wednesday’s meeting is “just for conversation.”
As a part of this budget process, especially with a new superintendent, the fall was filled with meetings with Lockard and cabinet members about looking for efficiencies where they could be found, but also looking at system needs, Chris Hartlove, chief financial officer for CCPS, said.
Items that CCPS hopes to add include: four special education resource teachers; 18 academic specialists positions that would focus on math — seven at the middle school level and 11 for elementary; three school psychologists; two intervention therapists; and two onsite information technology analysts.
These additions come with an estimated $2.8 million price tag.
Hartlove said in CCPS there are currently 225 positions to support eligible students with disabilities from birth through age 21, and four additional positions would “help decrease caseloads for current staff” and provide more opportunities at the elementary level.
CCPS has reading specialists in schools right now, but very few math specialists, Steven Johnson, CCPS assistant superintendent of instruction, said. Adding the 18 positions — a goal from pre-2008 recession times — would mean specialists at the elementary and middle level.
“We would be looking for people with math backgrounds that could provide extra support to teachers and students,” he said, adding that these folks could also help with testing in schools.
The three newest Board of Education members — Tara Battaglia, Patricia Ann Dorsey and Kenny Kiler — each took about one minute to recite their oath, swearing them into the school board for the next four years.
The Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education approved the appointment of Amy Jagoda as the mental health coordinator, a position that came out of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, and will be funded through grants from the state in its first year.
“We wanted to make sure everything was considered,” he said, adding, “we’re trying to get the whole picture here at the beginning.”
Even still, BOE Vice President Donna Sivigny said that looking at a possible plan that includes 29 additional positions made her gasp. The strategic plan was meant to be an accountability framework, she said.
“It certainly wasn’t a perspective of ‘we need to throw 29 bodies at things,’ ” Sivigny said.
Sivigny said she understood that this is a possible plan if there were no financial constraints.
Lockard reiterated that the staff wanted to consider all factors when discussing the overall budget process.
During last year’s legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly moved forward with the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, which, while deals with school resource officers, also has a strong focus on mental health help for students.
Patricia Ann Dorsey, one of the new BOE members and a former CCPS teacher and administrator, said as someone who’s lived through being in charge of students, it is necessary to be supporting the schools.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s rather conservative,” she said of the possible plan.
She supported the idea of additional academic specialists and said even when she was still in the system, it was something CCPS was working toward.
“It’s been a request that I know that we’ve had over the years,” Dorsey added.
Kenny Kiler, the third new BOE member, asked if there was a way to discern which of these items was most important, say, if only a quarter of the possible plan was funded.
But, Johnson said, what was discussed Wednesday was already cut down. The original list had 20-some items, he said.
“These are our top,” he said, adding that if need be, CCPS can prioritize further.
Lockard said he recognized that CCPS will like have to go back through and reprioritize, but said he wanted to make sure the information was out and before the BOE and public as the budget process begins.