One day after being sworn into office, the three new members of the Carroll County Board of Education got their first taste of the job they’ve been elected to do when Carroll County Public Schools’ staff provided a preliminary look at the school system’s fiscal year 2020 budget.

With so many new faces and personalities on both the Board of Education and the school system’s primary funding body, the Board of County Commissioners, to say nothing of the news schools superintendent, it will make for an intriguing budgeting season this spring.


Already among the BOE’s new members and the two who are midway through their terms, there seems to be some disagreement over how much funding the school system should request.

First look at Carroll County Public Schools budget

The Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education got a first look at the fiscal year 2020 budget.

Wednesday’s presentation called for adding 29 total positions at a cost of $2.8 million. Those positions would include four special education resource teachers, 18 academic specialists positions focused on math, three school psychologists, two intervention therapists and two onsite information technology analysts.

Each of the positions is aligned with the recently approved strategic plan for the school system, and were identified by Superintendent Steve Lockard and his Cabinet as positions of need for CCPS.

Lockard and staff seemed to recognize it will be an uphill battle for the school system to receive the funding to add all 29 positions. “We wanted to make sure everything was considered,” Lockard said. “We’re trying to get the whole picture here at the beginning.” However, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Steven Johnson notably disagreed with a board member who called the plan “pie in the sky,” and told another that the list was already culled down to its top priorities.

The special education resource teachers would help reduce the caseload burden on existing special ed staff, which is already stretched thin. It would also decrease the need for regionalized special education services in elementary schools, according to the school system’s presentation.

The 18 math specialists — 11 in elementary and seven in middle schools — fits a focus area of improving the number of students who are proficient in mathematics and help improve instruction.

Additional school psychologists would help reduce the number of severe behavioral incidents in certain schools and would increase the ability to intervene on behavioral issues before they escalate. Intervention therapists can provide support to students with complex needs such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or who have been exposed to significant trauma, among other things.

By adding more on-site IT analysts, CCPS would be more in line with the state standard of 1 tech per 300 computers; that ratio in CCPS is currently 1 tech per 1,771 computers.

Carroll school board eyes upcoming year as strategic plan offers 'vision' for the future

Lockard spent about an hour going through the four pillars of the plan, which carry the system from 2018 through 2023. The plan describes building the learner, community, workforce and environment.

Each of these are areas CCPS has identified as having a need to improve. We’ve heard anecdotally from parents for years about shortcomings for special education students in the school system and, obviously, mental health services like those offered by additional school psychologists and intervention therapists are a big part of addressing student safety.

With that in mind, even if funding for all of these positions is unrealistic, the Board of Education owes it to students, parents and teachers to try to get as many resources as possible. If BOE members truly find some of these positions superfluous, then they shouldn’t be part of the budget request early next year. We don’t think that’s the case.

The first rule of negotiation is to aim high, and that’s exactly what CCPS must do with the county commissioners. The county may not have the financial resources to fund all 29 positions this year, but if the BOE scales back its initial request, it may not get what its students need.