School board receives construction update

The Harford County Board of Education received a report on the 2011 Educational Facilities Master Plan at its meeting Monday night, which included a tentative timeline for the construction of various schools throughout the county.

In the plan, solely based on funding, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Cornell Brown presented timelines for the renovations or construction of Homestead Wakefield Elementary School, John Archer School, Youth's Benefit Elementary School, William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, Campus Hills Elementary School and Joppatowne High School. All schools have either had construction documents or SCOPE studies completed, placing them a step ahead in the planning process.


The 2011 plan, which has few changes from the 2010 version, puts Homestead Wakefield and John Archer at the top of the list, with expected occupancy in the 2015-16 school year. Youth's Benefit's, however, is school year 2016-17, William Paca has been pushed from 2016-17 to 2017-18, Campus Hills from 2016-17 to 2018-19 and Joppatowne from 2018-19 to 2020-21. All of these projects are pending funding from the local and state levels, as well as reflect decisions made in the fiscal year 2012 Capital Improvement Program budget process, Brown said.

Board members Rick Grambo and Robert Frisch questioned the order of projects, especially that two projects that had only just completed SCOPE studies – Homestead Wakefield and John Archer – were being pushed ahead of Youth's Benefit, which had already reached the design stage.


"It seems odd to me that we would have projects that we've started planning and are at 85 to 95 percent completion and we're going to postpone them," Grambo said, "and start spending money to plan for another project that we may not build."

Frisch agreed with Grambo, and also questioned why Campus Hills was a priority over Joppatowne modernization. With the redistricting just finished for the elementary level, Frisch argued that Campus Hills would not be needed or built "anytime in the near future," but was still placed above the renovation of Joppatowne, which has students living through the issues of an old school.

To that, Brown said the board had not taken action to remove Campus Hills from the project list so when Red Pump received priority, it was simply deferred, not removed.

For Youth's Benefit versus John Archer and Homestead Wakefield, Brown said when the funding for Red Pump came through, Youth's Benefit was postponed automatically. John Archer took precedence, he said, because of the "severe needs" of their students.

In order for John Archer to be built on to Bel Air Middle School, he said, the Homestead Wakefield project had to be completed first.

The report was presented as informational for the business meeting, but Brown did say the board needed to endorse it at its June 27 meeting because it had to be submitted to the state by July 1.

Budgetary changes

Board members also approved changes to the fiscal year 2012 budget, as presented by Edward Fields, the budget director. The changes to the budget include added revenue and expenditures.

The additional revenue comes from $3,864 from net state operating aid, $50,000 from background checks which prospective employees pay for instead of the school system, one-time reimbursement of benefit costs for employees of $376,529 to the fund balance and $85,000 toward transportation costs from the Designation for Emergency Fuel Reserve.

This revenue was offset by higher expenditures, including $550,000 in transportation costs, $98,882 of indirect costs from decreased grants, $50,000 for background checks, $176,638 for a negotiated agreement item, $15,000 in consultants fees for health care and retirement reinsurance and $376,529 in a one time payment to other post employment benefits.

Subtracted from those costs are $616,656 from salary turnover savings and $135,000 because scanners for the implementation of Performance Matters were one time costs.

This balances the budget to the added $515,393 revenue and uses $8.3 million of the fiscal year 2012 fund balance, giving the school a structural deficit of $8 million going into fiscal year 2013, which Grambo disagreed with.

"It's very difficult for me to move forward on this with those numbers," he said.

That, Superintendent Robert Tomback said, was a conversation for another evening, seeing as by that time, the board was reaching the 10 p.m. curfew which was eventually extended by 15 minutes. President Mark Wolkow, too, said the board would have to look at the options of how to get the structural deficit down to zero.

Frisch, Grambo and Osman all voted against the budget, which passed with a majority.

Copier conflict

Among several contract awards approved, the board also pulled consideration of a copier contract change out of the consent agenda to be considered separately.

Jeff Elkin, chief operating officer of Advance Business Systems, spoke on behalf of the company and said they were surprised that their contract was not being renewed with the school. According to Elkin, the company could save the school system $135,856 by not replacing 80 machines that have "well in excess" of 50 percent of life remaining.

Elkin said Jeff LaPorta, supervisor of purchasing, told Advance it could submit a bid, but that would be pointless.

In response, LaPorta said the contract was expiring so when they put it out to bid, they requested leasing prices for a new fleet of copiers. Toshiba American Business Solutions, Inc. submitted the lowest bid at $31,706.66 per month for five years, with Advance's at $37,251.

Eventually, board members unanimously approved the contract award to Toshiba.


Three promotions were approved at the meeting including Bradley Palmer to Supervisor of Compensatory Education, Howard Eakes to Assistant Supervisor of Science and Mary Gernand to Assistant Principal 12-month at John Archer School.

Community concerns

Two parents spoke at Monday's board meeting.

Denise Mobley, president of the Riverside Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association, came with a letter of appreciation for the current principal, Creighton Leizear. After July 1, Leizear will moved to Bakerfield Elementary and current Deerfield Elementary Assistant Principal Christopher Yancone will fill his post.

Mobley, however, wanted to praise Leizear and his impact on the school, making it into a "community."

"We are sad to see Mr. Leizear moving on to a new school," she said.

A Youth's Benefit parent also spoke, Denise Brant, about the air conditioning issues at the school. Brant's children have allergies and asthma, she said, and with a lack of air conditioning, it causes their asthma to flare up, especially during the spring time when windows are opened to cool down the classrooms.

Another issue, she said, is that her children's' emergency asthma medication is locked in the nurse's office, a building away.

"I fear for their health and safety every day," she said.