Charles Co. Public Schools News Briefs

Board approves FY 2016 budget

The Board of Education recently passed its fiscal year 2016 budget proposal channeling funding increases to employee salaries, the addition of a senior class at St. Charles High School and new instructional programs.

The Board voted earlier this month to approve an operating budget request of $353.6 million, an 8 percent or $26.3 million increase over FY 2015. The budget proposes a $25.6 million or 15.8 percent increase from the county and anticipates reductions to the state’s Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) as proposed in Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s budget.

The top recommendation, according to Superintendent Kimberly Hill, is for staff compensation to make whole school employees who are currently two STEPS/levels behind and who have not received a cost of living increase since 2009. The bulk of the $26 million increase is earmarked for employee negotiations, with the $19 million employee compensation request providing $13.2 million for three STEP/level increases and $6 million for rising health care costs. Employees did not receive a salary increase last year. Hill told the Board the Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) starting teacher salary is the lowest in Southern Maryland.

Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Paul Balides said the budget covers the mandatory expenses of the school system and advances several new instructional initiatives. “We realize this request is ambitious, but we feel it articulates the needs of the system and continues to provide high quality education for children,” Balides said during a budget presentation.

The budget proposal was created knowing that Maryland continues to experience a budget shortfall, and there is no negotiation in regard to state funding. Whatever the school system does not receive from the state becomes a burden for the Charles County Commissioners to address, Balides said.

Other new costs

Phase II of the opening costs of St. Charles High School includes funding for the addition of a senior class. St. Charles opened this year with grades 9 through 11, and the Board is requesting $1.6 million to provide for 24 new staff positions and 392 more students. St. Charles enrollment is expected to reach 1,370 next school year.

Balides said the school system has done a lot to control health care expenses, but CCPS still experienced a larger than normal increase in claims this year.

The school system is also seeing an increase in the number of people enrolling in its plan. “We are not alone in this. Other school systems are facing the same thing,” Balides said.

The school system must replace 17 aging buses at an estimated cost of $780,000.

Instructional initiatives include permanent funding for Project Lead the Way, creation of a Positive Alternative to School Suspension (PASS) program and nine additional computer analyst positions. PASS is designed to help high schools meet the new discipline criteria outlined by the Maryland State Department of Education. Additional computer analysts are requested to provide support for PARCC testing and instruction at the elementary and middle school levels.

The operating cost per pupil requested in FY16 is $12,774, an increase of $321. Balides said 96 percent of the budget is school based and provides direct classroom support. The county government public hearing is set for April 22.

Details about the FY 2016 operating budget are available online at

School system continues partnership with Bunkyo University

Ohayou gozaimasu. Konnichiwa. Konbanwa. Oyasumi nasai.

These are all ways to say hello in Japanese. On Feb. 18, Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) said Konnichiwa to more than 30 Japanese education students as part of the school system’s partnership with Bunkyo University. During a two-week visit to Charles County, Japanese student teachers will visit numerous schools and the University of Maryland, College Park to learn about American education training programs.

While in Charles County, Bunkyo students will participate in practice lessons with CCPS students at several schools including Mary H. Matula, Malcolm, William A. Diggs, Arthur Middleton, C. Paul Barnhart, Gale-Bailey, J.C. Parks and Dr. James Craik elementary schools, and Milton M. Somers and Mattawoman middle schools. The lessons will feature content about Japanese history, how Tokyo has changed in the past 200 years and demonstrations of three different Japanese writing styles.

At the end of their stay, Bunkyo students will host a Sayonara party on Feb. 26 at North Point High School. The students will introduce school officials and members of their host families to traditional Japanese dances, songs and examples of Japanese fashion. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kimberly Hill said the school system’s partnership with Bunkyo University is a learning experience for both CCPS and Bunkyo students.

“Each school year, Charles County Public Schools welcomes aspiring teachers from Bunkyo University to obtain hands-on educational experiences in our classrooms. This longstanding partnership benefits our students as well as the aspiring teachers from Japan. Our students have the opportunity to learn about Japanese cultural and social traditions, while the Bunkyo students learn about American schools. This valuable exchange of cultures is something that we look forward to each year,” Hill said.

Bunkyo University is a private university located in downtown Tokyo that mainly offers teacher education. The school system has participated in the partnership with Bunkyo since 1987, when the program was organized and hosted by the University of Maryland. CCPS began hosting the program in 1992. Hotel accommodations are arranged for the first week of the visit, and students stay with volunteer host families in Charles County during the second week.

Each year, approximately 30 students from Bunkyo University, along with two professors, visit Charles County. The partnership is intended to provide the Japanese students the opportunity to learn about the American school system, to compare Japanese and American education, to experience American family life and practice speaking English.

Board of Education accepts resolutions at February meeting

The Board of Education presented three resolutions to Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students and staff at its Feb. 10 meeting. The Board votes annually to accept resolutions. The following resolutions were presented:

• Fine and Performing Arts Month;

• Read Across America; and

• Women’s History Month.

CCPS recognizes Fine and Performing Arts Month in March. Fine and performing arts provide students with a well-rounded education and are essential to the education of children. Accepting the resolution were Timothy Bodamer, specialist in fine and performing arts for CCPS, and Piccowaxen Middle School seventh grader Madison Meiser. Board Vice Chairman Michael Lukas presented the resolution on behalf of the Board.

The National Education Association has proclaimed March 2 as Read Across America, which focuses on reading to children. CCPS participates in a local event, known as Read Across Charles County, where schools invite guest readers to support literacy. Accepting the resolution at the Board meeting were Sahana Venkatesh, sixth grade, General Smallwood Middle School; Linda Forrest, reading resource teacher, Smallwood; Rajan Venkatesh, second grade, Gale-Bailey Elementary School; and Diedra Barnett, reading resource teacher, Gale-Bailey. Student Board Member Georgia Benson presented the resolution on behalf of the Board.

The United States Congress and Legislature of Maryland have designated March as Women’s History Month. This year, the Maryland State Department of Education and the Charles County Commission for Women are celebrating Women’s History Month with the theme of “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” CCPS acknowledges the significant role that women play in history and the workplace, and encourages schools to incorporate women’s history into instructional learning activities throughout the year. Board Member Victoria Kelly presented the resolution to Dr. Sonya Ford, chairperson of the Charles County Commission for Women and school counselor at Matthew Henson Middle School, and Charles County Commission for Women member Robbie Wilson.

Board approves one-time payment for eligible employees

The Board of Education on Feb. 10 approved a one-time payment of $1,000 to all full-time, permanent Charles County Public Schools employees. Eligible employees will receive the payment next week, an action supported by the two employee representative groups – the Education Association of Charles County (EACC) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“In fiscal year 2015, the school system was not able to provide employees with a step or scale increase or a cost of living adjustment (COLA). The Board agreed with the EACC and AFSCME last year to keep 2015 negotiations open and revisit the budget in January to determine if any employee compensation was possible. The $1,000 payment closes negotiations for the 2014-15 school year,” Superintendent Kimberly Hill said.

Employees who are not full time but work a specific number of contracted hours will receive a prorated portion of the $1,000 payment. Cost of providing the payment is $3.4 million for 3,400 employees. Funding sources include lapsed salary savings from retirements, unfilled positions and hiring lags.

Additionally, the Board agreed to provide CCPS bus contractors with funds to pay each full-time, permanent bus driver and attendant with a $500 payment. The cost of the payment is $175,000 and will be funded by savings generated over several months due to lower fuel prices. CCPS currently works with 27 independent contractors to provide school bus services for students. Full-time, permanent bus drivers and attendants are generally those who are assigned to a specific bus contract. The Board has also asked each contractor to provide a matching one-time payment amount to their eligible employees, if possible. Funding for the payment will be provided to bus contractors in March, who will distribute the payment to their drivers and attendants.

“The Board understands the impact the economy has taken on our employees over the past several years. We hope this one-time payment shows our commitment to supporting our employees. The Board continues to seek competitive compensation in its fiscal year 2016 budget request,” Board Chairman Virginia McGraw said.

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