1995 schools budget likely to be unveiled tonight

January 13, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey is expected to unveil his proposal for next year's operating budget at tonight's school board meeting.

Unlike in previous years, the superintendent has not released advanced copies of his fiscal year 1995 proposal to reporters.

But Dana Hanna, chairman of the school board, said he hopes that the superintendent's proposal will allow for restoration of programs that have suffered cutbacks in recent years.

"It's been tough times for the past few years," Mr. Hanna said. "Since the economy is turning slightly, maybe we can get some things back on track."

Last year, Dr. Hickey proposed a $202 million, hold-the-line budget that was largely driven by increasing enrollment and the school system's opening of Rockburn elementary and Mount View middle schools.

That proposal reflected a $15 million, 8 percent increase from the previous year's approved budget.

The school board eventually approved a $203 million budget for fiscal 1994, increasing money for special education and human relations, cutting money for buses and eliminating two high school sports, gymnastics and golf.

In the coming fiscal year, Mr. Hanna would like to reduce class sizes, increase the number of teachers available to deal with unexpected enrollment and strengthen staff development in special education.

Also tonight, board members are expected to vote on whether to submit a proposal to Gov. William Donald Schaefer for money to explore year-round education.

The county, along with several other jurisdictions, is exploring year-round education as a way to deal with its fast-growing student population. Enrollment has increased 152 percent in the last 25 years and is expected to increase by 40 percent in the next decade.

Supporters of the concept say a year-round schedule would enable schools to increase their capacity by as much as 50 percent, depending on the model that is used.

Under a proposal authored by Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent, the county would need about $56,000 in state money to study and plan a limited, optional year-round schedule to start as early as 1996. The state money would go mainly to pay consultants' fees and to hire a part-time project leader. The school system would contribute about $17,000 to explore the year-round concept.

School officials argue that, in a year-round schedule, schools would offer remedial and enrichment programs for underachieving students during intersessions, which are two- to four-week breaks throughout the year. In addition, teachers could attend staff development workshops during intersessions, rather than be pulled away from class for staff development, the proposal states.

Year-round education in Howard County also could be an option for crowded schools that use relocatable classrooms, the report said.

Mr. Kalin's proposal calls for a planning committee of parents, students and teachers to work on establishing year-round education, and a television series on Cable 8, a public access channel, to chart the progress of the work.

Meanwhile, school officials tonight also are expected to release the results of a telephone survey of residents about year-round education.

The survey was conducted in the fall, after school officials held a year-round education forum, inviting two specialists to come to Howard County to introduce the concept to some 300 parents and citizens.

In other business tonight, school officials will recommend a change in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

School officials are recommending that ESOL teachers be placed in every school with more than 20 students who have limited English proficiency, rather than pull those students out of class each week for special sessions.

Another recommendation would create cluster schools to which students with limited-English proficiency would be bused. High school students with limited English now are bused to the Howard School of Technology where they spend time learning the language.

Today's school board sessions take place at 4 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. at the Department of Education Building, 10910 Route 108 in Ellicott City.

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