School board ditches 'wish list' approach for a more realistic budget

September 08, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Traditionally, the Anne Arundel County school system's requests for money to build schools or fix them have been extensive wish lists, ridiculed by the County Council. No more.

The $36.6 million construction budget presented to the board yesterday by Superintendent Carol S. Parham has, she says, "an element of credibility."

"With my staff I believe that we have come up with a better approach to this annual effort, and that we have approached the process with renewed care, deliberation and, yes, creativity," Dr. Parham told the eight board members.

The public will have a chance to comment at a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the school system's headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis.

Greg Nourse, a county budget analyst, saw the proposed construction budget for the first time yesterday, and couldn't contain his grin.

"A pleasure to read," he said. "It was the best presention I've seen in a long time. It was well thought out, and it presented fiscal realities that I think the board hasn't seen before."

During this year's budget process, for example, the school board asked for $105 million for construction. The County Council awarded $43 million, and sharply criticized the board for its request.

The construction budget put before the school board yesterday pays for two projects -- a new Meade Middle School and a Broadneck High School addition -- over two years to minimize their impact on the budget.

Dr. Parham's list of 21 priority projects includes a request for money to plan additions and renovations at Ridgeway, Jacobsville, Fort Smallwood and Adams Park elementaries. Plans also would be drawn up for a new South County middle school, renovations at Brooklyn Park Middle School, and renovations and an addition at Marley Middle School.

The construction budget is being prepared now because all requests for state contributions to projects must be submitted by Oct. 1 to the Interagency Committee, which regulates school building programs. The school construction budget won't be presented to the County Council until March 1.

In other action, the school board learned that the administration has implemented many changes in the handling of employee discipline cases. The changes were recommended by an lawyer who probed the system's mishandling of suspected child abuse cases, especially those in which employees were named.

But Northeast High School Principal Roy Skiles asked the board to end speculation that teachers at his school might be transferred this year. The school was at the center of a teacher-student sex scandal last year. Three teachers at the school were arrested. One was convicted. The two other teachers were acquitted but face punishment from the superintendent or board.

"The students and teachers at Northeast have started believing in themselves again," said Mr. Skiles. "The issue that threatens to undermine my agenda is the perception the school board might suddenly transfer teachers. Adults and students who are afraid can't become champions."

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