School system audit to be evaluated by committees

Consultants' findings put in 5 categories for review, chief says

November 21, 2001|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

The recommendations for school system improvement suggested in a $250,000 performance audit released last month will be evaluated by at least five system- and community-based committees, Howard County schools Superintendent John R. O'Rourke told the school board last night.

The Management and Performance Review of Howard's schools -- completed by a team of independent consultants over 10 months -- listed more than 100 recommendations for improving many aspects of the system, including technology, school management, school board and superintendent relations, and student performance.

For his report to the school board on how -- or if -- he intends to implement any of the consultants' recommendations, O'Rourke organized the suggestions into five key areas for which he has created committees: student performance, leadership, human resource management, financial stability and community support.

The superintendent said the committees will be headed by school system officials who are being encouraged to pick about 12 members from inside and outside the school system to serve on the panels.

Each committee, O'Rourke said, will review recommendations from the consultants and determine their practicality. The committees -- which are welcome to come up with alternatives to audit recommendations -- will report to O'Rourke, who ultimately will report to the board.

O'Rourke said he would like the committees to complete their reviews by Feb. 8 and produce reports by March 15.

The reports, he said, should also identify items to be included in the next operating or capital budgets.

District planning team

In addition, O'Rourke announced the creation of a district planning team as a standing committee that will advise him about all aspects of the school system. It will have representatives from several groups, including the Howard County Education Association, PTA Council, school district staff and the Chamber of Commerce.

O'Rourke said he envisions the committee will consist of 20 to 23 people who will play a "significant role in strategic planning" and also affect budget formulation.

"The school system does not have an up-to-date strategic plan or accountability system," O'Rourke told board members last night, adding that the planning team would solve that problem. "No longer are we a small system. We no longer can afford to operate as if we are a small system."

O'Rourke said the planning team will set the agenda for the school system and establish priorities.

"Those priorities will be turned into objectives and then turned into work plans," he said. "This is a way for me to better deal with my responsibilities. I think my decisions will be enhanced by the perspective of [planning team members]."

In other matters, O'Rourke appointed consultant Jay Fridkis as the system's chief technology officer, effective Dec. 17.

Fridkis, who has graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University, works for MSGI Technology Solutions.

Early OK for school site

The school board also preliminarily approved a site for the proposed 12th high school, but with some hesitation. The site approval barely scraped by with approval by two of the board's four members, Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt and member Patricia S. Gordon. It was opposed by member Virginia Charles, while Vice Chairwoman Sandra H. French abstained.

The size of the 31-acre site was the biggest issue, said members, who worried that there would not be adequate parking and playing fields, among other things.

Officials prefer to build high schools on 50 acres or more.

French was concerned that the proposed football field was too close to the nearby residential neighborhood.

"So we're going to put a stadium near Serenity Lane?" French asked, shaking her head.

School officials said the system-owned property, across from Mount View Middle School, has been through several studies and analyses, with satisfactory results. The Marriottsville site would, however, need a septic system.

A public hearing on the proposed site will be held Jan. 10, and board members will make a final decision Jan. 24.

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