Education Notebook

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

Education Beat

News from Howard County schools and colleges

September 04, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Schools a haven for pupils who fled Katrina

HOWARD County schools have become a haven for some families who fled the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

As of Friday, 12 displaced children were enrolled in or in the process of being registered at the county's elementary, middle and high schools, said Pamela Blackwell, the school system's coordinator of student services.

"Things will probably change," Blackwell said. "People will come over the holiday."

Blackwell's office is also providing counselors and other resources to help displaced children deal with the aftermath of the natural disaster.

"This is the first I could remember of this kind of crisis response," she said.

Across the country, states are accepting displaced children under a federal law that requires immediate enrollment of homeless students, regardless of having necessary records, such as proof of immunization.

Aid for parents

The first week of school means piles of paperwork and forms for parents to fill out.

To ease the task for families with limited English skills, the Howard County school system's English for Speakers of Other Languages office provided bilingual services at seven schools last week.

In past years, the office has fielded numerous requests from teachers and administrators to assist parents with limited English skills fill out forms, such as emergency information cards and lunch and breakfast program applications, said Young-chan Han, the school system's ESOL family outreach specialist.

This year, the office set up locations at seven schools. The service is the latest outreach effort the ESOL office provides throughout the year.

The school system has on hand dozens of interpreters for parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school nights and other events.

Service honored

Sandra H. French has been recognized for her longtime service on the Howard County Board of Education.

French, who retired last year after 12 years on the school board, is set to receive the Maryland Association of Boards of Education's 2005 Charles W. Willis Award at the group's annual conference this month in Ocean City.

Unfortunately, French will not be there to accept "a great honor" because of an overseas trip that she and her husband booked in the spring.

"An award of a lifetime and a trip of a lifetime," said French, who will be in Germany during the MABE conference.

The recognition came as a surprise to French, who was nominated by the Howard County school board. She was informed by the award's committee chairman during a phone call in July.

"I was totally shocked," she said. "I had no inkling that they were submitting my name."

French joined the school board in 1992 and was re-elected to another six-year term in 1998. (School board terms are now four years.) She served as chairman of the board three times.

French served as MABE president in 2000-2001 and held numerous other positions in the state organization.

"There are so many good people in every school system working for the students of tomorrow," she said. "I'm just deeply honored to be recognized by my peers.

Appeals to state

The Columbia Public Charter School appealed the rejection of its plans to open an alternative public school to the state Board of Education last week.

The Howard County school board denied the charter's application for the second time this year because of concerns over the school's curriculum, accountability and management.

The school's founders, a group of Columbia parents, said the Howard board's decision was unfair and lacked substance.

Also before the state school board were two appeals of school redistricting decisions in Howard County.

Ellicott City parent Hillary Stishan is objecting to the Howard school board's decision to move her neighborhood to the new Marriotts Ridge High School from Centennial High School as part of a comprehensive redistricting process last year.

Another parent, Rosarita Coleman, argued that the school board's decision to move her Columbia neighborhood to Long Reach High from Howard High was arbitrary.

The state board is expected to issue its opinion on all these matters in several months.

Budget on tap

Another school budget season is here.

Howard County school Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin is scheduled to present his capital budget for next year at a Board of Education meeting Thursday.

Starting this academic year, school officials are using a new approach that closely ties redistricting and school construction into one process.

This fiscal year's capital budget totals $86.5 million.

The presentation is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Board of Education building in Ellicott City.

Contact Hanah Cho at 410-715-2837 or at hanah. cho@baltsun.com.

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