Middle schools found to be in good shape

August 24, 2008|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Howard County middle schools are sitting pretty when it comes to construction.

A recently completed assessment of the county's 18 middle schools shows that overall the schools are in excellent shape, according to Ken Roey, executive director of facilities and management for the school system.

"They're probably better than we would have expected going into the assessment," Roey told the school board during its meeting this month.

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said he was pleased with the findings.

"It's very good news," he said. "We have an effective ongoing maintenance program."

Middle schools are the second group to be evaluated as the system attempts to rank and address construction deficiencies among the system's 72 schools. Last school year, the 12 high schools were assessed. All of the assessments are being conducted by Gilbert Architects, an independent firm based in Owings Mills.

"In general, the middle schools scored better," Roey said, comparing middle and high schools.

All of the middle schools fell into the good or excellent category.

A majority of the high schools fell into the good category when the assessment was released last school year. Mount Hebron High's physical condition was ranked lowest of the 12 high schools in the county, according to the assessment.

An assessment of all 39 elementary schools should be completed by early next year, Roey said. Upon the completion of that assessment, all the data from each assessment will be put into a database. Construction needs will be addressed based on that data.

"With that, the school system will be able to better address schools in need," Roey said.

Changes at the top

The school year will begin tomorrow with several changes to key high-ranking positions in Cousin's Cabinet.

Ray Brown, the system's chief financial officer, will oversee financial and budget initiatives. He was the previous chief operating officer. Terry Alban, the former director of student assessment and program evaluation, will be the chief operating officer. In her new role, she will oversee accountability and quality management.

Linda Wise, the former assistant superintendent for school administration, will become chief academic officer, a newly created position. She will assume leadership of school administration and curriculum.

Cousin said that Wise is just the person for the position.

She "has broad experience as a classroom teacher and a school administrator," he said.

Cousin is also looking to fill another new position, that of technology officer. The person filling that job will report to Alban.

Monitoring drivers

Drivers, beware!

Howard County police say they will be monitoring school zones this week to make sure that students, parents and teachers arrive safe. Officers will focus on speeding, seat belt compliance and child safety-seat laws in these areas.

The HASTE program (Helping Arriving Students Through Enforcement) was launched several years ago. Under the program, officers will be assigned to roadways near schools during the first two weeks of the academic year. In addition, officers in unmarked cars will follow school buses to make sure that drivers observe the flashing red lights of school buses. The fine for failing to stop is $570.

"We hope that police presence around the schools will send a message to drivers to slow down," said Police Chief William J. McMahon. "Students throughout the region will be walking and driving to and from school, and we want to make sure every one of them arrives safely."

Police will also be conducting mandatory traffic safety seminars for students applying for school parking permits. Students must attend these sessions with their parents.

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