Howard County Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin is expected to present plans this week to the Board of Education on how to improve the struggling Cradlerock School in Columbia.
A number of parents have asked that the system reorganize the school, which has been among the lowest-performing in the county and is the only one that uses the K-8 model.
The problems at Cradlerock are not attributed to a lack of funding or resources, according to Ellen Flynn Giles, chairwoman of the school board, which will decide the school's fate.
"It appears that there were some improvements, but not as much as they had hoped," Giles said. "It may be time to look at best practices at other schools."
If Cousin recommends splitting the school into separate elementary and middle schools, it is unknown whether it would be done in time for the coming school year.
"The school isn't in crisis, but that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement," said Cousin, who asked a team of central office personnel led by Linda Wise, the school system's chief academic officer, to make a recommendation that will be presented to the school board Thursday.
Cousin said the school's struggles cannot be attributed solely to the school's principal, Jason McCoy, and that students, staff and parents, as well as the organizational model of the school, have played a role.
"If the expectation is that the school solves all the problems, then we will fall flat," Cousin said.
"The Cradlerock model is different from anything we do in the system," Cousin said. "We want to make sure we raise academic achievement. We're talking about all kids. We have kids who are not performing up to both state and local standards. It's not so bad, but it is not improving."
McCoy, who has implemented a number of strategies in hopes of improving test scores at the school in the past couple of years, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Howard County school board approved a $675.3 million operating budget Tuesday, despite objections from one of its members, and a capital budget of $69.9 million.
Board member Allen Dyer objected to the operating budget because he opposes the system's continued funding of busing for parochial school students and the decrease in health benefits for employees.
Before Dyer listed his objections, he commended the board for "holding the line on the total expenditures in the fiscal year 2011 budget."
He said: "Public elementary school students in Howard County do not have access to world languages instruction, while the Howard County Board of Education cavalierly spends public school tax dollars to bus parochial school students to parochial elementary schools where world language programs are part of the curriculum."
Board members did not ask for furlough days when "everyone knew employee sacrifices were necessary," Dyer said. "Instead, my fellow board members used these difficult economic times as an opportunity to impose regressive 30 percent to 50 percent permanent increases in the employee's portion of the health care cost."
Giles objected to Dyer's comments.
"We are following the law," the school board chairwoman said on the transportation issue. "The charter for Howard County states that the school system will provide this service."
Giles was also upset by Dyer's objection to the change in health benefits, noting that they were the result of a negotiations between the school system and the Howard County Education Association, the union that represents teachers and support staff.
"It is a point that was agreed to by both parties," Giles said. "If they decide to accept those aspects that were negotiated, that is their decision. I don't think that pulling one aspect out and saying that that taints the entire budget is appropriate."
Dyer has previously raised the issue of parochial school busing, which resulted in him opposing the budget.
Dyer challenged the validity of the practice with the State Board of Education, which dismissed his claim. Last month, he unsuccessfully appealed that decision in circuit court.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's taken a stab at this and it is still the law," Giles said. "We are still doing what we have done all along. It is our obligation to uphold the law. To act otherwise would be a violation of our responsibility."
The fiscal 2010 operating budget was $656.7 million and the capital budget was $70.7 million.
The new budget goes into effect July 1.