Board of Ed Halts Facilities Study, No Schools Suggested for Closure

When it came time to announce options for schools to be closed, Superintendent Steve Guthrie said "I am not going to name any schools tonight."

Based on Superintendent Steve Guthrie's assertion that CCPS personnel do not have the expertise to study closing facilities, the Board of Education stopped the school system’s comprehensive facilities study in its tracks and called for a "repurposing" meeting with the board of Carroll County commissioners.

After a cumbersome presentation outlining facility use and options at Wednesday evening's board of education meeting, Guthrie announced that his staff has expertise in educating students, not closing facilities.

"I put a rush on this, I wanted to get it done, but when I look at the end product, I’m not comfortable with the selection criteria to make sure we did it the right way," Guthrie said. "There was a better way to go about this than the way we’ve done it because we're not experts in this area."

During the county budget cycle in the spring, the board of commissioners requested that the school system conduct a comprehensive facilities study to "assess the need for and proper utilization of the school facilities across the county over the next 10 years."

Guthrie put together a team to move forward with the study, which included a community survey. Guthrie said earlier this week that he intended to present options at Wednesday's meeting for cost savings options related to facilities, which many expected would include school closures after rumors circulated recently about Liberty High School closing.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild has been vocal recently in suggesting that closing schools would be the “fiscally responsible” thing to do in light of declining enrollment numbers.

Guthrie told Commissioner Doug Howard that he wants to "change courses in midstream." He suggested that a third-party consultant be hired to complete the study started by CCPS and that the board of education and board of commissioners revisit the project and discussion at a joint meeting already scheduled for Jan. 9.

Howard, ex-officio member of the board of education, responded by saying he sees no compelling reason to close schools, but that it is important to complete the facilities study so that data confirms his belief. He agreed that it would be prudent to hire a firm to complete the study, although he said the boards would have to discuss who would pay for the study.

"I do think at this point there is nothing to suggest, no data and no compelling evidence that there would be a net savings in closing a school or system-wide redistricting," Howard said.

"This is not to discredit the process … but an internal process on an accelerated timetable with little public input does not even begin to rise to the level of scrutiny that we should put before this kind of a decision as it relates to the community," Howard said.

The board of education decided it would make no further action in regards to the facilities study, but would instead wait to meet with the board of commissioners in December or January to discuss the study, its purpose and criteria.

Board of Education President Jennifer Seidel encouraged citizens to stay engaged and to be vocal about where they want their tax dollars spent, but said there is no reason to panic about schools closing in Carroll County.  Seidel and several other board of education members said they don’t see closing schools as a viable solution for cost-savings or efficiency.

"We have created panic in our community ... a lot has changed between April when we started this discussion and now, and the conversation has spun out of control," Seidel said. "It’s really important now more than ever as elected officials we really need to hear from the public."


See Also:

  • Weigh In: Survey of County School Facilities
  • Commissioners Say There Could be Budget Implications if Schools Aren't Closed
  • Superintendent: ‘I Would Never ... Close Schools Without Public Input’

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I. DeFeo October 11, 2012 at 11:05 AM
The key to this meeting is that the commissioners as a group are proposing cuts that will have a real impact on children's education in this county. We need to pay attention to the entire process and step up and support the superintendant and the BOE and become vocal. I wonder if the citizens were to rise up and attend commissioners' meetings in droves, would we be able to affect change? I watched the entire meeting last night, and it was an important one. The ones coming up will be even more important.
S Thompson October 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Unfortunately these Commissioners have their own agenda, and they aren't exactly the most transparent bunch. They already have a problem following the states Open Meetings Act- I'm sure this is something they are going to try and figure out on their own, in a closed session to avoid public comment. I find it so interesting that Frazier's children did NOT attend public schools and yet she has so much to say about the school system. The parents need to wake up and attend the commissioners meetings, ultimately they hold the purse strings in this county.
vmail October 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM
"Guthrie announced that his staff has expertise in educating students, not closing facilities." Is this not the same group that OK'ed cutting 40 buses and wreaked havoc on folks schedules? S, you're right, parents need to wake up.
BC October 11, 2012 at 12:44 PM
It is very important to remember the Manchester Valley High school is the problem. The previous board of commissioners wanted it built and it was built and now adds millions to the school budget that would be better served in the class room. No one wants to admit that it is the problem but the fact that it along with North Carroll High are half empty says a lot. If the enrollment projections hold those schools will remain way under capacity for the next 10 years. If you want to compare those 2 schools to Liberty...MVAL has about 220,000 square feet of so space for its approx. 600 studens and North Caroll has about 240,000 square feet of space for its approx. 600 students. Liberty as about 155,000 square feet of space for its approx. 1200 students.
Buck Harmon October 11, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Good decisions come as a result of experience....Experience, unfortunately comes as a result of bad decisions in many instances. Having followed the ethically challenged decisions of this BOC very closely, I would have to agree that the real problems occur as a result of personal Commissioner agenda that does not seem to have the best interest of Carroll citizens first. Carroll County communities are experiencing some very bad decisions while the BOC gains experience through repeated bad decisions. I still believe that most if not all of these decisions are politically motivated rather than public service related. When meetings are full~ decisions are tabled until the meetings aren't full for one reason or another...bottom line ____ weak, inexperienced leadership prevails in Carroll. Blame it on public apathy.
Buck Harmon October 11, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Another truth to the Manchester Valley money pit is the FACT that current commissioner Shoemaker campaigned heavily, insisting in various media sources that MVHS had to be built immediately. It was a corner stone of one of his many campaigns. The fact that he shy's away from this topic is very revealing ....I'm quite sure that he follows these Patch blogs as much as the Orioles or Ravens, but can't seem to muster the courage to speak openly and honestly about mistakes made at the tax payers expense.
Kym Byrnes (Editor) October 11, 2012 at 03:03 PM
This was an incredibly long meeting, but as a parent of CCPS children, I believe the dialogue between Superintendent Guthrie, Board of Education members and Commissioner Howard was necessary, informative and productive.
KLN October 11, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Where were Commissioners Roush, Frazier and Rothschild? So telling that that do not come to the meeting to hear the results of the study they requested. Mr. Guthrie did a great job defending education in Carroll County. However, I do not agree that the data compiled to date could be reused and handed off to a 3rd party consultancy to complete the presentation of options. The data collected cannot be re-used since it was based on a flawed study to begin with. Also, no consideration was given to social and economic impact within a community when you close a school or restrict. Those factors were not introduced. The impact to local business and property values must be measured. I say we do not spend another dime of tax payer money on a 3rd party firm to complete this study. If the entire BoE board does not agree with closing schools, then we are just throwing away money that could be invested in school facilities or green technology to help drive overhead costs down. If only 2 of 5 commissioners show up, why should we continue to appease them.
KLN October 11, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Can you imagine what re-districting or closing of schools would do to those schedules and savings? Imagine your 5 year on the bus for another 10-15 minutes twice a day. Or your high-schooler having to drive another 15-20 minutes after a school event at night. I would suspect they would need to add buses back into the schedule also.
Arya Stark October 11, 2012 at 04:27 PM
As much as I HATE the new bell schedule, I can't fault Guthrie and the Board of Ed too much. They were strong-armed into making cuts, and at least this cut didn't impact the quality of education. Although yes, I still think it stinks.
Arya Stark October 11, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Thank you, Board of Ed and Mr. Guthrie for not giving in to pressure and recommending a school for closure.
JoeEldersburg October 11, 2012 at 06:30 PM
This school board created the budget debacle through imprudent investment in MVHS with the former BOC's support. Nobody wants to own up to the colossal mistake, so we wait for a bunch of right-wing Tea Party nuts to cut our education system to the bone like everything else. Why do we need a consultant to conduct a real facility utilization study with logical data points like current and expected enrollments? We have Commissioner Rothschild, the smartest living person on the planet! He knows planning, climate science, fiscal planning, economic development and he's a patriot too! Surely education and facility utilization are mere child's play to our resident genius! I'm sure he and his sidekick Frazier can figure out how to cut enough from the schools to pay for a nice voucher program so Frazier can get some financial support from taxpayers to send her kids to Christian school!
Buck Harmon October 11, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Well said...funny..)
Buck Harmon October 12, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Did Commissioner Shoemaker attend this meeting?
KLN October 12, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Yes. I think he arrived a little late or maybe "just on time", but was not seated at the front with the others.
Buck Harmon October 12, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Thank you, wonder why he had nothing to say that was worthy of reporting?..... Or was he lurking in the shadows again??
S Thompson October 12, 2012 at 12:56 PM
They all like to lurk. At least he showed up. Its Rothchild and Roush that wont come and face the public but will have a meeting at 1:30 the following day and just about all but say they want to see at least one school closed.
Buck Harmon October 12, 2012 at 01:07 PM
For a Commissioner to "show up", but not participate is very revealing. I thought he was elected to participate in matters of such importance. I think he's trying to figure out a way to squirm out of the massive mess that he helped create...selfish intentions at best. I would love to see Shoemaker step up to the plate on this issue....rather than waste time on a bogus English language ordinance that won't amount to a hill of beans for Carroll taxpayers.
Roberta Windham October 12, 2012 at 06:03 PM
A point of clarification - Wednesday's meeting was a regular Board of Education meeting. It was not a joint meeting between the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Howard was at the meeting, sitting on the dias in his capacity as the ex-officio representative of the County Commissioners to the Board of Education. This was not a meeting designed for Commissioner participation beyond that of Commissioner Howard's normal role as ex-offico. Any other Commissioner attending the meeting would have not been allowed to participate unless he/she asked to speak during the normal public comment portion of the meeting. Since this meeting was not an official meeting of the Board of County Commissioners and they were not invited by the Board of Education to participate, each individual Commissioner chose for him/herself whether or not to attend. Commissioner Shoemaker chose to attend the meeting and sat in the audience. Roberta Windham Carroll County Media Liaison
Buck Harmon October 12, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Baloney...Shoemaker could speak to this situation that he played a key role in creating , but instead chooses to watch from the weeds. The coward approach...
JoeEldersburg October 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Buck, surely you are not implying that Shoemaker is a hypocrite? This couldn't be the same Shoemaker who was for eminent domain and wasting over $300,000 of taxpayer money on the public taking of private land, that is now a steadfast Property Rights nut? Puh-lease...these Commissioners ethics are completely for sale to the highest bidder. They have already made a decision to cut funding of schools and are simply searching for anything that would give them the justification to do so. Funny that Howard is just now waking up to this reality. Shoemaker only cares about himself and his area and will never take personal responsibility for any mistakes he's ever made. In fact, he probably thinks he's never made one. The other 3 long ago decided to screw the schools, as they have no skin (kids in public schools) in the game. All they care about is cutting government, regulation and taxes and of course, taking care of their friends and supporters. It's the Tea Party way.
Buck Harmon October 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
The total cost to Hampstead taxpayers for the still unsettled Eminent Domain scam could be over a million dollars before it's finished....even more if Hampstead is forced to pay high dollar for the land and well. I'm a little shy about sharing my real thoughts about Shoemaker though..
Buck Harmon October 15, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Vouchers would most likely have to have government strings attached. I'd say provide a fair dollar value in tax incentives for those that choose home or private schooling. An opt out of the public system...without strings attached..
Kelli Nelson October 16, 2012 at 03:37 PM
While this is all very entertaining, the real focus should be on the Open Session of the Board of Commissioner's meeting which took place the day after the school board meeting. The school closing/school funding discussions begin 1hr/45min into the meeting. Take a look... Very clear that certain County Commissioners - yes the same that didn't bother to attend the school board meeting - plan to punish the system. http://carrollcountymd.iqm2.com/citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1702&AgendaID=1571&FileFormat=pdf&Format=Agenda&MediaFileFormat=wmv
Erin Bishop October 16, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I agree Kelli! I watched the BOC meeting and was shocked by Commissioner Rothschild and Rousch's response to the school board meeting. They have already decided that they want schools closed, despite the results of any current or future survey. Commissioner Howard was right when he said that the several of the Commissioners are overstepping their bounds with the school board. The school board was ELECTED to make all decisions regarding CCPS. They should be the ones to decide whether a school should be closed and they should not be threatened by the BOC to close a school or be have their funding reduced. The BOC needs to focus their attention on economic development in CC. This will attract more residents to our county and increase our tax base, ultimately increasing our school enrollment. Parents of CC: it is time to make your opinions known to ALL of the commissioners...and attend the meetings! They need to know that we are watching and we are NOT happy.
S Thompson October 16, 2012 at 05:04 PM
And im sure those who want to see changes with the board of ed and who feel that their children wont be impacted probably will be the first to complain when the school board cuts high school sports, or prek programs or some other program that they are vested in.
Arya Stark October 16, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I wonder if they realize yet that they can't close a school. It's not that simple. I really don't know what they think will be gained from closing a school. So far, the thinking seems to be: 1. Close school, 2. ????, 3. Profit!


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