It begins again

From the HCPSS 6/10/13 Weekly News:

Members Needed for Attendance Area Advisory Committee
Attendance Area Advisory Committee members counsel the Superintendent on middle school redistricting that may be under consideration for the 2014-2015 school year. Prospective committee members must be Howard County residents. The committee may include one student.

Participants attend approximately six evening meetings to review and provide feedback regarding Capital Budget and redistricting recommendations developed by staff. If redistricting is deferred, the pool of citizens who have expressed interest will be retained for the following year.

All letters of interest and resumes must be received by close of business Friday, June 21, submitted via email to or to the following address: Howard County Public School System, Office of School Planning, 10910 Clarksville Pk., Ellicott City, MD 21042

I’d like to say Thank You

It’s clearly time to put closure on this blog . . . for now.

In the very first post on this blog, two months before the BOE’s vote, I wrote the following:

if parents are well-informed and, if they want to, express their opinion to those who are making the redistricting decisions, and

those making the decisions are well-informed of what parents think

then the ultimate outcome is a win, whatever it might be.

I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about how things turned out.

From a process standpoint, it was definitely a win.  Over the course of the past two months, it was clear that SJLES Together, the SJLES PTA, and lots of other people accomplished the first item on that list.  We dispelled myths, kept folks apprised as recommendations and plans evolved, and let people know how to express their opinion.

And it sure felt like the second item was accomplished – literally one-thousand plus emails flowing into the BOE (from SJLES parents and others) . . . and all the phone calls . . . and the petitions . . . and the in-person presence at the meetings with stickers and signs.  The BOE couldn’t help but know how parents felt!

It’s the last item where it feels bittersweet.  On the one hand, far fewer students will have their lives disrupted by moving schools, and far fewer students will have to watch their friends leave.  And this includes SJLES where 152 students are leaving instead of the 280 in earlier plans – 128 students additional students get to stay at SJLES.  That’s the sweet part.

The bitter comes from knowing that there were options that would have not disrupted the lives of those 152 students either – but that’s water under the bridge now.

In the end, I hope this blog – and all the other efforts people put forth over the last two months leading up to the vote – were helpful.  On most days, the blog was viewed about 40 times.  On the days around the Working Sessions, it was about 150.  On the day of and day after the vote, 500 times each day.

So thanks for reading, commenting, questioning, and – most of all – doing what you felt was right for your child.  I hope the blog helped a bit.

Thank you,

P.S. – Can’t wait to do this again with middle school.  Kidding!  I’m kidding!

P.P.S. – Or maybe not . . .


Can I appeal?

Since the Board made its decision Thursday night, I’ve receive a number of comments and emails asking if there’s a way to appeal their plan.

On the HCPSS website, under Redistricting FAQs, the last question provides some minimal information about appealing.

It’s short enough that I’ll just copy it here:

15. Can I appeal the Board of Education’s Attendance Area Adjustment decision?

In accordance with the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 13A.01.05.02, please be advised that an appeal of the Board’s decision may be filed with the Maryland State Board of Education within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board of Education meeting at which action was taken on the Attendance Area Adjustment Plan.

The appeal is to be mailed to the Maryland State Board of Education, 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 in one of the following ways:

  • In writing and received by the State Board within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board’s meeting.
  • Deposited in the United States mail as registered or certified mail or Express Mail within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board’s meeting.
  • Deposited with a delivery service, such as Fed Ex, UPS, or DHL, that provides verifiable tracking of the item from the point of origin within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board’s meeting.

There’s information beyond that.  If anyone has more details, I’m sure a lot of folks would appreciate your sharing it.

SJLES loses five polygons

I’ll be blogging live from the BOE meeting tonight – newest information on top, older at the bottom (so you can get caught up quickly).

One quick reminder:  No matter what happens, I’m keeping in mind that how I react and what I say to my kids has an important role in their response.  This is a difficult situation, and I’m going to do my best to make it as positive as it can be – for everyone.  Just wanted to share that upfront.


9:16 – And that’s it.  The rest of the meeting is just the legislative process of implementing BOE 9.

9:15 – BOE 9 passes.

9:14 – Vote on BOE 9, which moves five polygons out of SJLES.

9:13 – Ms. French calling for a vote on 10 modified. 2 for, 5 against.  Motion fails (that’s the one that would have kept SJLES together).

9:12 – Mr. Brown – Still concerned about crowding at Hollifield with modified BOE 10.

9:11 – Dr. Foose: Too soon to look at it.

9:10 – Mr. Meshkin: Move to approve modified BOE 10.  Seconded by Ms. Vaillancourt.  Mr. Meshkin asks Dr. Foose for her opinion.

9:09 – Mr. Dyer: He’s reassured that Mr. Gallihue will follow the Sup’s goals.  He wants to leave her in a strong position to be able to change course.  I will vote for BOE 9.

9:08 – Ms. Vaillancourt:  We should either do the smallest now, or go back to L-10.  It’s a philosophical approach.  I’m uncomfortable making a decision based on a promise [that the Board/Sup will fix within 3 years] that Board can’t guarantee.

9:07 – Ms. French:  We shouldn’t pass things off.

9:05 – Ms. Vaillancourt saying that the students will be able to be moved in three years.  Correct?

9:04 – Ms. French saying that more students need to move out.  Multi-purpose room would have to be split into two classrooms.  Cafeteria cannot accommodate the long lines of students waiting 15-20 minutes to get their lunch.  Each Board member should visit each school to understand how Principal has to ensure the educational program is delivered.  Do not think removing 76 students from Phelps Luck is sufficient.

9:03 – Mr. Vaillancourt pointing out that Phelps Luck would still lose students.

9:01 – Mr. Meshkin continues that modified 10 works within the existing process.

8:57 – Mr. Meshkin is addressing the Northfield attendees.  If move ahead with modified BOE 10, Northfield goes to 110% instead of 116%.  Modified 10 moves fewer students.  BOE has established that some of the data about school capacity may be wrong and polygons may be wrong, we’re thinking about making changes that can’t be redone for five years if we move a child.  Doing so limits our options.  Modified 10 moves fewer kids.  Doesn’t change Phelps Luck, just makes some other changes.  Gives us the most flexibility.  Northfield at 100%.  Phelps Luck around 100%.  If we go BOE 9, it breaks up SJLES.  We can unwind some of the redistricting and give us more flexibility by doing BOE 10 modified.

8:55 – Dr. Siddiqui: As a governing body, we need to look at our policy.  We’re opening ES 41, relieving overcrowding at various schools.  We have 11 factors that we consider.  Trying to balance those is difficult.  But we have to come to some sort of resolution.  Reading off list of the criteria.  Looking at what we have in hand, I think we’re in a good position with 9.

8:53: Dr. Foose continues.  We’re 10 plans away from the one I brought you.  9 addresses the three things we started with.  Less disruptive than my plan.  The flexibility is the same regardless of whether it’s 9 or 10.  10 addresses variables that came together at 10:45 on Tuesday night.  They’re still disruptive.  I would support Mr. Gallihue’s recommendations. We’re moving the issue from Veterans to Hollifield.

8:51 – Dr. Foose: You’re asking for my plan.  I brought it to you several weeks ago.  And now you’re asking which of your plans is the best departure from my plan.  What philosophy will guide the future of redistricting.  Right now we’re responding to island and capacities.  I didn’t want this to be as disruptive as it was.

8:50 – Mr. Dyer wants to know which plan gives the most flexibility to Dr. Foose.

8:49 – Ms. French: Both plans show the same weakness of small feeds.  Both plans increase small feeds to 21 to elementary school; 6 to middle schools.  Of double small feeds, both plans have 4.  Therefore, Mr. Dyer needs to find another reason to choose one plan over another.

8:48 – Mr. Gallihue: SJLES would say that they have  100% feed and have some Dunloggin students coming in.  Maybe we can do something about that.  Putting schools in a position where they’re not overcrowded eliminates a distraction.

8:46 – Mr. Gallihue asking for clarification on how Mr. Dyer is looking at feeds – from the leaving elementary school or the receiving middle school.  Mr. Dyer replied 100%.  Mr. Gallihue brings out a plan put together as an exercise years ago about redistricting the entire county to create the feeds Mr. Dyer is talking about.  Would need to move 4,000+ elementary schools, 2,700+ middle schools to accomplish that.  [They’re not doing that!]

8:45 – Mr. Dyer talking about wanting to keep feeder patterns together.

8:44 – Mr. Roey – Mr. Gallihue is executing your [the Board’s] policy.

8:42 – Mr. Dyer – Not sure sometimes whether you’re stating the Sup’s position or the previous plan’s.  I’d like to ask the Sup which plan she wants to see.  I’m concerned about what’s going to be the best educational result.  When I hear you [Mr. Gallihue] talk, I hear what’s the best way to use all the seats we have.

8:39 – Ms. Giles – we need to assess program capacity issues.  Need to change how we count capacity to deliver programs. Seemed to be a tacit understanding across the Board about overcrowding Phelps Luck.  For right now, acknowledgments that some schools can handle the numbers better.  Nuances at individual schools that aren’t reflected in the numbers.

8:37 – Mr. Aquino talking about his kids at Ilchester.  Community said they’d bear with the overcapacity to stay together.  Started to hear from parents that they didn’t like being in an overcrowded school. “I’m hypersensitive to pushing those envelopes.”

8:36 – Ms. Vaillancourt pointing out that if the capacity numbers are wrong, then we’re about to make a big decision that may be based on wrong numbers.  We have a situation where the numbers aren’t where they need to be.  Her preference to limit the numbers as much as possible.  200 fewer students, but have to decide about Phelps Luck.

8:35 – Mr. Gallihue explaining that they went to Phelps Luck and looked at how rooms were actually being used to know how much actual capacity they have for educational programs.

8:33 – Ms. Vaillancourt saying 10 modified moves about 1,200 students.  If we are saying the target at Phelps Luck is 570 instead of 640, when did the number change happen [I may have those numbers wrong.]

8:32 – Mr. Gallihue pointing out that, if you ultimately want to put a program at Hollifield, 10 wouldn’t give you the flexibility.  Redistricting is a necessary evil.

8:31 – Mr. Gallihue is saying the effort to try other scenarios will be helpful if we get an appeal.

8:30 – Mr. Gallihue making the point that 10 just moves the overcrowding from Veterans to Northfield.  Yes, other schools are involved, “I acknowledge that.”  The capacity is at Waverly.

8:28 – Phelps Luck goes to 102% to 109.1%, then come back down.  FARMS increases at Phelps Luck.  That’s what Mr. Gallihue considers part of the weakness.

8:26 – Mr. Meshkin trying to see what happens if some of the redistricting through Northfield, Thunderhill, and Phelps Luck was undone.  The concern is leaving Phelps Luck too high for the special programs they have there.

8:25 – Ms. Vaillancourt asking to look at the tweaks to see if they can keep Phelps Luck within a good capacity.

8:24 – Dr. French asking if there’s a desire among the Board to start drawing more maps at this late hour?  Late in the process to start drawing stuff.

8:21 – Reiterating that Dr. Foose put forward a plan with less movement.  Advocating that we don’t break anything now that we can’t fix later.  Folks have had little time to react to BOE 10.  Can we look at a way to bring Northfield down to a manageable range.  Undo some of the redistricting into Northfield so they’re not overcrowded?

8:20 – Brian Meshkin disagrees with Mr. Gallihue’s preference with BOE 9.  10 was trying to address a choice between the lesser of two evils:  breaking up a school or having an island.  10 was a way to put those island neighborhoods at schools near them.

8:16 – Joel going through the reasons why it’s not a good idea to overcrowd Northfield.  Better to use capacity at Waverly rather than Northfield.

8:15 – Joel giving numbers.  Not catching all of them, you can see the details on the Board’s website where all the reports are.

8:14 – Mr. Aquino is asking Joel to discuss the crowding under 10 at both Hollifield and Northfield.

8:13 – Says that Hollifield is the wrong school to crowd (which BOE #10 does).  Strongly recommends BOE #9.

8:12 – Mr. Gallihue says that BOE #9 is better because it reduces the SJLES movement from 1/2 to 1/4.  Doesn’t solve all of what the community wanted, but it’s reduced.

8:10 – Chairman French has asked the staff to give their opinion on the plans.  Joel Gallihue is addressing them and saying that BOE #9 is the better improvement on the Sup’s plan.

8:09 – On to redistricting.

8:03 – Here we go.  Three agenda items come before the redistricting discussion.

8:00 – Taking their seats.

7:56 – Some of the members are starting to file back into the room.

7:20 –  They just broke for dinner and said they would start again around 8:00p.m.

Tonight’s the night

I feel a little silly reminding everyone that tonight is the vote on the redistricting plan.  See my earlier post for details.

I will have my computer with me tonight and will post the results as soon as they happen – so if you can’t watch the proceedings live, check here to find out what happened.

If you want to contact a Board member and express your opinion about something, here are their personal and HCPSS email addresses:

I’ll see you tonight – I have plenty of stickers!

Another Baltimore Sun article

Once again, Kathryn Colman has spotted an article in the Sun about the redistricting.

As the article notes, there are now public hearings between now and the vote on Thursday.  Also, the BOE is no longer taking any written testimony.

However, Chairman French has consistently asked for community input – and there is still one way to provide that.  Attending the meeting Thursday night will help the BOE members know how you feel as they choose between a plan that moves five polygons out of SJLES and a plan that moves none out.

The meeting begins at 7:30p.m.  There are a few agenda items they will address before they get to the redistricting plan – and it may take them some time to work through it.

So . . . leave early if you want; come late if you want (we had people moving in and out all last night).  It’s the last opportunity you have to provide input, just from your presence.

Here’s their address:

Board of Education
Howard County Public School System
10910 Route 108
Ellicott City, MD 21042

SJLES may stay together!

The BOE narrowed their options down to two plans tonight.  As they pertain to SJLES:

  • One plan moves five polygons out of SJLES to Waverly (about 27% of the school).  This one is called BOE #9.
  • The other moves no one out of SJLES (for those keeping score, that would be 0% of the school).  This one is called BOE #10.

Waverly doesn’t lose anyone regardless of which plan they choose (yeah Taylor Farm and Woodstock Road!).

The difference between the two plans is what’s happening with the now-famous polygon 191, 1106, and 106 (as well as some other polygons that do or do not move from Veterans to Hollifield, depending on which plan we’re talking about).

  • BOE #9:  191 stays at Veterans, a couple of Veterans polygons move to Hollifield, a Hollifield polygon to SJLES, 1106 and 106 to SJLES, and five SJLES polygons to Waverly (1162, 162, 160, 1160, and 2161)
  • BOE #10:  191 goes to Northfield, a different set of other Veterans polygons move to Hollifield, 1106 goes to SJLES, 106 goes to Hollifield, and NO SJLES polygons go to Waverly (none, none, none, none, and none)

BOE #10 does push the capacity at the receiving schools (although I believe SJLES stays under 110%).  There was serious discussion with Dr. Foose about creating opportunities other than redistricting to deal with overcrowding, so the BOE became more comfortable with higher utilization in the short-term, with the expectation that relief would be coming.

So . . . on Thursday, the BOE will vote on which of these two options they will put into place.  There is also still the possibility of tweaking something (BOE #10 didn’t appear until the last 20 minutes of a 3 1/2 hour meeting!).

Stay tuned to the blog.  Being there in person tonight made a difference – we’ll be making plans to be there Thursday.  For now, clear your calendar  :-)

Final chance to forward your feedback

Say that three times fast!

I’m guessing that, if you’re reading this blog, you’re pretty plugged in to the process.  But in case it’s your first time, public feedback on the redistricting plans ends at 4:30p.m. today.  Any emails sent after that point will not be read.

So . . . if you have anything left to say, or something you want to reiterate, now’s the time to do it!  Send it to

I’ll be at the meeting tonight, so come on by and grab a sticker.  See you there!

3 things you can do right now to help SJLES

We’re down to only about 24 left to submit written testimony to the Board of Education about the redistricting (the deadline is 4:30p.m. tomorrow afternoon!).

Here are three things you can do right now to help:

  1. Send a (dare I say it, final!?) email to the BOE.
  2. Personally ask one other person, who may not have sent in an email during this process to send just one, just this one time (numbers count!).
  3. Plan to attend the BOE meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday the 13th).  It starts at 7:30p.m., so plan to arrive by 7:15p.m. – and it’s okay to leave at 7:35p.m.  It will be helpful for the BOE to see, in person, some of the SJLES supporters, even if it’s for a short time.

The BOE  still needs to hear from us.  Remember, emails have made a huge difference each time we’ve provided the community feedback they’ve been requesting.

Please take a minute to send a quick email.  Our kids deserve it and our great school deserves it, too.  And feel free to share the link to this blog ( with your friends.

Sample letter:

As a parent of a child attending St. John’s Lane Elementary School (SJLES), I strongly urge the Board to consider:

    • 1,678 students’ lives are already being disrupted to accomplish the main goals of the redistricting process.  Moving any additional students, let alone almost half of SJLES, just disrupts additional relationships.  Please choose a plan that minimizes disruption county-wide.
    • Uprooting a child from their known, healthy school environment is permanent and has lifelong effects.  Please remember when you vote that “these are children” as Dr. Foose mentioned at the work session Thursday the 8th.
    • Keeping SJLES together has the added benefit of maintaining a stable 100% feed to middle and high school.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and we look forward to your deliberations.

Remember to include your name and street address.

Send to:

Send copies to:;;;;;;

And please cc: