Friday, January 23, 2015

Budget Season - January to June

As a prequel to this blog I refer you to my blog of October 13.  Here’s where we are now.

On January 22 we presented publicly the proposed budget for next school year – FY 16.

As my staff and I worked through the process we had two simple goals in mind:
       1.       To provide a modest raise for our employees (it’s been awhile)
      2 .      To live within our means (no dependence on fund balance)

We estimate that if we keep everything as it is this year and give everyone a 1% cost of living raise and fund a step in the salary schedule, that we will need approximately $204 million.  We estimate that our revenues will be around $199 million.  Uh oh.

At the budget hearing, Board President Tracy McGuire made a good point.  She said that in 2009, we were in a difficult financial situation and we hoped that if we could just weather the storm for a few years, we would be back to normal.  Now it is 2015 and the storm is not over.  Maybe this is the new normal. 

We have been losing enrollment steadily over the last few years.  In 2007 we had 17,000 students.  This past September we had 15,600.  During this time we have down sized in some areas but grown in others in spite of losing students.  New dean positions were added last year even when we were using $2.6 million from our savings.  Since 2004 we have 800 fewer students in special education yet during that same time we added more than 40 special education teachers and more than 40 instructional assistants. 

I believe we can stand to slim down some.   We have more than 2000 employees.   It won’t be easy but if we design some fair and consistent practices for staffing, we should never have such challenges again.  Our planned reductions include:
·         3 district office administrators
·         1.5 district office specialists
·         3 district office support staff
·         3 vice principals
·         7 deans
·         3 guidance counselors
·         31 teachers (based upon student enrollment)

We have 42 who will retire at the end of this year and 24 who were employed since the school year started as temporary.  Where there is a match between those folks and our proposed staffing plan, we will have no need to lay off anyone.  We also know that natural attrition always provides us 40 – 50 additional vacancies each summer, so we are confident most will remain employed. 

By implementing these reductions we believe we will be able to meet our goals of a balanced budget and a raise for our employees.  To tell you the truth, even if we give nobody a raise, we’ll need to reduce some positions.

This is a process.  We don’t know for sure whether we will be able to count on our state funding to be as we predicted.  We don’t know for sure if the County Commission can afford to continue to support us as they have.  The Board of Education will consider your comments sent in through February 23.  Final budget approval will be in May or June.  Direct your comments to:


Calvert County Public Schools

Board of Education

c/o Karen Maxey

1305 Dares Beach Road

Prince Frederick, MD  20678


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter is Here

Perhaps this is a good time to review for you our approach to determining whether school should be delayed or closed.  The basics are provided on our web site at

As for today,  Director of Transportation Ed Cassidy and I spoke at around 4:55a.m.  He reports to me all the road conditions and weather predictions and other relevant info.  At that time there was nothing happening.  We knew there was a chance that some snow would hit in the northern part of the county and that it might happen before all the buses had made their runs.  Generally speaking you need to make a decision by around 5:15 because the high school buses will soon be on the move.  We decided then to go on time today.  We will have similar conversations many times in the next few months.

At 6:45 we got notice that an accident further north on Rt.4 in AA county was backing up traffic on 4 and 260.  By that time all first tier buses are well on their way.  That traffic problem caused a lot of buses to be late and therefore they were late for 2nd and 3rd runs.

 At 8:45 we got notice that Mt. Harmony Rd was closed.  We discussed what to do with  buses headed to that school and dvised them to pull over and wait.  Notice that road was open came at 8:56.

Weather can be very different in different sections of the county.  It can be 34 degrees everywhere but a few places can dip to 31.  Today there were no issues south of the 2/4 split that I am aware of.  We will make the best decision we can.  Once the buses are moving the children’s safety is in the hands of the drivers.  We trust their skills.   By design there is no safer vehicle on the road than the school bus and someone who qualifies to drive a bus is expected to adjust to changing road conditions.   

We advise all parents that the final call is theirs.  Should we have school and they don’t feel it is safe, they can keep their children home – it will be an excused absence. 

 We recognize that folks like to be notified as far ahead as possible and will aim to do that when possible.  I love that snow storm that starts about 6pm so we can cancel school for the next day before we go to bed.  But mother nature doesn’t work that way.   
Big snow storms are sometimes nothing but rain.  I have shoveled 6 inches of partly cloudy from my driveway.  I have canceled school based upon the weather prediction, only to have it miss us completely and the sun comes out.  I have called for 2 hour delays when the fog was like pea soup, only for it to lift quickly and not be an issue.  I have sent students home mid-day and then shuddered to learn the next day how many had to spend the afternoon sitting outside their house because the parents didn’t get the word. 

 It is easy to second guess and no doubt there are times when we say to ourselves, if those conditions present themselves just like that again, we maybe would choose differently.  An internal team will often meet and debrief on weather issues.
Winter is just beginning.  Here's a big thanks in advance for those in the transportation department and others who monitor the weather, drive the roads in the wee hours, weigh all the variables and lose sleep over these decisions.  Here's also a big thanks to those in the district office who take all the phone calls from folks who want to make sure that we know they disagree with our decision.  They respond with courtesy and patience when the caller is neither.
In the end, the decision is in the hands of the superintendent.  So, the buck stops here.  I've been making these calls every winter since 1987 in West Virginia mountains and hills and in flat lands of Delaware. So, it is fair to say that I have been called an idiot and other colorful names in multiple languages since 1987.  It's OK.  I understand.