Is It Time Yet to Talk About Sandy Hook?

So after the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Republicans and the NRA will probably once again say it is too soon to talk about gun safety measures. OK, for the sake of argument, it is too soon. The victims have to be mourned. The community has to grieve. But now after more than five years since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is it time yet that we can talk about what to do about that incident?

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Change.org Petition: Protect taxpayer dollars. Charge developers market-based school surcharge fees.

 

Howard County has been undergoing unmitigated growth for many years. This unmitigated growth has resulted in school overcrowding.

This overcrowding has occurred to the extent that some schools are close to 140% over-capacity.

For 30 years, the school system has dealt with overcrowding by adding portable trailers for classrooms. Currently, there are 224 portable classrooms.

The County manages growth through the adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO). The school overcrowding occurred because the school-capacity standards do not prevent overcrowding.

The County Council has introduced legislation that will help the County manage growth better by making the capacity standards stronger.

While the school capacity standards are weak, the County also charges very low school-surcharge fees that help defray the cost of new school construction.

The new Hanover Hills Elementary School cost $57,000 PER STUDENT to build.

According to the County’s own reports, developers pay an average value of $5,138 PER UNIT to build a new home.

The fees are not market-based. Neighboring counties charge five to six-times the fees charged by Howard County with stronger school capacity standards.

In order for the County to raise these fees, it needs to obtain State-enabling legislation to pass in Annapolis.

This bill is introduced by the Howard County State Delegation. The bill as introduced does not allow the County to charge market-based surcharge fees. It also allows overcrowding in schools provided developers pay a fee.

This is wrong.

Let your State Delegation know that you want the County to stop subsidizing developer profits. Further, this bill introduced by the Howard County State Delegation needs to be changed to enable the county to charge developers market rates so every additional child has a permanent seat rather than allow overcrowding for a fee.

Pass the State-enabling bill that will allow the County to charge market-based rates and prevent overcrowding.

A Legislative Proposal Authorizing Local School Boards to Remove the Superintendent

The debate over Superintendent Foose’s contract often involved a discussion of Maryland law which gives a local school board the authority to hire a superintendent while only giving the State Superintendent the authority to remove the local superintendent. Attempts in the 2017 Maryland General Assembly to pass a bill giving the authority to terminate the superintendent to either just the Howard County Board or to local boards statewide were not successful.  One problem with these bills were that they would have retroactively changed the terms of existing the contracts of superintendents which were predicated on the power to remove residing with the State Superintendent.
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The employment contracts tend to reference and incorporate provisions of the state Education Article. With that in mind, I crafted legislation which would apply to future contracts by giving a local school board and the prospective superintendent the ability to agree that the local board would have the authority to remove.
Article – Education §4–201.  
(e)    (1)   The State Superintendent may remove a county superintendent for:
(i)   Immorality;
(ii)   Misconduct in office;
(iii)   Insubordination;
(iv)   Incompetency; or
(v)   Willful neglect of duty.
(2)   Before removing a county superintendent, the State Superintendent shall send the county superintendent a copy of the charges against the county superintendent and give the county superintendent an opportunity within 10 days to request a hearing.
(3)   If the county superintendent requests a hearing within the 10–day period:
(i)   The State Superintendent promptly shall hold a hearing, but a hearing may not be set within 10 days after the State Superintendent sends the county superintendent a notice of the hearing; and
(ii)   The county superintendent shall have an opportunity to be heard publicly before the State Superintendent in the county superintendent’s own defense, in person or by counsel.
(f)   On notification of pending criminal charges against a county superintendent as provided under § 4–206 of this subtitle, the county board may suspend the county superintendent with pay until the final disposition of the criminal charges OR MAY  REMOVE THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (G).
 (G) (1) IF THE CONTRACT BETWEEN THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT AND COUNTY BOARD EXPLICITLY PROVIDES FOR REMOVAL BY THE COUNTY BOARD, THE COUNTY BOARD MAY REMOVE A COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT BY A VOTE OF TWO-THIRDS OF THE TOTAL MEMBERS AUTHORIZED BY LAW TO VOTE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF A COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT FOR:
(I)  IMMORALITY;
(II)  MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE;
(III)  INSUBORDINATION;
(IV)  INCOMPETENCY; 
(V)  WILLFUL NEGLECT OF DUTY;
(VI) MATERIAL BREACH OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE CONTRACT; 
(VII) PENDING CRIMINAL CHARGES; OR
(VIII) PERMANENT DISABILITY OF THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT WHICH RESULTS IN THEIR INABILITY TO SUBSTANTIALLY PERFORM THE ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF HIS POSITION WITH OR WITHOUT REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS BECAUSE OF ILLNESS OR INCAPACITY FOR A CONTINUOUS PERIOD LASTING LONGER THAN TWO CONSECUTIVE MONTHS; 
(2)   BEFORE REMOVING A COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT, THE COUNTY BOARD SHALL SEND THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT A COPY OF THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT AND GIVE THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT AN OPPORTUNITY WITHIN 5 BUSINESS DAYS TO REQUEST A HEARING.
(3)   IF THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT REQUESTS A HEARING WITHIN THE 5 BUSINESS DAY PERIOD:
(I)   THE COUNTY BOARD PROMPTLY SHALL HOLD A HEARING, BUT A HEARING MAY NOT BE SET WITHIN 5 BUSINESS DAYS AFTER THE COUNTY BOARD SENDS THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT A NOTICE OF THE HEARING; AND
(II)   THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT SHALL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD PUBLICLY BEFORE THE COUNTY BOARD IN THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT’S OWN DEFENSE, IN PERSON OR BY COUNSEL

HoCo Delegation Bill 11-18 Could Have Made Foose’s Buyout Millions More

The Howard County School Board agreed to a $ 1.65 million settlement to buyout Superintendent Foose’s contract.  Had the legislation proposed by Howard County Delegation Bill 11-18  Howard County Board of Education – Superintendent of Schools – Term Length, Ho. Co. 11–18  been in effect, the cost of the buyout could have been orders of magnitude larger.

The bill proposes to remove the 4-year limit to superintendent’s contracts just for Howard County. It states “IN HOWARD COUNTY, THE COUNTY BOARD SHALL DETERMINE THE LENGTH OF THE TERM OF THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT.” There are no limitations to the School Board’s power. Had this legislation been in effect when Foose’s contract was renewed she could have been given say a 20-year contract. What would the buyout had been then–$7, $8, $9 million.

Once again your legislators have not clearly thought through the consequences of  proposed legislation. There must be some limits on the length of the contract; else another arrogant and out of touch school board could give a extremely long-term contract to a superintendent which will leave the former superintendent with a cozy retirement and the taxpayers of Howard County holding the bag.

In addition, because the term of the Howard County superintendent need not begin on July 1, it is unclear how to apply the other dates referenced in the law.

Tell your delegation representative to amend HoCo 11-18.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HCPSS Interim Superintendent Martirano’s Contract Miscites the Termination Statute

With all of the attention paid to terminating Superintendent Foose’s contract and Delegates Atterbeary and Ebersole’s bill to permit Howard County to directly terminate a superintendent, it is ironic that the contract for Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano miscites the state statute regarding termination for cause.

Maritirano Interim Contract Termination
Superintendent Martirano’s Contract Incorrectly Referencing Section 4-201(d)

As seen in Superintendent Martirano’s contract, the termination for cause refers to Section 4-201(d). However, Section 4-201(d) regards a vacancy and a contract for an interim superintendents and not termination for cause which is Section 4-201(e).

 

Section 4-201 Education Code Termination
Section 4-201 Education Code

 

Contracts in other counties correctly reference Section 4-201(e) regarding termination of the superintendent:

Baltimore County Interim Superintendent's Contract
Contract for Baltimore County Interim Superintendent Verletta White, June 13, 2017 
MoCo Superintendent Contract Termination
Contract for Montgomery County Superintendent Jack R. White

STRIKE CB60’s MISGUIDED EMERGENCY NATURAL WOOD WASTE RECYCLING FACILITY PROVISION

 

While the Emergency Natural Wood Waste Recycling Facility (NWWRF) provision of CB60 has the laudable intended purpose of exempting farmers from regulation in the event of a catastrophe, it actually will do the opposite. Rather than achieve real results for the people of Howard County by just granting a short-term exemption from County regulation, the Kittleman Administration instead responded to the politics of mulching with a proposal for a complicated and time-consuming regulatory approval process. While people in other zoning districts will actually be cutting and removing trees, the farmers in RC and RR districts will be completing paperwork to seek approval from multiple regulatory bodies.

At the outset, it must be noted that the internally inconsistent language of CB60 makes it technically impossible to implement the emergency provision. The Task Force Report to Study Mulching, Composting, and Wood Processing in footnote 2 recognized that “A natural wood waste recycling facility is exempt from State regulation if it is operated by a nonprofit or governmental organization or is a single individual or business that provides recycling services for its own employees or for its own recyclable materials generated on its own premise,” yet the drafters of CB60 failed to recognize these State exemptions.

CB60 defines a NWWRF to be “a facility where recycling services for natural wood waste is provided and which operates under a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) under COMAR.” Furthermore, the emergency provision will allow “a property owner to dispose of excess natural wood waste from their property.”  Yet, as acknowledged in footnote 2, an MDE permit is not required for wood waste generated on its own premises.  Thus, because an MDE permit is not required and cannot be obtained in this situation, the emergency NWWRF provision will be impossible to implement  because of the very definition for ”NWWRF” found in CB60.

Nevertheless, assuming that a state NWWRF permit could be obtained under CB60, the Kittleman Administration, the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) and bill sponsors Councilpersons Sigaty and Fox mistakenly believe that the emergency NWWRF provision is necessary to allow a farmer in RC and RR zoning districts to rent a grinder to remove the trees and give away the excess wood chips. A representative of MDE has stated that grinding trees is not considered “mulching.” Chipping is just “volume reduction.”

If the emergency provision were to apply, a farmer after “a natural catastrophe such as a major storm, weather condition, or disease” (but interestingly not including fire or insects) rather than hiring a tree service or renting equipment to remove the trees in this “emergency” instead  will need to set out to comply with CB60. The first step in this process  is to submit a description of the circumstances for the use permit and  “photographs documenting the scope of the damage.” Second is the MDE NWWRF permit application. The Notice of Intent for a general permit requires proof of workers’ compensation coverage and an emergency preparedness plan. Alternatively, the individual permit includes more than 2 dozen elements including site plans, drawings,  a description of site security and access control, and an erosion and sediment control plan that has been approved by the local soil conservation district.  Third, is a NWWRF operations plans. Fourth, is an “emergency preparedness plan, as required by MDE, for review by the fire marshal. Fifth, is “an approved Howard Soil Conservation District (HSCD) supplementary project evaluation that addresses key natural resource issues.”  To compile the required documents might require the farmer to hire engineers, surveyors, consultants, and attorneys.

CB60 is unclear on whether an approved MDE permit is required, but if so it takes MDE 30 days to process a general permit and 9 months for an individual permit. In addition, the HCSD believes that it will take 7 to 10 days to approve the project evaluation.  In a misguided attempt to assist farmers in the event of a catastrophe, CB60 instead ironically creates a time-consuming approval process and expensive regulatory burden.  Paradoxically, while farmers in RC and RR zoning districts seek to complete paperwork to respond to the tree “emergency,” property owners in all other zoning districts of the County, including in particular, the 3600 acres of New Town zoning open space managed by the Columbia Association, will have hired a tree service or removed the trees themselves without any specific regulation by Howard County.

The emergency NWWRF provision of CB60 is either legally impossible to implement or is totally impractical to meet its intent of responding to an “emergency.”  The provision should been stricken from the bill. Instead, the County should be addressing the nonprofit exemption loophole of the State law cited in footnote 2.

 

 

#hocopolitics