Garrett Pride — Garrett County well-represented at robotics tournament

From The Garrett County Republican

McHENRY — GEARS Inc. and Garrett College co-hosted the 2019 Mountain Maryland FIRST Tech Challenge regional qualifier robotics competition Saturday at the Garrett College Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex gymnasium in McHenry.

G-FORCE, a community-based FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team sponsored by GEARS Inc. and 4-H, served as the host team for the event. Twenty teams represented Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to compete for one of five spots at the Maryland state competition. Of the 20 teams participating, seven teams were from Garrett County.

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County art teachers attend GCAC-hosted workshop with DC Pottery artist

From The Garrett County Republican

MCHENRY — Visual art teachers with the Garrett County Public Schools were able to be students for a day recently in a pottery and ceramics workshop led by Lorie Skidmore of Deep Creek Pottery. The day-long event was hosted by the Garrett County Arts Council earlier this month as part of its mission to help support local artists and art education, and to provide professional development events.

Nine teachers gathered at Deep Creek Pottery and were led by Skidmore through several pottery projects. Those taking part were Kristen Winebrenner, Melinda Bishoff, Ronni Digioia, Kelly Lasher, Bonnie Frederick, instructor Skidmore, Jay Paxton Alyssa Rodeheaver, Jennifer Wampler, and Melissa Pyle.

“The ceramics workshop was awesome!” said Rodeheaver. “We were all so thankful for the arts council sponsoring the workshop. I thought it was nice to have professional development that I could actually use in my art classes. This was the first time since college that I was able to practice art-making techniques I could take back to my classroom.”

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New listing! 511 E Street Mt Lake Park – GA8370729 – $129,900

Priced to sell! Incredibly private setting in Mountain Lake Park, tucked-in by a fully fenced lot + mature oak, pine trees & lots of shrubs & greenery. 5BR 2.5BA with nearly 3,000sf, this home offers plenty of space, an eat-in kitchen, sun room, library, multiple heat sources and lots of built-ins throughout. Central to area schools, playgrounds, and Broadford Lake. Much more here.
Listing Information
Property Type: Single Family-Detached
5 2 Full/1 Half
9,000 Sq. Ft. 2,820 (approx) 1945
3
MOUNTAIN LAKE PARK
Public
Public Sewer
School Information
CALL SCHOOL BOARD SOUTHERN MIDDLE SOUTHERN GARRETT HIGH
Room Information
Bathrooms
2 1
Sep Dining Rm, Eat-In Kitchen, Other
Interior Features
 Gas Heat, Wood, Stove, Hot Water
Improved, Other, Partial
 Ramp-Main Lvl, Other
Exterior / Lot Features
 Drvwy/Off Str
Brick, Vinyl
Asphalt Shingle
None
R
Renov/Remod
Driving Directions
From Hwy. 135, go past Southern Garrett Rescue Squad and turn left on D Street, immediately turn right on E Street and home will be on your right.
Financial Considerations
Fee Simple
1216010235
$2,357
2013

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Bill would aid school districts with declining student numbers

Legislation requested by Allegany, Garrett boards of education

Matthew BieniekCumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Bills aimed to help school districts in areas with declining student populations, like Garrett County, are being considered by the General Assembly.

The importance of the bills is that they would automatically provide funding rather than forcing local representatives to fight for special appropriations every year, said Del. Wendell Beitzel. In the past few years, districts with declining populations have been hit hard by the state’s school funding formula, contributing to school closures in Garrett County.

Beitzel has introduced House Bill 814 and Sen. George Edwards has introduced companion Senate Bill 534. A bill to help with the issue was requested by members of the Allegany and Garrett County boards of education at a December meeting with legislators before the General Assembly session began.

“The bill would not help Allegany County at this point, but would help Kent County, among others,” Beitzel said, assessing the statewide nature of the proposed legislation. Garrett County has lost about 18.5 percent of its budget in the last four years due in part to a loss of student enrollment, officials said.

For the last five years Garrett County will have the largest decrease in student enrollment, in terms of a percentage loss, across the state, Larry McKenzie, director of finance for the Garrett school system, said recently. Since 2009, the Garrett board has lost $4.5 million and is anticipating losing $1.5 million this year.

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New state discipline guidelines could have big financial impact on Garrett County schools

From Staff Reports

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — New student discipline regulations recently adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education may have a $200,000 to $250,000 impact on the Garrett County school system, according to Jim Morris, supervisor of Research, Evaluation and Information.

“At this point, we are just beginning to determine how our local jurisdiction will respond in order to comply with these new regulations and several questions remain to be answered and clarified,” said Morris. “Certainly GCPS (Garrett County Public Schools) will have to revise the discipline and associated policies to be compliant with the state board’s new discipline regulations.”

The regulations require local school systems to adopt policies that reduce all suspensions and expulsions of students; eliminate any disproportionate or discrepant expulsions or suspensions of students; and meet additional reporting and timeline requirements. Expulsions would only be permitted when a student poses an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff, according to Morris.

Extended suspension (longer than 10 days) would be permitted when a student has engaged in chronic or extreme disruptive behavior. The aforementioned discipline responses along with both short- and long-term suspensions will require that the school system provides both comparable educational services and behavioral support services as well as counseling during the period of the expulsion and/or suspension.

Currently 22 of 24 school systems within the state have alternative education sites that could provide these services but Garrett County doesn’t have one, according to Morris. The school system will likely be required to create alternative placement sites for students who require an alternative education program outside of their school.

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Garrett school board looking to expand advocacy committee

Elaine BlaisdellCumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County Board of Education is looking for new members to join the Advocacy Committee, which will include high and middle school students.

“What I would like to do is find out the interest for those people who were originally appointed to the advisories, those who would like to stay on to do some planning on behalf of the school system,” said Superintendent Janet Wilson.

Those wishing to be on the committee will be required to fill out a new application because the scope of the group has changed since the board halted a plan to close three elementary  schools. The board was required to keep the schools open as one of the conditions of the county commissioners’ decision to give the board $2.2 million.

The Advocacy Committee has to have “a manageable number of members” with one from each school, according to Wilson. Board members will also be present at the Advocacy Committee meetings.

Paul Swanson of Facility Engineering Associates, who is the author of the facilities study, and Mike Gehr, of Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc., met with the Advocacy Committee on Monday and answered 162 questions, about 90 of which pertained to the facilities study, according to William Swift, director of maintenance and operations with Garrett County Public Schools.

Board member Rodney Reckart discussed the renovation of Southern Middle School and said funding for it “has been nightmare” and that the state won’t pay for 20 percent of the construction costs. Reckart asked Gehr if it would be more cost effective to raze part of the building. Gehr said taking off square footage may not be in the best interest and indicated there were other options to explore.

In July, the commissioners voted to defer the $582,400 renovation for one year.

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School officials seek relief from budget cuts

Allegany, Garrett boards of education take list of nine priorities to delegation

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Garrett and Allegany county boards of education met with members of the District 1 legislative delegation on Monday, asking the lawmakers to advocate for relief for both counties from the decline in state revenues due to the wealth formula and loss of student enrollment.

In the past three years, the delegation has been able to get some stoppage in the loss of state revenues, according to Sen. George Edwards. “We are trying to protect the coming year,” he said. “We fight to get what we can.”

The state isn’t going to fund the entire loss of revenue and the counties need to help out, Edward said, adding that the total funding number won’t be know until the dotted line is signed.

Allegany County government funds its school system at what is called maintenance of effort level, as required by the state of Maryland. The law requires a county to spend at least the same amount on a per pupil basis as the year before, so counties don’t go backwards in education funding. The state can withhold funding if counties don’t meet the requirement. Garrett County commissioners fund its school system above the maintenance of effort level.

Janet Wilson, superintendent of Garrett County schools, said if the Garrett commissioners had not funded schools above the maintenance of effort level, the school system’s finances would be even more dire than they are this year.

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Garrett to hear results of school study

From Staff Reports

Cumberland Times-News

MCHENRY — Facility Engineering Associates, P.C. will share the results of the elementary school facility needs assessment and master plan study for Garrett County Public Schools in a public meeting Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex at Garrett College.

FEA was engaged by the school system to provide an in-depth study to provide information on the best options to cost-effectively meet the instructional needs of the students in the county. In three years, declines in revenue and student enrollment have brought about reductions in the work force, the closure of three schools and the elimination of programs, according to a news release. Dennett Road and Kitzmiller elementary schools closed last year as a cost-cutting measure and Bloomington Elementary was closed in 2011.

The school system estimates losses of $1.5 million for fiscal 2015 due to the state’s wealth formula which is, in part, based on enrollment.

The school system will not have available $700,000 that was received from a legislative hold harmless initiative used to balance the current year’s budget, according to the news release.

Sen. George Edwards recently wrote to Gov. Martin O’Malley requesting him to put in an administration bill, support one that Edwards puts in or request through the budget process to hold counties harmless from losing any money until a new wealth formula is complete. The wealth formula will be looked at in the fall of 2014 and won’t be included until 2016.

If O’Malley doesn’t provide emergency action, process for school closures will begin in the fall, Edwards said.

Given the financial challenges ahead of the school system, the results of the study will provide data to help identify short- and long- term facility plans to meet the needs of the students enrolled in the school system, according to the Garrett County Board of Education.

The scope of the study includes the assessment of elements required by the Code of Maryland Regulations, which governs school closings should the board vote to move in that direction.

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Garrett County schools retain carryover funds

Elaine BlaisdellCumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County Commission voted unanimously Monday to approve the county board of education’s request to retain $820,868 in carryover funds. The funds, which were from fiscal 2013, can be used as a one-time expense only for prioritized projects, according to commission chairman Robert Gatto.

Leaky roofs at both the former Dennett Road Elementary School and Southern High School are the No. 1 prioritized projects, according to Janet Wilson, county superintendent of schools. The board requested $315,000 for replacing a section of roof over the information technology department that the county and board share at the former school. The request also includes an $18,800 roof repair over the media center area at Southern High School where a hot asphalt treatment is needed immediately to repair it, according to Wilson. The repair will last two to three years.

“We maintain Dennett Road because we have some debt on it,” said Wilson. “That has turned out to be a huge community asset. The gym is used daily, the cafeteria is used a significant amount. One of the things we said, we will put the roof on that portion of the building because we maintain, we own it, we understand we are responsible for it.”

Dennett Road has a $140,214 construction debt that has eight years remaining.

Dennett Road and Kitzmiller elementary schools closed last year as a cost-cutting measure.

Another project high on the priority list is a $45,270 air conditioner replacement/repair at Yough Glades and Bradford elementary schools. Also high on the priority list is a $5,000 architectural study of Southern Middle School and its viability to potentially support elementary and middle school students.

During the meeting, one resident suggested looking at the salaries that make up 80 percent of the board’s budget. The board was able to save money through unemployment, insurance benefits, instructional supplies and materials, substitutes and salary savings.

“When I came aboard, I asked that all staff positions be held until I could review them,” said Wilson.

The fiscal 2013 budget planned for unemployment for about 35 staff members who were subject to reduction in force and that money wasn’t used, according to Wilson.

“I think that it’s very important that all of us are good stewards of taxpayers’ money,” said Wilson “I think it’s important that when we have extra money to let county government know.”

The board is again facing financial difficulties because of the state’s wealth formula. The commissioners met with Lillian Lowery, Maryland state superintendent of schools, in the spring and sent a letter to her asking her to look for short-term solutions. The wealth formula will be looked at in the fall of 2014 and won’t be included until 2016, and contingency plans need to be made in case it doesn’t come through, according to Wilson.

Sen. George Edwards has also sent a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley asking for short-term and immediate solutions prior to the legislative session. Wilson worked on the letter with Edwards and included the fact that the county has lost nearly 20 percent of its state funding since 2009.

State funding is eroding because of the enrollment numbers, which have dropped, according to Raley. The school system is facing a potential $2.2 million loss in state funding, according to Wilson.

Several residents at the meeting indicated that they would leave the area or home school their children if things don’t improve with the school system. Some residents voiced concerns about overcrowding at Broadford Elementary and the commissioners agreed to visit the school in the future.

“I think it’s important that we have schools that attract people to the area,” said Charlotte Sebold, board member. “It’s very important that we all go out and tell people how great our county is.”

The letter also mentions the hurdle that the school system faces in the geography and topography of the county, 600 miles of county roads translate to 6,000 miles a day for bus services and high transportation costs.

“That’s a standard that sets Garrett County apart from most other jurisdictions,” said Wilson. “Moving down the road, if we again have to do a reduction in force and cause further building closures I can only anticipate transportation costs will increase.”

Jeff Connor of Fike, Conner & Associates CPAs urged everyone else to send a letter to O’Malley.

“We can’t keep doing this over and over. So we are going to have to go to the state level,” said Conner. “More school closings or school consolidations are just not palatable.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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Education officials talk upcoming challenges

Superintendents of Garrett, Allegany provide update on Common Core assessments

Greg LarryCumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — David Cox and Janet Wilson, the school superintendents for Allegany and Garrett County, respectively, along with Garrett College President Richard MacLennan, gave an update on the challenges currently facing education at a meeting Thursday of The Greater Cumberland Committee.

“We are moving toward having assessments that increase the demand of our kids cognitive skills. It’s been long overdue,” said Wilson, during the luncheon at the Cumberland Country Club.

Wilson and Cox gave a joint talk on the new curriculum and testing assessments being implemented in Maryland’s public schools known as Common Core, which is being phased in with the goal of the new system replacing traditional assessments by 2015.

For years, Maryland students were assessed by two tests: Elementary and middle school students took the Maryland Standard Assessment and grades 9 through 12 were given the High School Assessments.

Before Wilson and Cox spoke on the Common Core, MacLennan gave committee members in attendance an overview of the challenges facing education today.

MacLennan said the demand for workers with some level of higher education is continuing to rise.

“About two thirds of all employment will require some college education,” he said.

An estimated 81 million Baby Boomers will leave the job market, according to MacLennan, in the next 18 to 20 years, creating a high demand for educated workers.

“There is a sense of urgency here,” said MacLennan.

He also spoke on the skyrocketing student loan debt.

“Last year, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt nationally. It is closing on $1.12 trillion now. It increases by $2,853 every minute,” said MacLennan.

MacLennan stressed the need to close the gap between employer needs and workplace readiness through education.

“We are 16th in the world in our graduation rate. Today, 13 million attend a community college while only 25 percent will earn an associate degree within four years,” he said.

MacLennan also said that early college access during high school is critical.

“We know that those who get some college-level exposure while in high school will do better in college and are more likely to graduate,” he said.

Following MacLennan’s presentation, Cox and Wilson explained the Common Core assesment for K-12 students, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Wilson and Cox both think that Common Core can add to the quality of Maryland’s public education standards.

The educators pointed out that Maryland has ranked number one in the U.S., based on six levels of criteria, by the trade publication Education Week, for the last five years.

“The old testing was basically multiple choice questions with the students regurgitating the content,” said Cox.

The educators said the new PARCC testing will stress analytical, abstract and quantitative reasoning.

The tests will stress the coordination between math and science and language arts by requiring the student to defend or argue their answers using their technical language.

“The students will use computers and utilize models as well,” said Wilson.

Wilson described moving from the traditional MSA and HSA testing method to PARCC as “going from the rural dirt road to the highway.”

The educators said the Common Core has been vetted by business, researchers and education.

“This is the most monumental change I have seen in 33 years in education,” said Cox.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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