The Frederick County Board of Education — which now includes two brand new members — will have a lot on its plate in the coming year.
And Joy Schaefer and Zakir Bengali — the two new board members who were elected along with incumbent Kathryn “Katie” Groth in November — will have to learn fast as the school system makes steps to finish implementing the new Common Core Standard Curriculum this year and prepare to start a new system of teacher evaluations in 2013-14.
The new teacher evaluation system, which is part of a state mandate, will for the first time be partially based on student performance.
Under the new system, 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation will depend on student progress. The rest of the evaluation will assess planning and instruction skills, classroom environment and professional responsibilities, all based on classroom observation.
The new school board will also have to help the system prepare for a new system of standardized tests known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which will replace the existing Maryland School Assessments in 2014-15.
“The need for professional development for our staff, given the many new demands of the Common Core implementation, PARCC assessments and evaluation model, is another item we would like to fund,” said county schools Superintendent Theresa Alban in an email. “We also began to address our need for competitive salaries last year and would like to continue to move forward in that area.”
That is why balancing the school system's fiscal 2014 budget will be one of the biggest challenges the board will face, Alban said.
Although state and county funding for schools is expected to remain flat, expenses in the coming year will continue to increase, school board member Brad Young said.
“I expect it to be tougher than last year,” Young said.
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners, which dedicates more than 50 percent of the county budget to public education, plans to give back $1.6 million that the school system contributed to cover the county deficit two years ago. But the commissioners have no intention of giving the school system more than $240.3 million, the minimum educational funding required by state law.
The county does not project an increase in students, which means no increase in state funding, Young said.
“We will definitely have an increased cost in the budget,” he said. “It will definitely mean that we have to reallocate money from different categories.”
That may be difficult for new board members who will have to dive into the budget discussions and balance their priorities with the needs of the system,Young said.
“They will have to learn that anything new comes at the price of something existing,” Young said.
However, Schaefer said her goal will be to advocate for the true needs of the school system. With so many mandates being imposed every year, it is unrealistic to expect that the school system can continue to function successfully on the same level of funding, she said.
“The status quo in education is not enough,” she said. “We would have to say there is a cost to maintenance-of-effort funding. There may not be a monetary cost but somebody somewhere is paying the price.”