The board of education’s first public meeting of 2020 was quite busy on Tuesday as it kicked off with Virginia McGraw and Latina Wilson being reelected as school board chairwoman and vice chairwoman, respectively, a presentation on the superintendent’s $411 million proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, legislative updates and conferral of four resolutions.

Superintendent Kimberly Hill’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget is a $17.96 million increase over last year’s budget, or 4.6%.

Staff from the school system’s fiscal services office presented Hill’s proposed budget, which includes several top priorities such as salary increases, a comprehensive elementary reading program and additional mental health and student support programs.

The school system negotiates with two employee groups — the Education Association of Charles County and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — between January and April. The proposal also includes implementation of the state’s minimum wage increase, according to a school system press release.

Hill said CCPS “is a people business” as 81% of the school system’s revenue “goes to salaries and benefits for employees.”

“Over the past two years, with the backing of the board of education and funding from the Charles County commissioners and the state,” said Hill, “we have been able to make our starting salary for beginning teachers competitive, restore back STEPs for employees and adjust our certificated salary scales to help with teacher retention.”

When it comes to collective bargaining, $8.8 million is reserved for salary increases and competitive teacher salaries to help with teacher retention. More than $1 million will be used to hire 17 additional teachers to handle a projected enrollment increase of about 408 full-time equivalent students. The addition of teachers is based on a student to teacher ratio of 25:1, the press release also noted.

“For us to keep class sizes at about 25:1 across the board, we would need 17 positions for teachers,” Hill said as she replied to school board member David Hancock’s concern about using funds responsibly. “The best way that we can hope to actually get 17 additional teachers is to make sure that our salary and benefits package is competitive.”

Of Hill’s $411 million proposed budget, nearly $18 million will focus on students, classrooms and schools, adding teachers to support a growing student population.

The budget increase includes $12.14 million in additional funding from the county and $6.9 million from the state. State funding, however, will not be final until the end of the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session in April, according to the press release.

“State funding numbers are estimates since final numbers depend on Governor [Larry] Hogan’s budget request and General Assembly action,” Hill said in her updated report. “Our proposal today does not include additional Kirwan [Commission] funding which may result in additional $57 million for education statewide. If approved, the additional Kirwan funding is targeted for specific areas such as materials of instruction for teachers, and college and career readiness.”

Other budget highlights include a $2 million increase for student transportation which would address the addition of 44 bus replacements and three new CCPS buses. Roughly $700,000 will be used to fund a comprehensive reading program called “Into Reading” that aims to address all components of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Funding for the Into Reading program — which focuses heavily on writing as well as reading — would allow CCPS to fully implement it for students in kindergarten through second grade. The program is currently piloted this year at Billingsley Elementary.

Hill is also requesting $1.7 million to expand mental health programs for students to include hiring 16 certificated teachers to staff secondary therapeutic intervention programs, three psychologists and two web-based programs to enhance social/emotional learning for students.

According to Hill’s updated report, Fresh Start Academy is one program that provides therapeutic support to elementary students.

Having “discovered a strong need to provide therapeutic support for older elementary students,” Hill said CCPS is “expanding the scope of the program to include students in third to fifth grade.”

Regarding school breakfast and lunch, Hill’s proposal includes an increase of 5 cents and 10 cents, respectively, for students. Elementary breakfast costs rise to $1.35 and lunch will be $2.80. Secondary school students will pay $1.50 for breakfast and $3.05 for lunch. These increases are guided by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, according to CCPS.

During Tuesday’s meeting, student board member DeJuan Woods Jr. announced that he has launched a Student Member of the Board Advisory Council. The council, which meets online monthly and in person bi-monthly, consists of 16 students from all Charles County high schools who share the same goal of increasing student involvement.

Woods said his group is currently planning a countywide student-led service project, a student forum about Women’s History Month in March and increasing the recognition of student achievement through social media. Events and forums sponsored through the council are open to the public, according to a separate press release.

“Our meetings feature the executive board and involve heavy discussion on future planning and idea generation for events,” said Woods, who oversees the council with the assistance of fellow Thomas Stone High School senior and chief of staff Lizzie Daniel.

CCPS staff attorney Eric Schwartz was the last person to give an updated report on the 2020 legislative priorities and session forecast presented recently by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, or MABE. MABE’s legislative priorities include supporting full state funding for Maryland’s outstanding public schools; passage of the Kirwan blueprint legislation and Built to Learn Act; at least $400 million in state funding for school facilities; and sustained and increased local government investments in education.The board conferred four resolutions prior to recognizing outstanding students and staff. They were for Black History Month, Career and Technical Education Month, National School Counseling Week and Gifted and Talented Education Month.

A public hearing on Hill’s proposed budget — currently available for viewing at www.ccboe.com/index.php/budget — is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 27, at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building in La Plata. A work session will immediately follow.

For more information and presentations from Tuesday’s meeting, go to go.boarddocs.com/mabe/ccpsmd/Board.nsf/Public.

Twitter: @JClink_MdINDY