ICB overtaxes Blair's resources

Nov. 15, 2004, midnight | By John Silberholz | 19 years, 7 months ago

Interagency coordinating board doesn't support school

Blair, already a seriously overcrowded high school, is seeing its scheduling problems compounded thanks to the Interagency Coordinating Board (ICB), a 12-member committee that schedules all events taking place in any County-owned building. Despite their authoritative positions, this group of County officials is out of touch with school communities and affairs and thereby creates, not solves, problems in school scheduling.

According to MCPS regulations, the ICB pledges to "maximize the community use of public schools.” It accomplishes this mission well with complete disregard for Blair's overuse: The school already must support the newly-imported Night School program and Adult Education classes, both of which draw hundreds of students and adults from across the County to Blair. Though these programs provide necessary community educational support, the Board forces Blair to house multiple additional activities each week, including church services every Sunday, according to Blair secretary Carrie Addison. These activities, some of which run as late as midnight, leave little time for custodians to clean the school; groups with as many as 2,000 members stay late into the night, sometimes causing messes that force custodians to clean as late as 2:30 a.m.

However, according to Business Manager Laurie Checco, Blair building services received less than $30 weekly during the 2003-2004 school year to cover all ICB activities, a woefully insufficient amount considering the work required to clean up after Blair's visitors. According to former Business Manager Anne Alban, Blair spends an additional $10,000 annually to provide for supplies, equipment and repairs that the ICB does not cover—money that shouldn't be leaving Blair's pockets because of the oversight of a distant committee.

In a June 8 Board of Education Meeting, MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast admitted that buildings wear out more quickly than they can be repaired with the amount of use they receive. The ICB must set a limit on school usage to relieve Blair's overused building and compensate for its overworked building services staff.

Furthermore, the ICB upholds a ridiculous policy that requires Blair students, teachers and the PTSA to request building space as much as six months in advance in order to be granted priority. The ICB must realize the Blair community's stake in using its own building and give students priority throughout the school year accordingly.
When Blair organizations are able to reserve building space, they must then pay exorbitant fees to the ICB. According to band parent Susan Crawford, SAC rental for Blair's annual three-hour jazz band Spring Fling planned for May 2005 would have cost about $450. The ensemble was forced to abandon plans of a Blair performance and book their concert at a nearby community center at a more reasonable price. Though student events, PTSA activities and non-profit organization meetings receive lower rental rates from the ICB than outside groups, they still have to dish out hundreds of dollars for merely a couple hours of school usage—an impossibility for many cash-strapped student organizations.

The ICB cannot meet basic student needs because it doesn't allow for sufficient school representation. Despite the fact that the ICB mainly impacts County schools, only two of the 12 board members are principals, and they are left powerless in their minority. Ironically, the Board's voting members are mostly citizen representatives appointed by the County Executive or County Council who are not at all affected by the ICB's decisions. The Board must modify their composition, providing the most voice for those most affected by usage: County schools.

In addition to the lack of school voices on the ICB, the Board lacks proper priorities. Over $1.7 million of the $5.7 million collected from ICB facility usage fees this year will be expended for the 2004 salaries and benefit packages of the Board's 27 support staffers, according to the Board budget summary. When combined with the $250,000 annual overhead paid to the County government for personnel costs, nearly one-third of the ICB expenditures support its office staff instead of County schools. Instead of giving back extra funding to schools worn out by the ICB's overscheduling, the Board chooses to fund an inflated support staff that provides little aid to the community. The ICB must not only cut back on its support staff to ensure that more of its revenues are channeled to building service workers, but it must also raise rates for outside organizations so that more money is available for maintenance.

In order to achieve its purpose of truly aiding the community, the ICB must start supporting students instead of other school users. Until the Board starts holding up its end of the bargain, it will remain as it is—an enemy to students countywide.

To advocate students' right to use their own school, call Community Use of Public Facilities Director Ginny Gong at (240) 777-2722.

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John Silberholz. The Chips PRODMAN (and editoral board member), John enjoys basketball, tennis and biking, looks forward to yet another year on Chips. Among other things, he enjoys climbing trees (even though he has a weird tendancy of falling off of them), biking like crazy, playing basketball, … More »

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