Superintendent Jerry Weast unveiled his recommended fiscal year 2003 MCPS operating budget at Blair on Dec 6. The budget is significantly less than originally planned but manages to keep most school programs and initiatives intact.
Several Blair-related items were recommended funding. Most notably, Weast said that he is "pushing for" the reopening of Northwood High School as part of the Down-County Consortium, the proposed solution to Blair's overcrowding problem. "I'm sure the consortium is going to bring us something good for all our students," he said. "I'm very proud of it."
According to Community Superintendent Theresa Flak, the operating budget fully funds the continued implementation of the consortium. "No cuts were made in that area," she said.
In addition, the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) recently allocated $14 million for Northwood's reopening.
While the allocation is less than the $15 to 20 million sought by the Blair cluster, cluster coordinators Suzanne Costilo and Betsy Scroggs said in a letter to the BOE that they viewed it as a "good-faith commitment." They added that reopening Northwood is "of critical importance" to alleviating overcrowding in the Blair and Einstein clusters.
If approved by the County Council, the $1.3 billion fiscal 2002 operating budget would increase by only $71 million next year, $35 million less than the $106 million increase that was anticipated prior to the county's recent economic downturn.
The increase is far less than MCPS has received in previous years, and the vast majority of the increase—$66 million—is already allocated to negotiated salary and benefits increases.
Weast said that most of the cuts necessary to make up for the reduction would come from positions in the MCPS central office.
However, there could be serious problems if the funding for the $71 million increase does not materialize, he said. MCPS anticipates that the county will provide $50 million and that state and federal sources will provide $21 million. "I'm concerned about what will happen if we don't get $50 million from the county," he said.
If his budget request is fully funded, Weast said that the $35 million shortfall will not have a significant effect on students. "We've taken every measure to minimize the economic impact on the classroom," he said.
He pointed to the fact that the budget continues his initiatives to expand both all-day kindergarten classes and the Workforce Excellence program, which provides in-school support to teachers.
The budget also funds the opening of a Center for the Highly Gifted at the Blair cluster's Pine Crest Elementary School.
Pine Crest, which is currently home to a technology magnet, would be one of two schools in the county involved in the first expansion of the Center for the Highly Gifted program in 17 years.
The operating budget must pass through a review process before the BOE takes final action on it on June 11, 2002. Public meetings will be held in January, and the budget will then be presented to the County Council for approval.
The Dec 6 budget meeting was held in the Blair auditorium with overflow seating in the SAC. Weast recognized Blair senior Amilcar Vega, a Salvadoran immigrant, for his achievement in mathematics. Vega received a standing ovation from the crowd.
In addition, the jazz band and chamber choir performed, and junior Terique Greenfield and senior Irene Liu played the piano prior to the presentation.
Those interested in speaking before the BOE regarding the operating budget should call the BOE Members Office at 301-279-3617 by Dec 26. Public meetings will be held Jan 9, 10 and 16 at 7:00 p.m.
Kang-Xing Jin. Kang-Xing ("Mr. K") Jin is a senior in the Blair magnet program. His first name is pronounced exactly like it is spelled--"consin," as in the last two syllables of Wisconsin, where he was born. This year, he is co-managing news editor of Chips. Besides journalism, ... More »