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Board of Education Briefs

By Hunter Hine, Staff Writer

(March 30, 2023) The Worcester County Public Schools Board of Education discussed the following during its March 21 meeting:

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment results

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) results showed that 73 percent of Worcester County’s incoming kindergarteners were primed for the classroom, with the rest of the state trailing behind that figure, said Early Childhood Education Coordinator Diane Shorts.

The KRA, which is based on an assessment kindergartener’s take in the first two months of school, evaluates children’s skills, knowledge and behaviors as part of Maryland’s Early Childhood Comprehensive assessment system, according to the BOE meeting agenda.

The average percentage of kindergarten-ready children throughout the state was 42 percent in 2022, which WCPS topped by 31 percentage points, according to data presented by Shorts. Worcester County had the highest score in the state of Maryland.

“So we’re significantly above. Do we have some more to go? Absolutely. Seventy-three is not all of our students, so we need to figure out what we need to do to get 100 percent,” Shorts said.

The KRA began in 2014 by census testing, or testing every kindergartener entering school, according to the slides.

From 2016-2022 schools could choose to evaluate based on a sample group of children or continue census testing, but for the 2022-2023 school year, all kindergarteners were required to participate.

“The research out there shows that, the assessment here, if we do not intervene, it is what they will kinda look like in high school,” Shorts said. “And so this is valuable, valuable information for us to have so early in their career so that we can help out in any way.”

Blueprint for Maryland’s Future submitted to AIB

Denise Shorts, chief academic officer for grades PK-8 said that on March 15, the board submitted its initial plan for implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB).

The AIB is partnered with the Maryland State Department of Education, and it was created to oversee the Blueprint’s implementation in state and local education, according to the MSDE website.

The AIB will provide feedback for the initial plan between April and May, rating the 164 questions presented in the plan as “met,” “partially met” or “not met.” For full approval, no question can be “partially met” or “not met.” Then the AIB will send it back to WCPS for a second draft.

By July the board is expected to resubmit the implementation plan for final approval, Shorts said.

Security cameras, HVAC updates for local schools

The board approved a $1.26 million upgrade of security cameras in Snow Hill High School, Pocomoke High School, Worcester Technical High School and Ocean City Elementary School, after a presentation from Maintenance and Operations Manager Sam Slacum and Coordinator of Safety and Security Shawn Goddard.

ARK Systems, a Maryland-based company specializing in data communications, video, security alarm systems and more, is contracted to complete the upgrade.

The project is mostly funded by money set aside by the County Commissioners which amounts to about $1.5 million, of which $975,000 is going to the camera upgrades, said Chief Financial Officer Vincent Tolbert.

Directly after the camera project approval, the board also approved rooftop HVAC unit replacements at Pocomoke and Snow Hill middle schools through a $548,295 contract with Wilfre, Co, a mechanical contractor from Hebron, Maryland.

Funds from the County Commissioners will also cover the project, Tolbert said, along with local funding and Delmarva Power Rebate dollars, Slacum said.

FY24 proposed budget approved

The board approved the proposed FY24 Operating budget with numerous increases in expenditures and revenue after a presentation by Tolbert.

The proposed total revenue for the budget is almost $132 million, about 80 percent of which will come from county appropriations.

Just over 19 percent of the revenue will come from state aid, a $2.86 million increase in state funding compared to last year.

Expenditure increases will include an over $4.25 million increase for salaries, a $1.1 million, or 9.49 percent, increase in health insurance and $403,742 in bus contractor increases, raising the hourly wage from $25 to $28.