Clemens Crossing Elementary School

School Safety First

As I begin my first full school year leading the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), I have made it a top priority to ensure every child receives the support they need to reach their potential. In order to thrive academically and with their social-emotional skills, every student must feel safe in their school environment. All schools use the LobbyGuard visitor management system to verify every school visitor is authorized to enter the building. I have directed staff to implement consistent and more comprehensive check-in procedures, so our community can collectively do everything in our power to protect our children.

LobbyGuard As we follow best practices to safeguard students and staff members in every building, our parents and community members might notice some changes in their school visitor experience. Visitors will need their driver’s license to sign in with the LobbyGuard self-service kiosk for accurate background checks. Without an ID, visitors must check in with front office staff, which can cause delays especially during peak times. We’re providing additional support and training for our school-based staff, so they’re equipped to address any concerns and ensure the check-in changes are seamless.

We need the support and participation of the entire community to make sure our buildings are safe. I’m truly appreciative of your patience and understanding as we ramp up safety requirements that are in place for the purpose of protecting our children, which I know is a top priority we all share. Thank you for partnering with Howard County schools to provide a safe learning environment where all our students can thrive.

MPIA Press Conference BOE Board of Education Dr. Martirano July 14, 2017

Moving Forward in Ensuring Transparency

Every day I am humbled by the incredible privilege and responsibility of educating the children of Howard County. I take to heart that families must have faith in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) for us to effectively partner together in preparing the next generation for the future. Our recent launch of the online tracking system for Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests represents an important step forward in ensuring transparency and ultimately building trust with the community.

As of this month, the new MPIA tracking system is fully online at mpia.hcpss.org. Once a member of the public submits a request online, they can follow the request status in real-time as HCPSS prepares its response. Via the tracking system, requests and responsive documents for completed MPIA submissions will be available for public inspection.

We understand that the MPIA is one of the most valuable tools available to our community for obtaining public records and documents. HCPSS is committed to providing the fullest possible access allowable by law to all records, documents and information relating to school system decisions and operations through its MPIA responses.

The new online system is a win-win for our community and our system. This site gives our stakeholders much easier access to the information they seek, while adding efficiency to school system operations.

We believe HCPSS is the first school system in the region to introduce an online MPIA presence. I am confident we are setting a new standard that other school systems throughout the region and nation will seek to emulate.

We welcome members of the public to use this tool to gain a better understanding of our operations and move forward with us as a cohesive community dedicated to our children’s education.

Picture of three girls with Bright Minds bags

10 Years Supporting Opportunity for All

PIcture of Pat SassePat Sasse was hired as Bright Minds Foundation’s first executive director in 2009, and has been working since with the board and the school administration to establish the nonprofit in the community. Sasse spent her earlier career at the Social Security Administration, where she held increasingly responsible management positions and retired as the deputy director of the Baltimore Call Center. Here Sasse reflects on where the foundation stands today, after a decade of support to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS).

The Bright Minds Foundation is the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) educational foundation, created in 2006 to support HCPSS students. It is governed by a board made up of private citizens who meet regularly to plan and oversee the successful pursuit of its mission. There are two employees who manage the day-to-day work and implement the programs. The board and employees consult HCPSS staff to determine emerging needs and then work to raise private funding to help fill those needs. Our mission statement is: “We support education, aspirations and the opportunity to succeed for all students in the Howard County Public School System.”

You might know Bright Minds as the nonprofit organization that provides technology to students who don’t have access at home. And, yes, that has been our signature program from the beginning, and we’ve continued because the need continues to grow. Over the years, we have donated almost 1,000 computers to students and families who otherwise would not have this tool at their fingertips. Our motto has been: “Imagine not having a computer when you go home…” Our program has ensured that disadvantaged students can cross the digital divide to succeed and that their parents have access to school information online. We know this program is changing lives, and we have many stories that illustrate this.

What you may not know about are the other programs in place to support students. Our Staff and Teacher Grant program has allowed HCPSS educators to implement classroom enrichment projects ranging from STEM projects like geocaching, using handheld GPS equipment purchased with grant funds, to health initiatives, like the purchase of heart rate monitors for middle school students to use when they exercise in physical education classes. One teacher introduced electrophoresis (DNA fingerprinting techniques!) to her class, another has brought the art of playwriting taught by actual play writers into high school classrooms, and others have commissioned original compositions for their band students to play for the first time. Grants range from $500 to $2,000 each, and they are competitive. Staff members complete applications describing their projects and how they help fulfill the Bright Minds’ mission, and selections are made by Bright Minds board members serving on the Grants Review team. This program has provided over $100,000 in small grants across the school system over the years, and we will award several more in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

We are excited to describe our newest program, Driving Student Success. We have set up a separate fund to raise money to increase the number of after-school activity buses available to any student who wants to participate in a variety of after-school programs but until now did not have an option to return home. Launched in November 2015, through collaboration with District 1 Councilman Jon Weinstein, we have been able to fund extra buses at six schools since January, with donations provided by local businesses. A list of the businesses who have contributed and information about how you can also contribute to the fund can be found at www.drivingstudentsuccess.org. We are collecting statistical data about the first six months of the program and will share it on this website and in our regular newsletters.

In summary, we honor the many generous donors in our community who have committed to supporting our students and our outstanding educational system by contributing to programs that provide opportunity for all. Anyone seeking more information about the Bright Minds Foundation can visit www.brightmindsfoundation.org or contact me, Executive Director Pat Sasse, at 410-740-0707.