Before reviewing the grueling Board of Education budget information, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners recognized two distinct Calvert County educators’ dedication and professionalism in fulfilling their roles as teachers and support professionals.

John Allen Credit: LinkedIn

John Allen, a journalism teacher at Huntingtown high school, was named the Calvert County Public School 2023 Teacher of the Year.

Beth Morton, Principal of Huntingtown High School, was present and spoke highly of Allen’s accomplishments and dedication to his craft.

“He empowers the students so that when they leave high school, they will be ready for their future,” Morton stated.

Allen stated that he and his wife moved to Calvert County in 1990 and had their own public television production company for over 25 years and then decided he was going back to teaching, a career he had once held.

Huntingtown high school’s Eye of the Storm Theatre Productions, directed by Derek Anderson, was honored for winning the Chapter Select One-Act Festival State Championships. The group is invited to represent the state at the 2023 International Thespian Festival that will take place in June in Bloomington, Indiana.

Keren Tuck was honored with a proclamation as the 2023 Support Professional of the Year. She is a four-year employee with Calvert County Public Schools and assists at Sunderland Elementary School.

Public Safety Proclamation

Calvert County Animal Control Officer Derrick Robinson, Jr. was leaving his home in Charles County to head to work in Calvert when he came up on a serious vehicle accident earlier this month.

A Dodge Durango and an 18-wheeler had collided. Robinson and a good Samaritan pulled a passenger out of his vehicle just minutes before it caught fire.

Beforehand, Robinson used his vehicle to block the roadway, giving first responders time and space to secure the scene. Robinson humbly accepted the proclamation Tuesday. He was said to have made it to work by 9 a.m. that morning.

The commissioners all extended their gratitude to Robinson for his heroic endeavor.

Parks and Recreation

Director of Calvert County Parks and Recreation Shannon Nazzal presented information on the project to relocate and expand the tennis court complex at Dunkirk District Park.

The project includes five tennis courts, four pickleball courts, parking, lighting, restrooms, and related amenities.

The Commissioners had approved funding, but after the bid in March 2023, it was determined that all bids came back over the approved budget.

The document presented stated, ‘By amending our request with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to an additional $745,000, Calvert County will be able to move forward with the construction of this much-anticipated project in the community that has an approximate twelve-month construction period.’

If awarded, a public hearing will be scheduled to amend the FY 2023 Adopted Budget to allocate $745,000 in grant funds to the Dunkirk District Park Tennis Courts CIP project. A 25% match is required for Program Open Space projects which have already been accounted for in the current approved project budget.

Stay tuned for that public hearing, and if you’d like to comment, you may do so in person at the County Commissioner’s meetings or over the phone. See the County website for information on how to go about that.

“It’s phenomenal what a request can cost,” Hart said. “People ask for amenities, and this is what it costs, but don’t raise taxes.”

Board of Education

Director of Finance and Budget, Sharon Strand and Calvert County Public School Superintendent, Dr. Andrae’ Townsel presented the updated information regarding the Blue Print and fiscal year 2023-2026 budget.

With over 15,000 students in the Calvert County public school system, Townsel stated that the Board of Education aims to attract and retain highly qualified educators.

A hot topic was the mandated full-day Pre-Kindergarten and the income guidelines, based on which families qualify for free Pre-K or reduced price. Another concern is space. Does Calvert County have ample classroom space for all of the children aged for Pre-K?

Advancement placement and certification testing needed for students must now be paid for. Those are no longer free. National board-certified teachers will also see a pay increase.

Townsel stated that before his first day on the board, a communications team did not exist in Calvert County, and one does now.

“If you’re running a multimillion-dollar program, you need a communications team which we didn’t have. We now have one.” Townsel said.

Townsel is also seeking three additional safety advocates, which is something in addition to what is mandated by the Blue Print. Townsel did dial back on the number of athletic trainers and behavioral support staff.

Commissioner Mark C. Cox, Sr. said, “It’s great to hear that you’re in favor of supporting the teacher’s salaries. Do they include the fringe benefits? It’s also great to hear about the support staff. How many do we have for the Pre-K program?”

“By Friday I’ll have a better idea of numbers for Pre-K,” Townsel said. “We will have space for all Pre-K by September.”

Commissioner Catherine Grasso expressed her frustration in getting the updated budget information late Monday evening, causing staff to work late into the evening.

“We were due this presentation on April 20, 2023,” Grasso said. “We got this late last night and then to see another increase today is disrespectful to this board. We’d like a firm commitment from  you today on when we will get answers from you.”

Townsel replied, “I didn’t get all of the questions back until April 20th and we didn’t want to just give any answer. We wanted to work on it until it was correct. We [board of education] will probably continue to give answers to questions.”

Grasso said her office would follow up and see why the questions didn’t get to the board of education before April 20th.

County administrator Mark Willis and County Attorney John Norris attempted to simplify the Tier levels for the Pre-K program as well as the COLA (cost of living adjustments) and step increases.

Norris said that the county needs the base salaries for teachers from the year 2019 to make the necessary adjustments mandated by the state moving forward.

Hart said he’s waiting for more information from the state; he doesn’t feel prepared to make any final decisions on the budget at this time.

Commissioner President Earl F. Hance wanted clarification on workforce development.

“We’ve been collaborating with the College of Southern Maryland on that,” Townsel said.

Workforce development is an initiative that educates and trains students to achieve in business and industry.

“I’m hesitant in giving that when the state may be providing that,” Hance said. “I believe that’s not an ask from us. As far as new positions you have here for bus assistants. How does that cut down on the time for student transports?”

Townsel explained that buses could not transport special needs students, without an aide on the bus. He said hiring a couple more aides would speed up transportation.

In public comment, a consumer called in to note that special needs students are riding the same bus home with children with behavioral [or conduct] distinctions, causing safety issues.

“I don’t understand how Calvert is asking for more than St. Mary’s and Charles County combined,” Hance said in frustration. “I understand that others counties may not be looking at total staff and we are. You’re new and it’s unfortunate that you’ve walked into this situation.

“We’re going to do what’s fair for our school system. When you come in and ask for 24 million dollars. I know that you’re as challenged as we are just as my three commissioners that are new are challenged and walking through this.

We represent the taxpayers of this county and we’re going to do what’s best for them. I don’t know how we’re going to address this. This fund balance was money left to you [by taxpayers]

This board is not going to let you fail. I believe we should use some fund balance to offset some of this. It was their money that you’re holding in that fund balance. I don’t believe it’s fair to the taxpayers not to use some of it.”

Hance said that they may have to revisit this budget in six months.

“You’re going to have salary savings just because you’ll have vacancies,” Hance said. “This is just a work session, and I may get shot before I’m out of here, but to get this budget, we may have to revisit this. I’m just speaking for myself. I didn’t vet this with my colleagues here, but I am venting this morning. I’m not going to let this school system fail.”

Hart said in the past, the numbers were there from year to year, but now Maryland has blown it up.

“There isn’t a lot of clarity and they forgot about support staff which I don’t know how they do that,” Hart said. “Someone said just write a blank check but that’s not going to happen. You can’t pay what you don’t know. We don’t know Pre-K numbers. We haven’t gotten daycare information. I know the good will is there. We’re supposed to be a non-profit organization basically. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a work in progress. We know we need more mental health professionals as well.”

The next board of education meeting is Thursday, May 11th, 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.Meetings are held in the Board Room of the Brooks Administrative Building at 1305 Dares Beach Road in Prince Frederick, Maryland. For additional questions or comments, email Karen Maxey at or call at 443-550-8006.–

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply