Monday, December 15, 2014

Cecil County Officials Need to Hear from You


Last year when I started attending Cecil County Council meetings and following the work of the county government more closely, I frequently saw the same faces and heard the same voices decrying what they considered overspending by the county. I didn't realize it then but these same people are active year round, not just during budget season. Here's audio from public comment portion of the 12/2/14 county council meeting 

Your Silence Gives Your Consent

Imagine you’re a member of the County Council--nearly every week you hear from a handful of people who believe spending should be reduced in all areas of government. Those same people repeatedly claim that “you promised to cut spending when you were campaigning” and that “I helped you get elected and you are letting us down.”

Anyway, every week, at every meeting, you hear those same people talk about the same concerns. If you don’t also hear from those who support spending for schools, parks and recreation, emergency services, or other programs, you could believe that these residents speak for the majority. It’s time for the rest of us to show our support for the programs we feel are necessary to make Cecil County stronger.

County Council Meetings are Held on 1st and 3rd Tuesdays

The Cecil County Council usually holds legislative meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7 PM. Those meetings are generally preceded by the Citizen’s Corner at 6 PM. Check the Cecil County government website for dates, times, and agendas of upcoming meetings as well as minutes and audio recordings of past meetings.

For those whose schedules don’t permit them to attend a council meeting, emails and phone calls to the County Council and County Executive are just as effective.

If you support public education in Cecil County and expect our schools to be adequately funded, please contact our county officials and tell them our schools have been underfunded for too long.

Contact the County Executive and members of the County Council today.

County Executive
Tari Moore
tmoore@ccgov.org

County Council
Alan McCarthy
amccarthy@ccgov.org
District 1

Joyce Bowlsbey
jbowlsbey@ccgov.org
District 2

Dan Schneckenburger
dschneckenburger@ccgov.org
District 3

George Patchell
gpatchell@ccgov.org
District 4

Robert Hodge
rhodge@ccgov.org
District 5

To make it easier, just copy these email addresses and paste them into an email: tmoore@ccgov.org, amccarthy@ccgov.org, jbowlsbey@ccgov.org, dschneckenburger@ccgov.org, gpatchell@ccgov.org, rhodge@ccgov.org


 CCPS budget process

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cecil County Public Schools Budgeting Underway

Email your support today!



To do list
I know you’re rushing to prepare for the Christmas holiday, but would you add one thing to your to-do list? If you support public education in Cecil County, please reach out to our County Executive and County Council to let them know where you stand.

The Board of Education for Cecil County Public Schools has started developing the budget for fiscal year 2016 and, after several years of reduced funding from the county, the school system is now in a precarious position. The system has been forced to deplete its reserve fund to cover some of those shortfalls yet there are still many needs that lack funding. Click here to read more about the school budget

Superintendent Dr. D’ette Devine summarized the situation by saying, “Schools have endured too little for too long.”


County Officials Need to Hear from Us

I’ve said it a few times lately--if you support public education or, for that matter, support any program funded at least in part by Cecil County, you need to contact our elected officials to let them know how important these programs are for growing and sustaining our community.


There are citizens who regularly speak at county council meetings, telling officials that money shouldn’t be “wasted” on schools and social programs. We need to start voicing our support for school funding and continue to let our voices be heard year round or risk our silence being considered consent for the status quo.


Contact the County Executive and members of the County Council today.


County Executive
Tari Moore
tmoore@ccgov.org

County Council
Alan McCarthy
amccarthy@ccgov.org
District 1

Joyce Bowlsbey
jbowlsbey@ccgov.org
District 2

Dan Schneckenburger
dschneckenburger@ccgov.org
District 3

George Patchell
gpatchell@ccgov.org
District 4

Robert Hodge
rhodge@ccgov.org
District 5


To make it easier, just copy these email addresses and paste them into an email: tmoore@ccgov.org, amccarthy@ccgov.org, jbowlsbey@ccgov.org, dschneckenburger@ccgov.org, gpatchell@ccgov.org, rhodge@ccgov.org


The Budget Process


  • The Board of Education will spend the month of January preparing a budget that will be submitted to County Executive Tari Moore in mid-February.
  • At the end of March, the County Executive submits a proposed countywide budget to the County Council.
  • During April and May, the Board of Education will make a budget presentation to the County Council and a public hearing will be held with everything culminating in a County Council vote on the budget at the beginning of June.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Standing Up for Schools in Cecil County

or "How I used Content Marketing to get a school a track"

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak about some trouble I stirred up in the spring. I won't lie, I was nervous, but it was an honor and a thrill to speak to a like-minded group of parents, teachers, administrators, and students all supporting the work of Cecil County Public Schools.


My comments from that night:

Before this spring, I considered myself a pretty well informed parent--I was PTA treasurer at PES, I attended parent meetings on various topics, and I voted in every election.
Boy, was I wrong--I had--and still have--a lot to learn about how school systems and government agencies interact. But I’ve seen a community working together to make great things happen. By giving people information about a topic they’re passionate about in a way that’s easy for them to digest and pointing them in the right direction, you can create a force to be reckoned with.

It all started with a bare soccer field and a Facebook post.

I saw a Facebook post from CCPS asking for people to attend a county council meeting on March 18 in support of the CCPS budget. I decided to attend that evening’s meeting but I had no idea what I would say. To be honest, I was more specifically angling to talk with someone about the sorry state of our soccer field.

I sent a quick email to our principal and athletic director to ask about any Perryville-specific projects that I should advocate for--and they both responded with track, fields, field house.

Now, I had no idea what a field house was but I’d heard people complain about the lack of one at Perryville and I didn’t know anything about the state of the track--but I could tell you that our fields were beyond bare.

At that meeting, several parents and CCPS employees spoke about the specific needs of their schools--needs that included increased staffing and services--but most glaringly--the needs for maintenance of the facilities. I am not a public speaker and I was terrified to walk up to that microphone but, after hearing the pleas for funding, and the responses of some of the council members, I needed to do my part.

As I spoke to the council, I realized that, just as I had no idea how the county government worked, they had no idea what the facilities at PHS looked like and what our needs were.

And that’s when I decided to bring Perryville High School to them--online. That Sunday afternoon I took photos of athletic facilities at Perryville--then I drove to Rising Sun and North East High Schools, thinking their facilities had to be better than ours--I was wrong again--to my uneducated eye, those schools weren’t faring any better. That evening I posted those first photos on my blog and shared them on my Facebook page.

And by the end of the week, after a blog post that the track at Perryville had been deemed unfit for competition, my little blog that had had only 10,000 page views in 2 years, had 2,200 views in one day! Word was spreading beyond the internet because the Cecil Whig was calling me for a comment on the track!

The next few weeks are a bit of a blur as I started urging people to attend county council meetings and send email to the council and county executive. And I was overwhelmed with the response!

I was spending my spare time learning about the CCPS budget process and then creating blog posts with the information--and realizing that this was much more complex than I’d ever imagined.

You see, CCPS does an excellent job of documenting their work and plans for the future of the school system in their budget proposals and annual reports, unfortunately, that information isn't easy for some of us without sufficient background to understand and act on. I have a saying at times like these, “They’re all English words but I have no idea what they mean.”

So when I attended Dr. Devine's spring budget forum, I asked for "talking points" because I needed something I could easily grasp and re-purpose. Once I had that messaging, I was able to spread the story on my blog and on social media. I posted on Facebook and Twitter to reach the adults and shared some posts on Instagram to reach the teenagers.

A little over 6 months and one new track later, there seems to be a more positive spirit at PHS. New groups are forming to support specific programs or general needs and the students seem just as excited as the parents about making things happen at our school.

As Dr. Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

What does content marketing have to do with this?

I didn't realize it when I first started blogging about budgets and facilities but I was applying the basics of content marketing by creating and sharing content "to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action." In this case, my goal was driving actions, not profits, and, in order to do that, I had to help the audience--parents, students, other residents--understand what was at stake and how to get involved. Teachers and administrators already knew the needs of the school system but it all came down to funding. Once these groups were speaking as a more unified front, they were able to really get the attention of our elected officials.

It was a busy spring and I consider my efforts a success but a new budget season is about to get underway and the needs of our schools are just as great now as they were in the last budget.
Stay tuned--

Monday, November 3, 2014

WMAR TV report on emergency communications between Harford & Cecil Counties

This evening WMAR posted a story about their investigation into interoperability issues in the radio communications between Harford and Cecil Counties, focusing on an incident on September 15 when an officer with the Susquehanna Hose Company (SHCO) from Havre de Grace (Harford County) was injured fighting a fire in Elkton.

Watch the story

While I'm not a first responder, I am the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of former members of SHCO so this story hits close to my heart. Now a resident of Perryville (Cecil County), I wrote in July about what I perceived to be a breakdown in emergency radio communications. Read it here

I'm hoping this isn't the last we hear of this story.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Paving at Perryville High School--Yay!

Repaving of the Perryville High School parking lot is underway! It's a shame it had to wait for so long but it's finally happening due to Cecil County Council bill 2014-10. Paving at Rising Sun High and North East High are also included in the bill so I'm hoping those school lots are getting some much-needed attention.

Several seats on the county council will be up for election on November 4. These positions are critical in determining the amount of funding our local schools get each year so be sure to vote--and know where the candidate you choose stands on funding public education.