With the approval of the FY 2014 Capital Improvement Plan at Monday’s Harford Board of Education meeting, Havre de Grace supporters had a pleasant ride home. Their persistance and hard work toward pushing for a new high school was finally beginning to pay off.
A total of $3.7 million was requested from Harford County for funding the design of a new Havre de Grace High School.
The Harford County Council and the State of Maryland will be responsible for helping push the entire project's funding package through before the dream of many Havre de Grace residents comes to fruition.
The board passed the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Improvement Plan by a 7-1 vote—only board member Robert Frisch voted against the plan, citing “principle.”
Frisch made a motion, supported by Joseph Hau, to delete Havre de Grace High School from the FY2014 Capital Improvement Plan and move it to fiscal year 2015. It failed.
Havre de Grace City Councilman David Glenn asked Board of Education members if they would be OK with their child attending a school lacking technology and plagued with security issues.
Glenn stressed that the students at Havre de Grace are not operating on a “level playing field” with other high schools in the county.
“One of the primary goals of this board is to provide a safe and secure learning environment. Given the current situation at Havre de Grace High School, we’re falling short of that goal,” Glenn said. “Bottom line, a new Havre de Grace High School is long overdue. It’s time to take the politics out of the mix and do what is best for the students at Havre de Grace. Don’t jeopardize their education and certainly don’t let them be a pawn in this process. They have way too much to lose."
He continued, “I challenge you, don’t listen to me, listen to our students who have given testimony time and time again. They are the ones who have been truly impacted."
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The board's newest member, Have de Grace representative Thomas Fitzpatrick, recently toured Havre de Grace High School, Youth’s Benefit Elementary and Patterson Mill High School.
He said he was able to see the contrast between the schools and just how modernized they are compared to Havre de Grace and Youth’s Benefit.
Fitzpatrick, who made it a point to let the audience know he was without his “It’s Our Turn” button, also spoke on fairness.
“I’m not wearing that button tonight and the reason I’m not wearing that button today is because at some point, even though I still wear my Havre de Grace hat and I’m a proud member of my community, I also have to consider the fact that I am on the Board of Education of Harford County, as we all are. Our obligation is to do the best that we can for the constituents and students that we serve and the administration that we oversee and manage,” Fitzpatrick said.
He continued, “And so when I talk about fairness, I think about what we’re asking for in this capital improvement budget and the amendments we have approved so far. As I said earlier, I believe that what we have come up with at this point basically addresses the need for a new Havre de Grace High School.”
Nastassia Smith, Vice President of Student Council at the high school, said Havre de Grace High School students are “cheated and deprived.”
Smith shared that the school’s current seniors are using the same books that her brother used. He graduated in 2006. She also complained of restricted AP classes due to lack of classroom space.
The replacement of Havre de Grace High School has become a priority, thanks to the efforts of those who have attended meetings for the past two months. But credit is also due in part to the support of Harford County Executive David Craig. He informed Harford County Council that he would not fund any other school replacement projects in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 until a new facility for Havre de Grace High was approved.