Article by Jordan Tucker | Photo by Matt Hubbard | Owl Staff
The new budget plan for Harford County Public Schools (HCPS), which passed in 2019 and called for 108 teaching, staff, and administrative positions to be cut, was met with outcry from the community.
Chrystie Smick, Harford County Education Association (HCEA) President and former teacher, plays an active role in the effort to keep HCPS well-funded and forward-thinking.
Smick has three children who are currently enrolled in Harford County schools. She is also President of the ParentTeacher Association (PTA) at North Harford Elementary School. Owl Magazine asked Smick about her vision for the future of HCPS.
Owl Magazine: When and why did you get involved with PTA?
Chrystie Smick: “I got involved when my eldest daughter was in kindergarten. I have always been a ‘doer’ so I was happy to volunteer my time and help give back to the school. Prior to my time as HCEA President, I was a teacher in HCPS for 17 years.”
OM: How would you describe the current class sizes in Harford County?
CS: “Class sizes are extremely large in many schools across the county. My eldest has 30 or more students in all of her classes at NHMS [North Harford Middle School]. That is
a recent phenomenon at that school and is directly correlated to the cuts HCPS was forced to make last year as a result of years of systemic underfunding.”
OM: How would you describe the student teacher ratio? Would you like to see it change?
CS: “There is a massive amount of research that proves smaller classes are correlated to student success. Our student-teacher ratio needs to improve. I also would like to see more paraeducators [ employees who assist and support teachers in the classroom] in all of our schools. Having another adult in the room makes a difference.”
OM: What’s your vision for how Harford County can incentivize local teachers to stay in the area? How might it attract new teachers?
CS: “In order to keep them here, we need to ensure that the salary remains competitive with surrounding districts. Currently the starting salary is attractive, but we lose ground as folks move through the pay scale.”
OM: How would you describe parental involvement at this time?
CS: “I would love to see more parents involved in the fight to solve HCPS’s funding issues. Involvement has increased, but I think there are still many out there who don’t realize how important their voice is and [that] they can make a difference.”
OM: What issue do you think should be the main focus for HCPS at this time?
CS: “Restoring positions to lower class sizes, and addressing the mental health needs of our students.”
OM: What is your vision for the future of education in Harford County?
CS: “My vision is for all students to receive a world-class education that addresses their needs. Not all students learn the same [so] it’s imperative that all of our diverse learners have their needs met. I am extremely hopeful for the future of HCPS. I truly believe the current leadership will put the district back on the path to success.”