November 18, 2007

Howard County Schools Hires New Ombuds and Plans New Limits on Authority

Earlier this month, the Howard County Public School System introduced Rosemarie Dennison as its new ombuds. Dennison began on November 6 and will work 24 hours per week at an annual salary of $30,240. Dennison is the former head of community advisory group and her son is a student in the school system. Dennison is a licensed graduate social worker with a Masters Degree from the University of Maryland and she also is certificated in mediation. (HCPSS News; Columbia Flier.)

Meanwhile, the HCPSS Board of Education is set to significantly revise its policy defining the ombuds office. In some respects the changes are appropriate, including clarification that the ombuds is not an agent for notice and an explicit emphasis on timely problem resolution. In addition, the ombuds office will now serve school employees.

Other proposed revisions, however, are troubling, including:
  • Removed references to the independence of the Ombudsman;
  • Added responsibility for policy input;
  • Added requirements to maintain confidential records and databases;
  • Added requirement will "champion Board policies and systemwide goals, procedures, and initiatives"; and
  • Removed any reference to TOA or other ombuds professional standards.

A hearing on the proposed changes is set for November 29. (HCPSS Report on Ombuds Policy Changes; Baltimore Sun.)

The pending decision to move away from the professional standards of practice is both unusual and unexpected.

Prior posts: Job Posting; Howard County Schools Reviewing Applications.

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