Why The Fight Over CentennialI was struck by a comment in...


February 07, 1993

Why The Fight Over Centennial

I was struck by a comment in your Jan. 13 editorial entitled "Explosion at Centennial," stating: "That any school in a county as wealthy as Howard would be judged as inferior by a large number of parents is outrageous."

The current Centennial/Wilde Lake controversy does not mark the first time that parents in Howard County have been dismayed over redistricting plans, nor is it the first time that quality disparities have been evident.

Elementary school children living in Hopewell (Owen Brown Village, East Columbia) are bused across three local districts to Talbott Springs Elementary School. Hopewell residents have petitioned the Board of Education to redistrict the children to a school which is adjacent to their neighborhood. In their latest attempt, they were told that they were well-organized and had an excellent case, which was then summarily dismissed by the board!

That there is a significant quality disparity between Talbott Springs and the rest of the elementary schools in Howard County is supported by empirical evidence. For example, the average score on the California Achievement Tests by third graders at Talbott Springs ranked in the 64th percentile nationally, compared to the county-wide ranking in the 81st percentile (data from fall 1989). The rankings for Centennial and Wilde Lake high schools in the same time period were 88 and 79 respectively.

This problem has been so persistent that some parents have . . . sent their kids to private schools. Others who can't afford that option have put their children in other Howard County schools via the open enrollment program, but have had to assume personal responsibility for transportation.

The big question is: Why hasn't the issue of quality disparity been addressed and resolved? The answer is quite simple: size. A school district such as Howard County has over 30,000 students enrolled. . . . Given that size, it is unlikely that a relatively small group of parents will draw much attention and/or receive much consideration, as they don't wield significant political power. The Centennial/Wilde Lake quality issue has nTC received publicity because of the large number of students affected and the high income profile of the Centennial neighborhood. Such attention, unfortunately, is not often paid to quality disparities affecting smaller numbers of students in lower-income areas. . . . The first step to a solution, however, can be quite simple: Restore control and decision-making authority over neighborhood schools to neighborhood school boards who are empowered to hire and fire school administrators and teachers.

This could be done by dividing county school districts into smaller administrative sub-districts, where the authority for monitoring curriculum and the performance of teachers and administrators could be granted to sub-district boards elected by the neighborhood residents. . . . The county administrators and Board of Education would then be primarily responsible for seeing that publicly funded resources are allocated equitably across all county schools . . .

By restoring local decision-making authority . . ., problems of quality can be more efficiently addressed and managed. This would bring us one step closer to making problems such as the Centennial/Wilde Lake redistricting irrelevant.

Steven C. Isberg



I am writing about the proposed redistricting of Centennial High School. The idea has caused an uproar among the parents in the developments of Dorsey Hall, Longfellow, Hobbits Glen and Beaverbrook.

I do not think that students that were expecting to go to a school with a reputation such as Centennial should have to go to a school with a reputation such as Wilde Lake's. I feel that if it is necessary to expand Centennial, then that's what should be done. It would not hurt the students of Centennial to have a few more relocatable classrooms in the back field.

I think that before a final decision has been made, county officials should weigh the options very carefully and consider all of the details involved.

Grant Parsons

Ellicott City

Oella Lot Will Benefit Community

i am writing in response to the two letters regarding the Oella parking lot published in The Sun Jan. 3. These two opponents of the parking lot project seem to feel that because the majority of those attending the Greater Oella Community Association meeting did not support their point of view, the meeting was somehow undemocratic.

While it is true that many new members joined the association that night, all of them are residents and members of this community and were entitled to a vote. . . . Not all who joined that night were new residents; some had been here several years and had never gotten involved.

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