Parents to counter 'haughty attitude' at Baltimore Co. school headquarters

March 30, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Some Baltimore County parents say they aren't getting the respect they deserve from school administrators and school board members.

And they aren't going to take it any longer. At least not quietly.

Led by PTA activists Shirley Giberson of Kingsville and Lore Bradshaw of Perry Hall, the parents will begin to talk back tomorrow night at 7 at the Perry Hall Library during the first meeting of a fledgling group called PRIDE -- Parents' Rights In Developing Education.

Although Mrs. Bradshaw says tension between the school board and parents is not unusual, it is more pronounced this year.

With a new superintendent, the introduction of site-based management, the creation of magnet high schools and an administrative reorganization, change is everywhere.

Committees -- some appointed by the superintendent and some in existence when he arrived -- are studying the gifted-and-talented program, grading procedures, placement of special education students, year-round school and a student weighting system to distribute teachers and other resources.

These developments, and more, have kept the school community buzzing. Nevertheless, PRIDE's creator, Mrs. Giberson, said she has no idea what kind of response the organizational meeting will draw.

"I intend to start a fire," said the mother of four. "I'm trying to get a cohesive group -- an angry, cohesive group."

The frustrated parents who put PRIDE together say they aren't objecting to any specific event, but to an attitude change -- one that's not for the better.

"Up to now, the Board of Education has never so abusively flaunted its power," says Mrs. Giberson, She says the board and Superintendent Stuart Berger are "insensitive to the parent constituency, negligent in not allowing the flow of communication and dismissive to parents' voices and inquiries."

Mrs. Bradshaw concurs: "I don't blame any one member . . . but I hold the school board accountable for the attitude. We just want to make the school board aware that they are hurting our feelings. They are not communicating."

"I think it's a phony issue," Dr. Berger responded.

"I've probably been at 75 night PTA meetings -- that's half the schools."

Dr. Berger also listed a variety of recent decisions he and the board made in response to parents' and teachers' requests, including modification of high school graduation requirements, calendar changes and a Lutherville school boundary realignment that went against his staff's recommendation.

Mrs. Giberson conceded that she has never spoken with Dr. Berger, but has heard him at hearings and school board meetings, and she has talked with board President Rosalie Hellman on the telephone.

Each time, she said, she has felt intimidated by a "haughty attitude."

"If you at least let people say what they think, then they are not going to be upset," says Mrs. Bradshaw, the mother of six children, four of whom are in Perry Hall-area schools. "I have a lot of mistrust because of all the secrecy."

PRIDE plans to network with other community groups and use letter-writing and telephone campaigns, bumper stickers and public meetings to meet its goals: an improved attitude toward parents, written explanations of decisions affecting schools and a regular practice of laying out plans and seeking suggestions before major changes are enacted.

"If we just made them take a step back and wait a minute, that would be OK," says Mrs. Bradshaw.

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