County needs an elected school boardThe abrupt adjournment...

the Forum

June 28, 1993

County needs an elected school board

The abrupt adjournment of the June 17 Baltimore County Board of Education meeting angered not only the parents and teachers who were present but many other county residents and former students.

Having graduated from a county high school just three years ago, I am shocked by the apparent decline in the school system's ability to educate and operate efficiently.

I cannot pinpoint the origins of this decline, but I have some ideas about where we can begin to reverse the loss of confidence in the county's public schools.

In a television interview, School Superintendent Stuart Berger insisted that most of the controversy surrounding the county schools is based on substance rather than a lack of communication. He said a small but vocal group of people simply do not like change and have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

He may be partly right on the substance issue, but when Mr. Berger says communication or the lack of it is not a factor, he is simply wrong.

Ever since he became superintendent, Mr. Berger has been making drastic changes very quickly and with a minimum of input. People want reform, but change must have a broad base of support, not the backing of only a small minority or an authoritarian superintendent.

Unfortunately, many people who have a great interest in the school system and in reforms -- parents, teachers and students themselves -- feel left out of the decision-making process. There is a lack of communication. The system has broken down.

How do we fix it? Roger Hayden's call for both sides to sit down and hash out their differences is a positive first step. But it might not work, and even if it does it may not prevent incidents like the June 17 one from happening again.

The overriding issue is the lack of accountability of the present school board. I doubt most people are aware of how board members are selected. Each year a nominating convention chooses people to fill five-year terms and makes its recommendations to the governor. He can either accept the convention's recommendation or choose another candidate to sit on the board.

The bottom line is that residents of Baltimore County have very little say in the selection of their school board. Since the people have no power to oust board members or the superintendent whom they select, the latter does not feel threatened by parent or teacher opposition to his policies.

Students and parents are left at the mercy of a faceless, omnipotent school board -- about as undemocratic a system as one can have.

The best way to ensure the school board has healthy communication with the people is to make board offices elective.

This will further politicize the schools. But as the system currently stands, there is no accountability. Mr. Berger and the school board have a monopoly on decision-making. Until that changes, more and more parents in Baltimore County will opt for private schools.

Gordon K. Mantler


What money buys

The possibility of anyone actually buying the rights to anything Ron Price has to offer is reprehensible. What is happening in the civilized world?

If we can't expect honor, character and morals from people who write and publish, how can we expect it from the general public?

Does money really buy anything if you have enough of it? How sad if this is the case.

M. Deane Wilson


Sad time

The representatives of the citizens of Louisiana enacted a severely restrictive abortion law. Yet a jury of those citizens who so revere human life acquitted Rodney Peairs.

Unfortunately, Louisianans aren't the only Americans confused about the sanctity of life. It's a sad time in our country.

Patty Nicholls


Teacher raises

Am I missing something concerning the education system in Baltimore City? On the same day it was reported that city children are yet again performing below the national average (which, by the way, is itself below the average for industrialized nations), the teachers of our city have negotiated for themselves a 3.5 percent pay raise.

Did I hear that right? A pay raise for doing a substandard job?

It's nice work if you can get it, and it sounds like government work to me. Where I come from, if one's performance is lacking, you're put on probation -- if you're lucky.

I think it's high time to start making people accountable for their performance, especially in the area of education. Too many adults ''hide out'' in academia under the guise of educators yet impart absolutely no knowledge to the young minds with which they are entrusted.

Further, with the city's perpetual fiscal crises, this is deplorable. It means that the incompetence only begins with the teacher. It includes everyone from the teachers union to the City Council to the mayor.

I hope the voters of this town remember this fiasco the next time the City Council and Mayor Kurt Schmoke exercise their abundantly free will to tax.

Harry L. DeBusk II


Use coupons

I've been accustomed to using coupons for many years and have realized substantial savings.

Most people using Independence Cards and food stamps do not use any coupons.

Why can't they assume some responsibility and begin using coupons whenever possible?

Coupons could even be provided through various channels.

It would benefit them and, ultimately, all who pay taxes.

William Hennick


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