Dunces at communicating

July 12, 1993

In announcing at last that he would budget the money to allow Sudbrook Middle School to open as a magnet facility next year, Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden couldn't resist taking another jab at the education officials with whom he is becoming more and more estranged.

"Communications have got to be better," Mr. Hayden lamented, alleging that school officials failed to inform him of their plans for Sudbrook.

Roger Hayden preaching about communications? Isn't that like Denny's giving seminars on service? Besides, Hayden staffers were notified last January in a letter from the education department that a Sudbrook magnet was being planned. This leaves the impression that Mr. Hayden is using the communications issue mostly as an excuse to embarrass school Superintendent Stuart Berger.

Still, school officials might have pushed the idea more forcefully. They erred in assuming they needn't make a strong new pitch this year for Sudbrook money since it was budgeted in 1992.

Last year, after all, there was a different budget. A different superintendent. Different plans for Sudbrook. At that time, the school was to reopen as a regular middle school, mainly to ease overcrowding at nearby Pikesville Middle. But the County Council delayed that project so a community-based committee could ponder the best use for the facility. The council's time-buying action came primarily in reaction to fears among white families of Pikesville Middle that their children would be placed in a revamped, mostly black Sudbrook.

The committee eventually proposed the magnet idea, a key goal of which is to achieve racial balance by drawing students from local as well as more distant communities. But then, last April, the Hayden administration pulled the Sudbrook money from the county budget, explaining that other nearby schools had enough empty seats to solve the overcrowding quandary. Administration officials, however, overlooked the fact that their proposal would create schools with illegal racial imbalances.

Worse, the administration seemed to brush off a worthy concept that would make the public schools more appealing to students and to young, middle-class families who might move outside the jurisdiction -- thus affecting businesses. While it's fortunate the Sudbrook money was restored, it's a shame the issue was made into such a muddle. It's not surprising, though, given that the principal parties in the matter sit way at the back of the class where communications skills are concerned.

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