Calling Dr. Hickey, Calling Dr. Hickey!

January 10, 1994

As the public process of school redistricting in Howard County gets under way, the community strategists will have their turn to be heard. This debate will undoubtedly be contentious; school redistricting matters are seldom settled in everyone's perceived favor. If we get a repeat of last year, however, one voice will be conspicuously quiet but very much in need of being heard.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has assumed a back seat in the public discourse thus far on redistricting, particularly on the volatile issue of shifting students from Centennial to Wilde Lake high schools.

Dr. Hickey's silence may be understandable. He doesn't want to put himself in the position of seeming to sway the board.

But at the very least, one must assume that the redistricting proposal unveiled last week represents his opinion. And absent a specific statement of goals from his office, the school boundary proposals take on the lifeless, dry aspect of hard statistics mixed up in some ruthless, confusing game of musical chairs.

Dr. Hickey's non-participation in the debate is most striking because school officials have bungled the process by proposing changes they seem unprepared to stand behind. The result has been a drip-drip release of information about such weighty matters as magnet schools, and tentative decision-making by the school board. Yes, these issues are complicated, but Dr. Hickey could help the community make better sense of them.

Both proposals presented publicly last week would have the Dorsey Hall community transferred from Centennial to Wilde Lake. The plans take into account the possibility of at least one magnet school program, as well as enrollment projections that would require a Dorsey transfer to free up space at Centennial. On the surface, the two alternatives make sense.

What the proposals lack, however, is a champion to stand behind them as the public process flows forward. Situations such as last year's public thrashing of Wilde Lake High should not go unanswered, nor should obvious misinformation go unchallenged. No one is suggesting that Dr. Hickey attempt to dictate how the board should vote, but he could at least try to moderate the discussion and add a sense of authority and decorum to this otherwise fractious debate.

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