Baltimore County's 'Civil War'So now your editorial staff...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 12, 1994

Baltimore County's 'Civil War'

So now your editorial staff feels compelled to take on the role of "peace-maker" in the ongoing "war" between the Baltimore County school system and the community ("Healing Baltimore County Schools," Jan. 22).

I wish you the best of luck, and if what you've written so far is any indication of your proposed "peace plan," you're going to need it. As a veteran teacher in this system, I would like to give you a view from the trenches.

To begin with, you need to look beyond "General" Stuart Berger's image problem and focus on the real issues in this unfortunate "civil war." They are not with his image; they are with his reality.

And isn't it ironic that the same newspaper that once fueled this controversy with vivid descriptions of Dr. Berger's debacle at memorable battle sites such as Frederick and Witchita is now asking its readers to simply "forget" what happened there? As a history teacher, I find this particularly difficult to do.

Describing the superintendent as "the Saddam Hussein of Greenwood" is a poor way to begin peace negotiations in the first place. Your analogy serves little purpose save to inflame already-hostile parties on both sides, and it deludes readers into believing that Dr. Berger's image is the extent of the problem.

Those of us who have lived and worked under his reign for well over a year know better.

I believe that the superintendent is, indeed, motivated by a desire to see all youngsters learn.

However, I have serious doubts that many of his reforms are actually working. Inclusion, a "one size fits all" gifted and talented program and much larger class sizes this year have all contributed to a "dumbing down" effect that is pervading many of our schools.

I am not alone in this view. Parents, colleagues, some administrators and a growing number of students are well aware of what is going on.

Additional watering-down of curriculum has occurred because of Bergeresque" innovations like "home base advisory" and "exploratory," which essentially reduce classroom instruction time by two hours or more per week.

Many students and teachers see these programs for what they really are: major time-wasters. Why no complaints?, you might ask.

Despite the fact that you claim Dr. Berger welcomes suggestions along with new ideas from his troops, history has not supported your thesis.

Many who would speak out need look no further back in time than last June to see what happens to dissidents in this system.

Virtually all of the 40 demoted or "reassigned" administrators (of whom you made no mention) had in some way challenged Dr. Berger and soon found themselves ousted from their positions for a "lack of vision."

Teachers who had previously received "outstanding" ratings for years of educating adolescents were suddenly informed that they no longer understood the "middle school philosophy" and were strongly encouraged to transfer or resign.

Dr. Berger does value employees who take a stand; it had just better be his stand.

In conclusion, you state that Dr. Berger is "not about peace. He is about change." I find it difficult to understand how you can have one without the other.

Anwar Sadat understood the need for both and, as a result, came closer to achieving true peace in the Middle East than any other leader before or since.

If Dr. Berger cannot be an agent of peace as well as an agent of change, perhaps the general should step down from his post in (( favor of a leader who can do both and thus end the "war."

And if your editorial staff really wants to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, perhaps they should focus more on what the people want and less on the misguided perceptions of the general.

Keep in mind that true peacemakers do not "forget" about history; they learn from it.

Dorothy Dowling

Ruxton

A Fine Police Force

I appreciated your series on the demise of our city police department. But I hope you are not inferring that our police

officers are neglecting their duties.

This is far from the truth. These men and women put their lives on the line every day to faithfully protect and serve the citizens of Baltimore. The conditions that have prevented the police officers from performing their duties effectively are out of their control.

Surely, there has been mismanagement, but let's put the blame where it belongs and not on the shoulders of the hard-working police officers.

The average officer puts in at least a 50-hour work week plus spends some of his scheduled time off appearing in court -- only to see that his efforts have been a waste of time as our judicial system fails to process criminals appropriately.

The majority of Baltimore's finest perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Should we expect more from men and women working under such physically and mentally demanding conditions?

No, we cannot expect the individual officer to do more. We can expect a change in the way the mayor, the City Council and our new police commissioner manage the police department.

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