Too Much Hassle, Too Little Gain"Howard County schools are...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 03, 1994

Too Much Hassle, Too Little Gain

"Howard County schools are closed for inclement weather." These words brought joy to Howard County students and terror to their parents. The school board, however, got headaches. Faced with an unprecedented number of snow days to make up, and restraints on time, the committee was forced to extend the school day for half an hour for four weeks and extend the school year until June 17 for all non-graduating students. This solution may not be the best compromise.

The harsh winter of '93-94 started off with a Siberian cold front in December and continued through the beginning of March with seemingly never-ending snow and ice storms. Surrounding counties subtracted vacation days from the spring vacation to attempt to make up the lost school days. Howard County, though, had traditionally built in three extra days for snow in the calendar, and added the extra snow days onto the end of the year. . . . However, this year, with more than 10 days to make up and summer school starting only one week after school had originally planned to let out, the school board ran into a problem.

Possible solutions to this problem were Saturday school, extending the school day, eliminating pre-planned vacation dates and extending the school year. The committee combined extending the school day and the school year. Although these plans alter schedules, any of the choices would.

The half-an-hour addition to the day does baffle me, however. This plan, in effect, means for most students that each class would be extended less than 10 minutes. These few minutes will make little impact on the student's learning, but a big difference in their after-school activities, bus schedules, sports, etc. Although these half hours add almost two days (in time), they would hardly add two days in education. In essence, the half-hour extensions of the school day are too much hassle for so little gain. The students and teachers may be much more content with just an additional week to the school year.

Felice Sun

Ellicott City

Math Maestro

In response to your article in the "People" section in the March 13 edition of The Sun, Bryan Rowe deserves the best of accolades for his accomplishments as a mathematics teacher in Howard County and as a gifted musician. His CD, "Songs of the Soul," is a combination of spark and spirituality, and I enjoy listening to it over and over again. As a former student of Mr. Rowe, I'd like to turn the tables and give him an A-plus.

S. D. Wallis

Columbia

On Access

People who have physical disabilities that force them to use wheelchairs to get around deserve more respect. Recently I broke my leg and have been forced to use a wheelchair. Since my injury, I have really learned about the everyday struggle the physically disabled face.

A simple, routine trip to the mall for most people is full of obstacles for the disabled. Even before entering the mall, there were problems. Finding a handicapped parking spot that isn't being used by an unauthorized car is rare. . . . Also, there are a few entrances to the mall that are accessible for the wheelchair-bound.

Once, in the mall, the unpleasantness fails to cease. Many stores don't have wide enough aisles for wheelchairs to get through. For example, at Waldenbooks, it is nearly impossible to get close enough to the magazine shelf to actually pick up a magazine. . . . In some cases, pedestrians pose a serious danger to those on wheelchairs.

There are also many considerate people out there who help by holding elevators and opening doors. Others should follow their examples of kindness and demonstrate these acts themselves. If everyone were more conscious of the situation, fewer problems

would exist.

Jeremy Friss

Ellicott City

For More School Discipline

On Feb. 22, the Howard County Education Association's Representative Council (consisting of elected representatives from every school) voted unanimously to recognize and commend Stephen Wallis for speaking openly on the question of how student behavior and discipline affects the academic progress of students. Educators across the nation regard the issue of student behavior and discipline as one of the most important issues facing American education today.

As educators, we know that the classroom atmosphere must be more than a reflection of general society. It must be an environment that is orderly and free of distractions, and in which an acceptable standard of student behavior has been established and enforced equally among all students. The majority of students not only want discipline, order and respect in the classroom, but they will, if given an opportunity, assist in the establishment of an environment conducive to learning.

We agree with Mr. Wallis that "discipline should be substantive, caring, responsible and nurturing," and that classroom teachers cannot maintain such an atmosphere of discipline without the help of parents.

While many parents are supportive of teachers and administrators who discipline unruly students, there are many parents who unduly challenge educators who attempt to reprimand their child for behavior that disrupts the learning environment. . . . When a child gets into trouble in school, the parents could have a positive effect on both the school and their child by saying, "I have taught my child better than that. What can I do to help?"

Through an alliance of parents and educators, ill-behaved students can become more responsible members of the student population. Again, many parents are supportive, but we must have the help of all parents if we are going to be successful in changing the behavior of students who are disruptive, disrespectful and/or violent. With increased cooperation from all parents, teachers would spend less time on discipline and more time on academic instruction.

James R. Swab

Columbia

The writer is president of the Howard County Education Association.

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