Time for New School LeadershipCrowded schools are not a...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 25, 1994

Time for New School Leadership

Crowded schools are not a new problem in Howard County. It has been a chronic problem in some schools in Howard for two decades. The school board and the members of the County Council have never really been concerned about the consequences of accelerating the growth of the county because they believe they can get re-elected anyway, particularly in Columbia where people feel isolated from the problems of growth.

However, tearing down Wilde Lake High School when, as the newspaper reports, four high schools are overcrowded is irresponsible. The school board is still not able to say "no" to the superintendent, and the County Council's principal interest continues to be dealing with rezoning and raising the density in the eastern and of the county.

We are revisiting the past. Twenty years ago, Superintendent M. Thomas Goedeke came to the council with the proposal to tear down Howard High School. Schools were overcrowded, and the bonds were not even paid for. We said "no." Sound like today?

Next, Dr. Goedeke came to the council with a proposal to close two high schools, and half of a third high school, and bring in portable classrooms. We said absolutely not.

The superintendent was trying to expedite the fulfillment of the "most innovative" school system philosophy, and promote the sale of portable classrooms. After the next election, we had a new council from Columbia. The destruction of Howard High began immediately, and two schools for the Elkridge area were cancelled. The new council members really believed that no matter what they did, they would not impact their Columbia political support. They were correct, but the rest of the county suffered.

The classic scene in the current year occurred when the school leaders came before the County Council to speak about their budget, and council member Shane Pendergrass asked, "Would you people please explain to me why are the schools so overcrowded in my district?" The present council just does not want to understand. The voters need to stop and take a minute to reflect. Is this council giving us our money's worth?

While reflecting, realize that the County Council has raised its salary about 275 percent since 1987. The council (Vernon Gray, Charles Feaga, Ms. Pendergrass) increased the salary 50 percent in 1990. I believe the superintendent has also done quite well. At least the teachers know where they stand.

After two decades in which there have been two administrative-type superintendents, it is time for a change to bring in an education superintendent; someone who already knows what experiments have already been tried and failed. This will probably require a new school board.

James M. Holway

Ellicott City

For Year-Round Schools?

As the new school year starts, it's time again to re-introduce and intensify debate on the year-round school issue. As a parent and taxpayer living in Howard County, I have personally researched this issue and found that:

* Year-round schools do not significantly improve the quality of education.

* Year-round students do not achieve significantly higher SAT and other achievement test scores than students in traditional schools.

* Year-round schools inhibit teachers' professional development.

* Year-round schools are not popular with parents.

* Year-round schools cost more to operate.

* Year-round schools have a negative effect on many seasonal businesses leading to reduced tax revenue which support our schools.

Year-round schools are a bad idea. I personally will be taking a close look at the candidates, and cast my vote for those who oppose this ill-conceived concept.

Scott H. Waters

Columbia

River Hill's Overrun

It is shame that The Sun didn't print its editorial on District 3 (Aug. 26) next to its article on cost overruns at River Hill (Wilde Lake) High. It shows how limited its view on education can be.

In the District 3 council race, The Sun decries Charles Feaga's position on establishing "a line-item veto on the school system so that the council can direct funds toward academic programs and away from administration," and states, "Such a radical departure from current practice would rob the school system of its independence."

With a reported 13 percent cost overrun ($3.9 million) for the new unfinished high school, which incidentally will probably continue to grow, it would seem that the much ballyhooed independence of the school system needs a little oversight.

Apparently, the sum will be made up by taking money from the acquisition fund and elimination of repairs on some schools. And, BTC of course, as is the case for most bureaucracies, the money will be made up from taxes and the screw-ups will all be forgotten in a month or so.

Perhaps, Mr. Feaga's idea is not so "radical," even if it only saves a million here or a million there.

R. D. Bush

Columbia

Willis' Win Snubbed

The article in the Sept. 14 Sun for Howard County describing the House of Delegates race in District 14B ignores important facts and is misleading. For example, the article states categorically that Republicans are expected to retain District 14B.

Drawing that conclusion without citing any authority, it overlooked the fact that there are about 2,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district, and ignored the fact that Carolyn Willis, the Democratic candidate, had more votes than either of the Republican incumbents.

The article went on to state that Carolyn Willis "also won a spot on the ticket," subtly putting down her dramatic win. She led the ticket in the race in 14B, gaining more votes than any other candidate Democrat or Republican.

Articles such as this should be relegated to the editorial pages and clearly marked as opinion.

E. Niel Carey

Ellicott City

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