School system shortchanges special educationI was...


October 03, 1999

School system shortchanges special education

I was wondering if the Howard County public school system has ever considered using untrained and unqualified personnel acquired through a temporary agency to educate the students of Howard County.

In times of growing budgets, this would be a great way to hold down costs: no health benefits to pay, no paid leave or holidays, no training, no retirement plan. The education of students may suffer somewhat but at least the school system would save money.

Additionally, the department could get around the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with the education associations.

A temporary agency, not the Department of Education, would be responsible for investigating backgrounds of staff, and assuring that they are trained and knowledgeable in their areas of expertise, another cost savings for the system. Additional resources could be saved if all students were segregated based on a common physical trait or level of learning.

Perhaps you think that these ideas are absurd, but this is already being done -- in special education.

Students who receive special education services and who require 1-on-1 assistance are provided with a so-called "temporary helper" from an agency outside the school system.

These helpers don't receive benefits or paid leave for holidays or snow days. They make less than other instructional assistants with whom they work side by side. The system doesn't have to worry about collective bargaining for these people.

"Temporary" is an appropriate term for these workers. Most don't stay very long.

Of course, the school system would never use underqualified or untrained staff to educate all children of Howard County.

There would be a huge outcry if the Board of Education proposed to hire temps to educate students or to segregate kids based on physical traits. After all, most taxpayers believe it is worth spending the money needed to provide exceptional education.

Compared to other counties and states, special education services in Howard are way above average, but not exceptional.

It is time that the same commitment to excellence is applied to all.

Daniel Dotson


Solution to athletic hazing is easy: Stop it

I am writing in response to the recent articles regarding the injuries received by two students as a result of hazing at Centennial High School.

In the Howard County Times on Sept. 16, Don Disney, Howard County public schools' athletic director, said that parents must speak out about this behavior. A headline in The Sun Sept. 17 said, "Solution to hazing is elusive." Wrong. The solution is easy: Throw the bums out.

Suspend these athletes from the team for the entire season and there will be no more hazing. It seems like such a no-brainer.

Playing high school sports is a privilege. If a student cannot abide by the rules, they should not be allowed to finish the season. The students at Centennial received the minimum punishment. What kind of lesson does that teach?

Hazing is not a rite of passage. It is physical and/or emotional assault. These are the seeds of Littleton, Colorado and Paducah, Kentucky.

The Howard County Public School System has been bending over in its approach to discipline for the 10 years I've been involved in the PTA.

When will it finally stand up and make a statement that really counts?

Cathi Higgins

Ellicott City

Horse Center report was a distortion

My wife and I were out of town when the articles by Erika Niedowski concerning the Columbia Horse Center were written so I am belatedly responding to them.

Our family was involved at the Horse Center from 1982 until 1997. Our daughter began taking lessons there at age 11 after we had looked for a riding facility all over Montgomery and Howard counties and decided that Columbia's was the best. We eventually moved to Columbia from Silver Spring primarily because of the Horse Center. I cannot say enough about what the Horse Center did for our daughter in terms of teaching her about responsibility and giving her a strong work ethic.

My wife was employed at the Horse Center from 1986, when the Columbia Association still operated it, through the leases of Russ Walther and Allan Gohrband until her resignation in August 1995. When Mr. Gohrband decided to go out of business later in 1995, my wife and I attempted to acquire the lease of the Horse Center, as we believed that the business could be profitable.

The tone of the articles by Ms. Niedowski left me sputtering, especially the first one dragging up all the old history. Our family was there during those times and we know that there are two sides to every story, a point that Ms. Niedowski fails to comprehend. Thank goodness, Padraic M. Kennedy felt the need to promote a facility which provided a clean, wholesome activity not only for his children but also for the thousands of others who have benefited from this program over the years.

We certainly hope that a way can be found to keep the Columbia Horse Center operating.

Neal Primm


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