Panel weighing $100,000 for schools

Pupil transfers, image problems prompt proposal

October 08, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council has joined the growing ranks of officials searching for ways to solve problems at some of the planned community's older schools.

At a recent budget work session, council members agreed to include $100,000 for Howard County schools in the Columbia Association's preliminary fiscal 2001 budget, an unprecedented move by the CA's governing body.

"We would be stepping in where we think there were insufficient resources provided," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, chairwoman of the council's budget committee, who represents Long Reach on the 10-member council. "To be honest, I think the school board ought to fix this problem. I think it's a shame they've let it get to this point. [But] sometimes you can't wait for the people whose job it is to do their job."

School officials were not available to comment on the proposal yesterday.

Januszkiewicz said she made the proposal, which was originally to set aside $500,000, in part because of recent stories in The Sun detailing image problems at some of Columbia's older schools. Complaining that the quality of education was inadequate, dozens of parents pulled their children out of Wilde Lake Middle and spent more than $37,800 to bus them to Lime Kiln Middle in Fulton this year.

The Columbia Council has yet to take up how the money -- if it is included in CA's approved budget -- will be distributed or on what it will be spent.

The council representative from Wilde Lake, Vincent L. Marando, a government professor at the University of Maryland, is heading a newly created task force to deal with those issues.

Goals

The goal is "to try and flesh out what are the issues and what, if any, solutions are different people suggesting," said Pam Mack, the association's vice president for community relations, who sits on the task force.

Mack noted the racial "imbalance" in some schools and the "concern about people leaving Columbia schools."

Wilde Lake Middle is far more racially and economically diverse than mostly white Lime Kiln.

The schools task force is scheduled to meet at association headquarters Oct. 20.

Meeting called

Last week, county Councilmen C. Vernon Gray and Guy J. Guzzone, Democrats who represent parts of Columbia, announced an unusual public meeting as a first step to dealing with the trend.

The meeting, set for Oct. 18 at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, will be attended by all five council members and County Executive James N. Robey.

Januszkiewicz said she has yet to contact Michael E. Hickey, the superintendent of schools, about the funds because "this is at such a draft stage."

"It's going to be in the draft budget," she said of the money. "I'm sure we will hear from our residents in many different respects as to whether they think it's a good idea or a bad idea.

"How likely it is to pass, I don't know, I can't predict," she added. "I think the council believes that we need to address the school issue because it is critical to Columbia."

A straw vote of the council at a Sept. 25 budget work session showed support to include $100,000, which was proposed by Earl Jones of Oakland Mills, rather than Januszkiewicz's proposal, in the preliminary budget.

The new fiscal year will begin May 1.

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