Society can't drop problems at school doorIn my 15-plus...

Letters

October 17, 1999

Society can't drop problems at school door

In my 15-plus years as superintendent of schools in Howard County, I have on occasion had my remarks misquoted or taken out of context by the media.

This is the first time, however, my comments on such an important issue have been so grossly misrepresented that I feel morally obligated to respond publicly. In The Sun's Sept. 28 article "School plans create divide," I was quoted by staff writer Larry Carson as saying, "Racial balance in schools is not our problem. That's the county's problem. The county makes decisions about housing."

Although this somewhat captures the flavor of my conversation with Mr. Carson, a subsequent editorial, "Changing course on schools," which ran on Oct. 1, took my comments totally out of context.

My point to Mr. Carson, which I will repeat here for the benefit of all, is that the school system is not responsible for creating the concentration of minorities and low-income people.

That has more to do with the distribution of affordable and subsidized housing, availability of public transportation, etc. As superintendent of schools, I do accept and have always accepted without hesitation responsibility for how the school system responds to the racial and socioeconomic mix of students the community sends to our schools.

For too long, however, society has laid its problems at the schoolhouse door and has expected educators to provide the panacea. I suggest that it does indeed "take a village to raise a child" and that it is time for all who have a stake in the future of our children and our communities to join with us in addressing issues which create disadvantage.

Michael E. Hickey, Ellicott City

The writer is superintendent of the Howard County Public School System.

Whither Clarksville?

I am a relative newcomer to Howard County as my family moved here only 45 short years ago. I grew up proud to call Clarksville my hometown.

Pride, of course, never stood in the way of making jokes about its single traffic light or having to stay alert on the way through, lest you blink and miss it. I attended the old Clarksville Middle School, now the Gateway School. I daydreamed in class while gazing out of the large windows that overlooked the surrounding farmland. I attended monthly 4-H meetings at Linden Linthicum Church and rode my pony in the practice ring on Trotter Road.

On Saturdays, in the midst of a weekend project, we'd ride up to Kendall's to purchase nails or some other type of hardware. Occasionally we'd bring a small gizmo that needed replacement. Mr. Kendall could always readily identify the piece and produce another just like it.

My family attended St. Louis Church and my photo albums are sprinkled with pictures of me posing in front of the old stone chapel. Pictures from my christening, first communion and wedding were all taken in front of the same evergreen tree, which served as a natural yardstick of my growth.

Clarksville is gone now, decimated by the unnatural progression of development. Route 108 has been straightened and widened to allow for growing population. Car dealerships and shopping centers line either side of the once quiet country road.

There is nothing recognizable anymore. Even the quirky Quonset Hut has been razed for more retail space. Soon, the white Victorian house on the corner on Ten Oaks Road will be torn down to make way for yet another gas station or fast-food restaurant. St. Louis Church will be left to stand alone, the only remaining legacy of Clarksville's past.

It will stand in mute reproach, anchoring one end of the new and improved, yet soulless strip of retail stores and gas stations that have become downtown Clarksville.

This isn't the legacy I envision leaving behind to my children. I realize that like death and taxes, development in Howard County is inevitable. A growing populace demands a growing infrastructure. But this race to the future should be tempered with respect for our past.

It should not steal the soul of our older communities to make improvements, we must take the time to preserve our character and not lose our hearts and heritage in the process.

Can we encourage reasonable development, yet hold tight to our historical and rural legacy? Can we salvage that which makes Howard County unique? Or will we succumb to being just one more non-descript bedroom community of suburban sprawl?

Old-timers and newcomers need to unite in the effort to save the soul of Howard County. I stand for preservation. Will you stand with me before it's too late?

Mary Catherine Cochran, Ellicott City

My parent's generation was personified by the selfless individual who sacrificed for family and country. Through economic depression and world wars, they did what they had to do without complaint, all the while contributing to their communities and fostering a sense of pride in their neighborhoods.

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