Do parents lack confidence in the public schools?This...

Letters

October 24, 1999

Do parents lack confidence in the public schools?

This letter is in response to Pam Rogers' letter printed on Sept. 26 ("More on Wilde Lake schools").

To answer your question about how home-schoolers and private schoolers are different than those children being sent to a non-district school, there is a huge difference.

Even though I may not agree with parents spending unnecessary money to send their students to a non-district school, I disagree with private school and even more so with home-schooling.

As a senior at Towson University, studying elementary education, I strongly believe kids need to learn how to cooperate with others. What better place to learn that than in a public school?

Students have the opportunity to work with people from different races, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

After graduation, regardless of the type of education, these students will be forced to work with others in their employment or future endeavors.

This is not a skill that people are born with, but one that takes practice.

When students are home-schooled, they do not have the opportunity to practice this; in public school, students do group activities, paired activities and have different teachers with different philosophies enabling them to practice socializing and dealing with others.

If giving your child some one-on-one attention is what you think is important, why not just take the time to read with your child, help them with their homework or just talk one-on-one? Why would you move to Howard County, where the public school system is one of the best in the state and even the nation, and then not take advan tage of it?

Paige Ballenger, Elkridge

The writer is a Towson University student.

I live in the North Laurel area. My oldest daughter attended Laurel Woods Elementary from kindergarten through fifth-grade. My younger two children are open-enrolled at nearby Gorman Crossing Elementary.

When my daughter entered kindergarten in 1989, Laurel Woods Elementary was an excellent school and I had dreams of sending all of our children to it. By the time she was in third grade, we began to notice the downfall of our school with lower classroom standards, teachers unprepared to teach, a weak administration and behavioral problems that were largely overlooked.

It seemed that the administration felt that as long as the kids felt good about themselves, that was all that mattered. Upon entering the school, I found students wandering the halls, classrooms loud and students disruptive. Recess was a nightmare, including foul language, rough play and poor supervision, and day after day of entire classrooms "sitting on the wall" because of behavior problems.

By 1994, when it was time for my son to enter kindergarten, we were so concerned about the school that we decided to enroll him in private school. (Laurel Woods was on the "protected list.")

When my oldest daughter completed fifth-grade at Laurel Woods, it was so bad that we decided not to send our other two children there and enrolled them both in private school, hoping that eventually we could go back to public school.

When Gorman Crossing opened last year, we got our wish and transferred our youngest two back to public school: open-enrolled.

Did we find what we wanted at Gorman Crossing? You bet. We found a strong administration prepared to deal openly with problems; teachers prepared at all times to teach, and discipline problems handled fairly and consistently. Enter the school: there are no students wandering the halls, the classrooms are quiet during instructional time and students are learning. There are no problems retaining high-quality experienced teachers.

Until the county Board of Education is ready to address these problems and make all schools in Howard County equal, we should all be able to "open enroll" our children anywhere we want.

It is curious that there are four elementary schools in North Laurel, yet one of them, Laurel Woods, is home to the majority of the low and moderate-income families. The school board needs to address the issue of how it redistricts, and be willing to redistrict so that all schools get their share of "at-risk" neighborhoods, as well as of upper-income families, making all schools more diverse.

Unlike the Clemens Crossing residents who "open-enrolled" their children to Lime Kiln Elementary, our neighborhood is largely middle-income and cannot afford a bus. Yet we know that our local school is in trouble.

Most of the families who have open-enrolled to Gorman Crossing have had children at Laurel Woods in the past and have made a decision based on facts and their own experiences. In my neighborhood alone, several families home-school, several use private schools and a large number have open-enrolled at Gorman Crossing.

It is not easy to open-enroll. Our children can no longer walk to school and we have elaborate carpools, yet most of us who have done this would do it again in a heartbeat.

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