Council's school debate reeked of parochialismIt was with...


November 14, 1999

Council's school debate reeked of parochialism

It was with great dismay that I read the reports on the advertised "public meeting" scheduled by the Howard County Council to begin addressing some of the educational concerns in Howard County. I had viewed the session as the beginning of a dialogue that could benefit the community.

However, the council's decision to hear only the opinions of a selected few left me with the impression of politics at its worst.

Education of our children is the pride or peril of our community -- our entire community -- not just the east or west side. I was very disappointed to hear council members talk only about addressing educational concerns in their electoral jurisdiction. Even though I understand the election process, I have never before publicly heard that each council member is only concerned about the well-being of the area from which he or she was elected.

Elected policy makers are responsible for the entire community which they serve. Their policies effect each and every one of us, and therefore their practices should be inclusive to each and every one of us, not only a selected few.

The educational concerns facing schools in Howard County goes beyond the age of the buildings and the technological availability. There are some schools that are older, have less technology and financial resources than the Columbia schools that have been the focus of discussion. However, the performance of the children in these schools are competitive to children in newer schools. The council's reluctance to address real issues other than facilities and financial resources leaves one to wonder: Where is this discussion headed except for division of a community

Let's not take on the philosophy of divided and conquer. Allow all members of the community to come together and work on solutions.

S. L. Dayhoff, Columbia

School board isn't responding,others are

Whether Del. Frank S. Turner's proposal to create electoral districts for school board representation in Howard County is a good idea,its impetus arose out of his increasing awareness of parental concerns about their children's education and his willingness to respond.

The school board should be doing this itself, but this board seems frozen in a defensive crouch, always ready to attack the messenger, point fingers at others and complain about their compensation.

The complacency of the board and the superintendent is the biggest obstacle this school system faces. School board vice president Stephen Bounds, for example, was quoted in the Oct. 21 edition of the Washington Post's Howard Weekly section as saying that no one has told him what's broken here. That, as Mr. Turner says, is precisely the problem.

Many parents have had unfortunate experiences in their attempts to inform the board about real problems in their schools. These parents are delighted that Mr. Turner and County Council members C. Vernon Gray, Guy J. Guzzone and Mary Lorsung have stepped to the plate.

These officials are behaving responsibly. They have sought the opinions of their constituents, listened carefully and have responded by creating a mechanism to come to solutions. They have not made public attacks on the school board members' motives nor accused the school board of failing to do its job.

This is in sharp contrast to Mr. Bounds, who has made a number of rather nasty comments which have been printed in The Sun and Post. Mr. Bounds seems to think district representatives are inherently corrupt because they serve a district.

The problems Mr. Turner and the council are being brave enough to address are real. Most of us still consider public education to be one mechanism in society which can provide all citizens with an equal opportunity to live unfettered by ignorance and intolerance. But what many see happening in our system is the breakdown of schools into the haves and have-nots.

Certain suburban schools are becoming the millennial ghettoes. Schools in more affluent neighborhoods have more resources, more discretionary dollars, more powerful and politically connected parents. The wealthier neighborhoods tend also to be the newer developments, so they have newer infrastructure which means spiffy new school buildings equipped with high-tech facilities, something the older schools lack and will never be able to equal.

School board member Jane B. Schuchardt has said that the system really can't be expected to be able to do anything much about all this because you can't make people live where they don't want to live ("Opinions sought to better schools," Oct. 17).

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