Maryland should get serious about really improving its...

LETTERS

February 13, 2000

Maryland should get serious about really improving its K-12 schools

With the General Assembly about to carve up a big tax surplus and a big tobacco settlement, Maryland is about to decide how really devoted it is to public schools -- and to attracting teachers.

Meeting these 12 school climate needs would testify well to that devotion:

1. Repair schools built in the 1950s and 1960s. Build walls in open-space schools.

2. Put a phone in every classroom. Put a 30-station computer lab in every poverty school.

3. Provide each kid a textbook to take home in each subject. Provide each teacher plenty of paper for photocopying to compensate for poor textbooks and to complement the good ones.

4. Assign to every new teacher a mentor who does not participate in his or her evaluation.

5. Expand TV ads to get parents to read bedtime stories to their pre-school children.

6. Reduce class size. Require reading teachers to teach remedial reading and not MSPAP.

7. Establish fast-track certification for would-be secondary school teachers: a one-semester course in professional matters followed by a semester of student teaching.

8. Fund fully the HOPE scholarship -- especially to motivate middle-school student.

9. Concentrate AVID (the Advancement Via Individual Determination program) in middle schools to help poverty students improve their skills so they can qualify in high school for honors and advanced placement courses.

10. Rehab more old buildings as alternative schools for chronically disruptive students.

11. Introduce the International Baccalaureate in more high schools. This program for very able students will among other things balance the huge sums spent on special education.

12. Repay loans of college students who become certified Maryland teachers for five years.

Marylands public schools will lose half their 49,000 teachers in the next three years, largely due to retirements.

At the same time, a respected national magazine rates Marylands school climate a failure. Solving the first problem requires solving the second.

James A. Hoage

Severna Park

Official wants return to zero tolerance on drugs

By abandoning a zero tolerance drug policy, the Janet S. Owens administration is abandoning its responsibility to equally protect all citizens and vigorously enforce the law.

County Chief P. Thomas Shanahan stated, Zero tolerance brought an emphasis on numbers. All that shows is that the police department was busy, not effective.

Wrong. In 1998, under John Gary and zero tolerance, $9.6 million worth of drugs were taken off the streets.

In 1999 under Owens, only $4.2 million worth of drugs, not even half the total under Gary, were confiscated. The amount of drugs removed from circulation is a valid measure of drug enforcement effectiveness by any standard.

In human terms, if drugs arent on the street, kids cant buy them.

The Owens administration wants to target mid-to-high level dealers. This is a return to the ineffective business as usual policies of the past. Prior to the implementation of zero tolerance in 1997, only $1.8 million worth of drugs -- 18 percent of the 1998 total -- were taken off the street. The balance found its way into our neighborhoods.

Opponents of zero tolerance claim it caused a drug lab and states attorney backlog. Complaints like these are symptomatic of status quo, bureaucratic thinking.

Manage and fund the staff to support a proven zero tolerance policy; dont change the policy to support the bureaucracy.

Drugs must be targeted at all levels. Families dont want police discretion at the street level. Thev want enforcement. Zero tolerance. Anything else puts kids at risk. Would parents want a small time dealer in their neighborhood, even if it resulted in a big arrest later?

Think of the message that broadcasts: You are not as important as children in other neighborhoods. Your safety and quality of life are negotiable, just part of a mid-to-high-level arrest strategy.

Our community cannot afford to accept this premise. It does little good to fund education programs if children return to neighborhoods menaced by street dealers.

The Owens administrations abandonment of zero tolerance and slashing of drug rehabilitation funding sends a clear message: In the war on drugs, Anne Arundel County is retreating at the expense of our most at-risk citizens.

Herb McMillan

Annapolis

The writer is alderman for Ward 5.

Columnist ignored real issues of Civil War

DeWayne Wickham was only correct once in his intolerant Feb. 1 OpinionCommentary article Tracing lineage of racist rebel flag. He is right that the battle at Sharpsburg was the bloodiest day in the War Between the States. To be exact it was the bloodiest day in American history.

On that day, 24,500 Americans were casualties. Yes, Americans. What Mr. Wickham and others wish people would forget is that all of the men who fell on that hallowed ground were Americans who were fighting for what they believed was right.

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