Secretive process no way to pick leader for Balto. Co...


March 10, 2000

Secretive process no way to pick leader for Balto. Co. schools

The Baltimore County school board's secret process for selecting a new school superintendent does not serve the public's interests ("Ruppersberger chimes in before hiring of school chief," March 3).

The board never published its selection criteria or priorities, accepted applications in secret, never announced the finalists, secretly interviewed only one candidate, then immediately attempted to approve their one candidate.

The board claims it needs to conduct business in secret, saying good candidates might not apply if their names will become public. If that's the case, then where are these good candidates?

The good candidates apparently understand that if our school board conducts its most important business in secret, the superintendent is stuck with implementing the board's policy without the benefit of public support.

Look at the record. Look at the results of this secret process:

Stuart Berger, who was forced out before the end of his contract.

Anthony Marchione, who had served his whole career in the Baltimore County schools. Was a secret process necessary to hire someone from within the system?

Now we have Joseph A. Hairston as a nominee. Do we really need to conduct business in secret to get a superintendent who was forced out of a school system less than half the size of ours?

Open up the process. Don't give us just two weeks of meetings that are just a formality.

Superintendent of the Baltimore County public school system is one of the most visible positions in the county. The public needs and deserves a view of the selection process.

John Holland, Catonsville

Let me see if I understand this: After a nationwide search and a list of 29 final candidates for school superintendent, the Baltimore County school board picks a guy who was trained in one of the state's worst-performing counties and is being forced out of the only other superintendent job he has held. ("Board stalls appointment of school superintendent," Mar. 1).

Forget testing the students for competency; it's time to test the school board.

John Keenan, Baltimore

Nominee doesn't know his way around state flag

In the March 1 Sun a photo ran with the caption: "Mixed welcome: Joseph A. Hairston holds the state flag he received after being announced as the Baltimore County school board's choice for superintendent."

But the flag Mr. Hairston is holding is upside-down.

Either the members of the school board presented it to him that way or he inadvertently held it that way.

In any case, the photo gives the perception that neither of them know which way is up, as pertains to the Maryland flag.

Edward W. Lipka, Baltimore

Sending suspended girl home alone was irresponsible

I just read of an act so despicable, so outrageous and so irresponsible that I cannot keep quiet. I refer to the school that suspended a 12-year-old girl, in the middle of a day and then told her to go home ("City schools send child trespassers away in handcuffs," March 2).

When she instead hid, rather than face the terror of walking home alone through unsafe streets, she was arrested, handcuffed and send to a detention center for four hours.

School officials were lucky she was smart enough to stay at school. If she had walked home and met with injury, they would have been responsible and been sued or charged with criminal negligence.

I've never heard of a school that would order a child out without a guardian.

Was it beyond their competence to think of a way to watch her until someone could pick the child up?

Didn't they want to discuss the situation with a parent so they could work together on an approach to help this child improve her behavior.

What wanton disregard for the life and safety of that child with whose welfare the school is charged.

I am absolutely outraged and hope there is an investigation into this entire situation.

Deborah Agus, Baltimore

Lifting earnings penalty is welcome news for seniors

I was pleased to read Pete Du Pont's column supporting President Clinton's proposal to allow all those entitled to Social Security at age 65 to receive full benefits, no matter how much they may earn ("Let seniors in on economic boom," Opinion Commentary, Feb. 29)

As most seniors know, there are severe financial penalties for those between 65 and 69 years old who earn more than $17,000 a year.

They preclude a vast majority of those in that age category from working.

Should the related legislation pass -- and there seems to be little opposition to it ("House lifts income cap on Social Security," March 2) -- all penalties on earnings will cease.

This comes a little too late for this writer, who turns 70 this June. But while my timing is awful, the proposal is well-timed for millions of others.

Howard K. Ottenstein, Baltimore

The owner hasn't run Belvedere Square aground

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