Accountability is key to improving county schools There...


May 21, 2000

Accountability is key to improving county schools

There is a common theme underlying the concerns and criticisms associated with the school system's operations and construction: accountability.

As a young naval officer, I grew up in an environment that held every person accountable. The officers of a ship were ultimately held accountable for their judgment and the performance of their ship.

The same leadership approach should apply to school system and construction issues. If the board is to be successful, it needs to hold itself and school staff accountable.

The board must address the concerns in the Bennett report head-on and take prompt and decisive corrective action. It does not appear to be doing this.

Many weeks after first reviewing the school construction report, the school board has still not met in open session to discuss its implications. So far, it shows no urgency in dealing with these difficult issues.

The board is allowing itself to be judged on its inaction and its reluctance to become more directly involved with the report has further eroded public confidence.

The call for removal of school board members and dismissal of senior staffs, therefore, is not surprising. However, emotion and politics should not drive such personnel decisions.

Due process must be followedbefore deciding about the possible dismissal of personnel.

The school board must review the information in an unbiased and open manner and then make management decisions, that are in the best interest of the school system.

The board owes it to the schools' staff and county citizens to make these decisions justly and expeditiously, to restore lost public confidence, improve staff morale and refocus our efforts on improving the quality of our children's education.

Organizations with declining performance isolate themselves. They focus on the wrong things and are slow to accept that performance is declining.

Improving organizations, on the other hand, hold people accountable and raise expectations for individual performance.

They continually critique their own performance and find areas for improvement, they communicate actively and they encourage their employees and the public to raise concerns and then help them become part of a solution.

Carroll County's school system is at a pivotal point. With the board under the greatest public scrutiny in its history, it must determine how to deal with the mismanagement and potential civil and criminal wrongdoing outlined in the Bennett report.

At the same moment, it must deal with another crisis -- one of public confidence.

Either task would be difficult enough, but together they present an enormous challenge.

The system-wide issues raised in the report should be addressed through a series of very public discussions, in which the entire community participates.

How the board handles this situation will determine whether it is an organization that is focused on the wrong things or an organization that is committed to improvement.

After attending the recent Carroll County Outstanding Teacher Awards banquet, I was struck by how inspiring and wonderful it was to honor and celebrate the achievements of our teachers and support staff.

As I reflected on the evening's events, I concluded that we need to do a better job highlighting the good things about our schools, and there are many.

I also concluded that, until the board puts these other issues behind us, it will be difficult for the public to focus on those good things.

Thomas G. Hiltz, Woodbine

State officials can afford tickets to the Preakness

I was not surprised to read that the taxpayers are paying for a big party at the Preakness for Gov. Parris N. Glendenning and invited legislators ("Legislators get free day at track," May 16).

But I would figure they could afford tickets to the Preakness. It seems that 100,000 other people can afford the price of admission.

How much does the governor make? How much do the members of the House of Delegates and the state Senate make?

I bet any amount of money that they can afford to buy a ticket, food and beverages and parking at the Preakness.

Is it any wonder that people distrust government?

Unfortunately, the uninformed citizens of Maryland do not care and vote for the same thieves over and over again.

J.D. Matulonis, Sykesville

Don't blame guns for shooting deaths

It is certainly a tragic loss when any child dies and I cannot begin to understand the feelings of the child's parents. However, when the death involves a firearm, blame for the loss must be meted out carefully.

Such is the case with the death of John Joseph Price of White Marsh. The media has a responsibility to convey the facts of the story accurately.

Yet within the first four paragraphs of The Sun's article concerning the accidental shooting death of the 13-year-old boy, blame is imposed on both the gun and John Price's 9-year-old friend ("Mother protector," May 9).

The reporter uses the phrases "was killed by a 9 mm Luger pistol" and "shot accidentally by the 9-year-old."

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