Field trips for success

Howard: County Executive Robey sees classrooms in closets, eager students and committed parents.

May 23, 2000

IN THE dispute between Howard County Executive James N. Robey and the county school board, both sides have their points as always.

But now, Mr. Robey knows just how pressing are the demands in county schools. Wisely, he has visited a number of them, most recently Dasher Green Elementary.

Taken on a tour by the school's principle, Friedel U. Warner, Mr. Robey saw a school built for 415 students housing 453. Even closets are used for instruction, Mr. Warner told him.

Teachers, administrators and students are making the best of things. One class is held in a windowless room tucked away behind two other rooms -- and the teacher bravely declares she wouldn't have it any other way.

Mr. Robey knows a team player when he meets one, though; he should do whatever he can to get students out of closets, out of make-shift classrooms of all kinds and into environments where they can take advantage of Howard's usually above-average instructors.

As one of the county's nine "focus" schools, Dasher Green Elementary gets help in its effort to boost test scores and to solve behavior problems that the principal, Mr. Warner, concedes can drive him "nuts."

The county executive's visit reacquainted him with the spirit of Howard countians: Parents are eager volunteers at Dasher Green. One of them, Jeane Poole, turned down a paying job so she could continue her volunteering.

Fortunately, this school is in line for an earlier-than-expected renovation. The state agreed to provide its $1.1 million share early. In addition, the county hopes to start construction on seven Head Start classrooms if money can be found from federal sources.

Mr. Robey's budget this year included $26.5 million more for education than last year. Nevertheless, that record-setting amount is $8.5 million less than the school board requested.

The county executive knows now that at least part of what was requested is sorely needed.

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