School board stole children's money for Hickey's gift


July 23, 2000

As a taxpayer and resident of Howard County, I am incensed by the July 5 article that appeared in The Sun' s Howard County section, "Signs protest `gift' to Hickey."

The article reported that the Howard County Board of Education, by a 4-1 vote, approved a gift of $16,000 to the ex-superintendent of schools, Michael E. Hickey, for a job well done.

Mr. Hickey responded that he has no intentions of returning the money.

By what right do these board members think that they can simply give the taxpayers' money away in this fashion? When state superintendent Nancy M. Grasmick retires as head of the Maryland Department of Education, is the governor to take "surplus funds" and give her a check? I certainly hope not.

I doubt that a gifted teacher will receive a $16,000 gift upon retirement.

Board Chairman Sandra French stated: "Any left-over money would not be allowed to be spent on education anyway. And it was from last year's budget. It had nothing to do with the budget decisions we made for [this] year."

Board member Lane Schuchardt was reported to say: "If we were depriving the children because of it, that would be different."

Is she implying that there are no unmet needs in the county school system? Am I to understand that we have a perfect educational system in Howard County that requires no further funding?

What utterly ludicrous statements! This money should have been spent for the children's education or returned to the taxpayers.

If these school board members wanted to make such a gift, they should have done so from their own pockets, or they should have given Mr. Hickey a retirement party and solicited funds privately to give him a gift.

For them to compare this gift to a golden parachute for a retiring CEO of a private company is sheer nonsense.

This was taxpayer money that could have been used for more productive enterprises.

Moreover, the board is setting a horrible precedent for the future. Are succeeding superintendents to receive similar gifts? And by what authority?

Interestingly enough, on the same news page, there were articles bemoaning the fact that some Howard County residents lack the funds to pay for absolute necessities such a heating oil, electricity and gas.

Another article, which is totally inconsistent with the statements of Ms. Schuchardt, reported that several of our elementary schools are about to become overcrowded.

I have serious questions whether the board had the legal authority to act in this manner. If so, it should never be used again.

For the board to claim a budget surplus to justify its decision to spend our taxpayer money in this fashion is fiscally irresponsible.

There will not always be surpluses. Should we not be saving for a rainy day when we need that money for programs for which dollars will then not be available?

This money was not the school board's money to give to Mr. Hickey and should not be his to keep.

Shame on him if he doesn't promptly return it to the county or the taxpayers to whom this money rightfully belongs.

Leslie J. Greenberg


People's Counsel to defend zoning laws

Several of us in Dorsey are extremely concerned about a recent threat to our quality of life.

A developer asked for a variance to reduce the 150-foot buffer required by law between a heavy manufacturing zone and our residential community. He wants to reduce that buffer to 30 feet, bulldoze the mature forest and put parking bays for tractor trailers next to our community.

The Department of Planning and Zoning recommended denial of the request, saying that it met none of the four criteria for a variance.

The developer appeared at the Board of Appeals with a lawyer, a landscape architect, an engineer, a commercial real estate broker and an architect.

After the first session, several residents obtained their own legal counsel. We will pay at least $3,000 to preserve the zoning required by law for our small community.

As a result of this experience, I strongly support Ed Walter's efforts to get a Howard County People's Counsel to defend existing zoning when developers ask for piecemeal changes.

Citizens should not have to hire a lawyer to defend the buffer mandated by law. Nor should anyone seriously consider granting a variance that puts tractor-trailer trucks within 30 feet of an existing residential neighborhood.

Sally Voris


Animal owners must accept responsibility

I read with interest the Sun article regarding the problem of disposal of euthanized animals from Maryland shelters. ("Animal control groups struggling with disposal of euthanized pets," June 16) Rarely is the public forced to confront the reality of what happens to the majority of society's unwanted animals, even in the best shelters staffed by caring, compassionate employees.

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