Council's work should be focus of Sun's reporting I was...

LETTERS

September 03, 2000

Council's work should be focus of Sun's reporting

I was disappointed by both the tone and content of The Sun's article "Council spars over proposal for committee" (Aug. 21).

The six Columbia Council members present at the Sunday work session the article described spent five hours trying to set the council's goals for the year, discussing the Columbia Association's (CA) long-range planning tools and other matters.

Yet The Sun's reporter chose instead to focus on a brief disagreement between Vince Marando and me. This dispute was not newsworthy and was taken entirely out of context.

Even the subject of the disagreement -- the Columbia Association Governance Structure Study Committee -- was taken out of context.

The article more than implied that I do not support such a study when, in fact, I was one of eight council members who voted July 13 to create such a committee.

Mr. Marando and I differ on some of the details of the committee's charter as well as on the type or degree of structure change that might be warranted.

Even with our differences, this council is attempting to work together to address some of the issues left over from the prior council, such as hiring a new president and improving the relationships between CA and the villages, while striving to move forward constructively for the good of CA and the community.

I believe The Sun's readers would be more interested in our actual work than our minor disagreements.

Lanny Morrison

Columbia

The writer chairs the Columbia Council .

County school board devalues teachers . . .

As a taxpayer and a teacher, I am disheartened and appalled by the double standard applied by the Howard County Board of Education.

If the board sees a raise as the way to recognize hard work, then it obviously feels that the associate superintendents work much harder than teachers.

In fiscal year 1999-2000, the board offered teachers a 2 percent raise, but the teachers fought vigorously for 3 percent. Associate superintendent were given a 10 percent raise.

This year the board and the teachers bargained for a 5 percent raise; the board again gave the same associates 10 percent.

This total increase of 20 percent for associate superintendents has been justified because of the increased work load the associates will have as they act as mentors to the new superintendent.

The county's most experienced teachers are continuously requested to act as mentors to new teachers. However, their total raise over the last two years has been 8 percent.

The board also defends these raises to a few individuals by stating that they do not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, neither would a $200 a-year increase to a team leader's stipend and yet such a raise has been denied for eight years because of lack of funds.

A stated goal of state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and Gov. Parris N. Glendening is to retain teachers.

If Howard County is trying to retain teachers, why does it pay them $5,000-$10,000 less than teachers in Montgomery County receive, while paying associate superintendents almost $10,000 more than Montgomery County does?

Are the board's actions designed to retain teachers or associate superintendents?

Outgoing school superintendent Michael E. Hickey's last two years have become quite an expense: a $48,500 portrait, a $16,000 bonus, a 10 percent raise for associate superintendents in preparation for his departure and another 10 percent to help shoulder the responsibilities after his departure.

The board of education has supported all these expenditures, at the same time as it has consistently claimed to be without funds for expenditures needed by teachers, administrators and students.

There are two seats open on the board this November. Please keep the actions and comments of the current board in mind as you vote to fill those vacancies.

Colleen Morris

Columbia.

. . and its spending needs closer review

How could school board chairman Sandra H. French be so insensitive to her constituents as to refer to the 10 percent pay increase to the county's three associate school superintendents' six -figure salaries as "the best money ever spent" ("Top schools staff given 10% raises," Aug. 13).

That raise comes in addition to their increased car allowances and 10 percent raise last year.

Ms. French's further statement that this raise is only equivalent to one teacher's annual salary is particularly painful to us, in view of the fact that she is well aware of our urgent need for exactly one teacher to teach Hammond High's large number of students who cannot read beyond the sixth-grade level.

It's time someone steps in and provides some balance on behalf of taxpayers and students of this county. Our county council has tried, but without much success.

Perhaps that someone will be new schools superintendent John O'Rourke. We'll see.

A long-overdue independent performance audit will also help put school spending into perspective.

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