Ecker, schools officials field citizen queries in Hampstead

Crowding and violence are among concerns

March 07, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll County interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker and school board President Susan W. Krebs took their community- listening session to Hampstead last night, meeting with about 60 residents, teachers and school administrators.

For 90 minutes, Ecker and Krebs fielded questions, ranging from the status of construction projects and crowding to school violence and maintaining levels of instruction for students of varying abilities.

With the number of administrators, supervisors, school board members and county government staffers outnumbering residents, plenty of people were on hand to answer questions.

Many asked about the budget, a process Krebs described as a balancing act.

"Our county commissioners don't have money falling out of their pockets, and the board of education doesn't either," she said.

The school board last week approved a $195.3 million operating budget request, which the county budget director has said is unaffordable. The commissioners and the school board will work out the differences, and the commissioners will approve a final county budget in May.

"Teachers want us to commit to a raise for all employees. Parents want us to commit to lowering class size," Krebs said. "We want more [advanced placement] classes, and we're trying to raise the bar for our students, and every one of those things is important. If someone could tell me what isn't important, then we can start prioritizing some of these things."

Parents expressed concern about school crowding, especially in light of the latest outbreak of school violence in a San Diego suburb, where a 15-year-old boy is accused of fatally shooting two students and injuring 13 others.

"Those kids probably slipped the cracks," said Kathy Crumbaugh, PTO president at North Carroll High School. "North Carroll High is heading that way. We're at 1,500 now and nobody says the word overcrowding because I guess it's a dirty word, but we feel it up there. ... Will we ever get to the point - I know it's a public high school - but can we ever say enough is enough. It's getting more and more unsafe."

Ecker has continued the practice of holding the forums, which was started in 1994, explaining that it fits well with his desire to reach out to the community.

"People have got great ideas and I want to hear them," he said.

The next scheduled town meeting will be May 16 at Runnymede Elementary School.

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