Difference of opinion on redistricting In response to...

Letters

November 11, 2001

Difference of opinion on redistricting

In response to Louis Pope's letter ("Democrats dominate council redistricting," Nov. 4) in Sunday's edition of The Sun in Howard County, I would like to take the opportunity to set the record straight on a couple of matters.

While I was happy to see that Mr. Pope acknowledged the fact that the Councilmanic Redistricting Commission was created under a Republican majority County Council and a Republican County Executive, it should be noted that they created a BIPARTISAN commission, not a nonpartisan commission as he suggests. If it had been their intention to remove partisanship from the process, they were in control and could have created a nonpartisan commission, but they did not.

The redistricting process allows several criteria to be considered in drawing lines, and it became very clear during the process that the Democrats and the Republicans disagreed on which of the criteria was more important. Neither was "unfair," it was a difference of opinion. In the end, the majority agreed that it was more important to keep communities together than it was to have every district have an almost identical population.

One of the guidelines established what is an acceptable variance in population between districts, and the plan that was voted on and sent to the County Council was well within those guidelines. In fact, those guidelines would actually allow for even greater variances, but the Democrats who crafted the plan worked very hard to keep that number down while achieving the other goals.

When it comes to fairness, people should know that during the whole process only one map was proposed that would have removed an incumbent councilman from his current district and given him a virtually whole new constituency, and that was a Republican map designed to remove Councilman Guzzone from his current district. Now that was unfair. Not one single plan proposed by Democrats attempted to draw a Republican incumbent out of his current district.

I'm sure it will not go unnoticed by the educated voters of Howard County, that the minority party is upset because the proposed map doesn't weaken Democratic districts. As the majority party in Howard County with the majority on the County Council, the Democrats were entitled to a majority on the Redistricting Commission. For the Republicans to claim otherwise is totally self-serving.

Wendy L. Fiedler

Ellicott City

Chairwoman, Howard County Democratic Party

Teach reading correctly, starting in first grade

"Building better readers" (Oct. 22), describes SpellRead, a program in Howard County where nonreaders in middle schools are taught to recognize the sounds of speech and to associate these sounds with their corresponding symbols. Howard County should be ashamed. It is surprising that they even agreed to let you publish this account.

If the parents of these children aren't outraged, they should be. Each one of these students could and should have been taught these skills in grades one and two. Why didn't it happen? It didn't happen because our entrenched educational bureaucracy still refuses to insist that structured, sequential, explicit, multisensory phonics programs -- taught by the regular classroom teacher, at an appropriate pace with adequate practice -- be available in every school in Maryland for every beginning reader who needs to learn this way.

The Maryland Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and PAGER, a parent advocacy group for educational rights, have both approached the Maryland State Department of Education asking that these kinds of programs be sanctioned and encouraged by the state. They have been refused.

Misunderstanding of the reading process is rampant. Some schools in Baltimore County use Project Read, which is an appropriate program, but administrators will not encourage its use. Instead, they ignore sequence of skills and ask teachers to use conflicting methods -- one for phonics, one for "comprehension." Baltimore City adopted Open Court which is a research-based reading series, but we know that is too fast-paced for dyslexics and print-deprived children. There is no alternative. Harford County introduces most of the 44 letter/sound correspondences to all kindergarten children, then wonders why, by second grade, so many are clamoring for admittance to special education or need the services of a reading specialist. Frederick County touted their program for dyslexics, but only allowed children access to the program in second grade. That gave teachers a whole year to confuse and defeat young learners.

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