School committee recruiting extended

Second boundary line panel is drawing few applicants, officials say

New deadline is May 18

Howard County

May 07, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Last year, Boundary Lines Advisory Committee members struggled through 10 months of the first all-public-school redistricting process in Howard County history. They worked through the summer, some holidays, long nights and even weekends. Some were cornered in the grocery store by angry parents. A few lost friends.

That might be why school district officials, trying hard to convene the second redistricting committee, had received only one application for the group by Friday's deadline. By yesterday, there were nine - still not enough for a full committee - so the system has extended the deadline to May 18.

David C. Drown, the school system's coordinator of geographic systems and a permanent boundary lines committee member, said county residents may be wary of the time commitment the panel demands.

"You need to essentially dedicate one night a week," he said.

Others may be fearful of the public scrutiny.

"People understand that the work is challenging and, at times, emotionally draining," Drown said. "It affects people where they live, and because of that they are involved and will tell you how they feel."

But Drown said the committee's job is "interesting and important work," and although members will be challenged with moving students around to fill two new schools instead of one, the work will not be as headache-inducing this time around.

For one thing, the committee has been reorganized and reduced in size.

Instead of 28 members, the school district wants to try 18, not including Drown, which should make the meetings move smoother and faster, he said.

And, instead of choosing two members per school involved, two members will be selected from each of six county regions, in addition to five members from the first BLAC and a student member. Also, the committee's work will not take nearly a year. The lines for next year's elementary and middle schools can be redrawn in about six months, he said.

"Hopefully, because we're a year smarter, we'll be able to get what we need done in the time allotted," Drown said.

Still, others might think the committee's hard work is not relevant in the long run, once the schools superintendent and board members weigh in with their opinions.

Jerry Bialecki, former advisory committee co-chairman, said prospective applicants should not be turned away by that view. The last committee was very effective, he said, and helped start a new and better way of drawing school boundary lines.

"We could have been the last committee," Bialecki said. "Instead, we were the beginning of an ongoing effort to bring the community into this process. I would anticipate that this is going to be another successful project."

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