Schools need boosters for more than lighting

PLAYING AROUND

Howard Week

January 12, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

CLEANING OUT notebooks and mulling over some stuff that, maybe, is worth sharing to start a new year:

The man who in 2 1/2 years has written more fan mail (alas, just three letters) about this column than anyone else, Ellicott City's J. T. Merryman, took us to task again last week for espousing the addition of lighting for county high school stadiums.

If you missed his missive, Merryman suggested that with so many county schools overcrowded, sports boosters should "rethink their priorities and consider purchasing portable classrooms, books, software or computers, instead."

We still like lights, but in dissent, Merryman raised a touchy topic for anyone in this county who has sent a child through, especially, one of its older schools -- as many of you know, the ones that never, ever seem to get enough new equipment or books or anything else.

This is a school system that, so many shortages and so much short-sightedness aside, doesn't like boosters in anything favoring one school over another, no matter how energetic their support for a given school.

Yet even that seems a fragile, inconsistently administered policy, given what some private businesses have been allowed to give certain schools.

But, Mr. Merryman, your point was interesting on a broader scale, as well. Things related to physical education and athletics in public schools have been under attack nationally for a decade or more -- and apparently that's continuing in a Bush administration proposal to cut a small physical education program apparently not tapped by this county.

Phys ed and sports, interrelated but not synonymous, are quite important to this society, it says here. But both are easy targets for politicians who are so scared of telling taxpayers the truth. And that is, we've kept local-government budgets so lean for so many years that the time probably is here to do the unavoidable -- raise taxes.

Either that, or oddly enough, Mr. Merryman, we may agree on the broader context here.

With the leaders we elect not getting the job done right when it comes to school facilities and equipment here, maybe the answer must be, indeed, more boosterism -- and not just for what some might call a frill such as stadium lights.

Yet looking to boosters for books, computers and classrooms seems a pretty lame substitute for what all of us taxpayers and elected officials should be doing. And that is sharing the load, whether we have kids in school or not, of giving our community's children the best possible public education.

Soccer stuff

Soccer Dome, the new indoor soccer facility in Jessup, is beginning an after-school, drop-in program for middle school pupils and high school students. The idea is to provide not only a place to go but also exercise and maybe a dash of instruction. The cost is $5 a player. Information: Soccer Dome coach Rick Crow, 301-498-4906; the Dome itself, 443-755-0014; or www.soccerc.com.

Ellicott City's Hayley Siegel, The Sun's Howard County Girls Soccer Co-Player of the Year last fall, is one of two Marylanders named to the U.S. Soccer Coaches Association's under-15 youth All-American squad. The sophomore midfielder scored 11 times and had eight assists for Centennial High.

The west-county Thunder Soccer Club's under-10 White Cobras won the State Cup in futsal, the indoor game, just before Christmas and will compete in regionals next month in Pittsburgh. Nine of the team's 10 players scored during the five-game state tournament, the finals of which were played at SoccerPlex in Germantown. The Cobras were so dominant that they outscored their opponents 35-7.

Columbia Ajax was runner-up in the under-12 boys futsal bracket, losing to a Montgomery County team on penalty kicks after winning three other games.

Roller skating

Three countians out of 60 competitors placed during a one-day dance competition among eight Maryland and Virginia clubs last Sunday at the Laurel Roller Skating Center.

Jessup's Claude Shires was first in Veterans Solo Dance; Ellicott City's Cherie Wein was third in the same event. Shires and partner Susie Mathason, who lives in Simpsonville, were third among Esquire Team Dance competitors.

The Laurel center will hold an open competition March 30 and then, in June, the sport's southeast regional championships.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail tolowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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