Howard Week

March 09, 2003

GT resource teachers are reassigned - Robin Hood-style

Because some Howard County elementary schools have not been offering an adequate Gifted and Talented program, the school system has reassigned its GT resource teachers Robin Hood-style: taking from the staff-rich and giving to the staff-poor.

The decision has many parents and administrators concerned that their children will lose programs and opportunities. Some parents and teachers see it as a raid on better-performing schools to help poor performers. "They're robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Pam Rochlin, a GT resource teacher at top-tier Ilchester Elementary in Ellicott City.

But to school administrators, the staff shift is more about producing a level playing field than favoritism.

Commuter fatigue linked with voter turnout in study

Add one more sin to the evils of suburban sprawl - commuter fatigue that can theoretically cut voter turnout 2 percent to 3 percent in some precincts.

In a close race like the 2000 presidential contest, that can be a vital difference, according to a research paper on voting that year in Howard, Frederick and Montgomery counties by University of Maryland political scientist James G. Gimpel.

His theory: After a long, traffic-clogged drive to and from work, with family waiting at home, some marginally committed voters may skip their patriotic duty rather than face another five-mile drive to vote. The less convenient the polling place, the more people will skip voting.

Optimistic builder has plan for a difficult parcel

What is believed to be the last vacant residential lot in Columbia's Wilde Lake village sits at the entrance to the Flowertuft Court cul-de-sac - a precious rarity in the planned suburb.

Developers have proposed homes for the lot, and they have been turned down by the village review board because their plans did not meet covenant guidelines.

The problem: Most of the lot lies in a flood plain, leaving room for only an unusually shaped home that does not reflect the traditional character of the community.

Despite previous attempts - about five proposals have been turned down - builder Clayton R. Marshall is trying to construct a home on the lot.

School board OKs budget after boosting request

The Howard County Board of Education adopted Monday the superintendent's proposed operating budget for the next fiscal year, adding $823,980 in requests.

The budget seeks $442.9 million, 13.4 percent more than this fiscal year. If approved by the County Council, the additional $52.2 million would permit textbook purchases that were deferred last year and add nine part-time teachers for the Gifted and Talented program.

Next month, county officials will consider the needs of the school system given the bleak economic conditions.

Church again seeking approval for expansion

A church striving for the past half-decade to become Howard County's largest - to the frustration of some neighbors - is back for another try after a tangled web of hearings and court appeals.

First Baptist Church of Guilford, with a congregation of nearly 2,000, hopes to triple its seating capacity to 1,502.

More than 100 members of First Baptist and about a half-dozen neighbors with misgivings about the proposed expansion packed the county hearing examiner's meeting room Monday night.

Two opponents of the expansion filed motions requesting that Thomas P. Carbo, the hearing examiner, recuse himself from the case, alleging a conflict of interest because he represented the county when neighbors appealed an earlier vote. Carbo, saying the county Board of Appeals must decide whether to recuse him, promptly ended the hearing.

Consultant, 38, chosen to succeed Del. Flanagan

Warren E. Miller becomes Howard County's newest House of Delegates member on the eve of crucial votes on whether gambling, new taxes or deep budget cuts should be used to address a looming $1.2 billion shortfall.

The 38-year-old conservative Republican, a management consultant, was chosen to succeed Howard Del. Robert L. Flanagan, who resigned to be Maryland's transportation secretary.

Miller, who lives near Lisbon with his wife and two young children, was selected Monday night by secret ballot among the nine Howard County Republican State Central Committee members - of which he is one.

PTA Council, school board discuss their differences

The Howard County Board of Education held a summit Thursday night with PTA Council executive members to discuss ways to improve their relationship - three months after the council initiated an investigation into the school board's meeting practices.

"We believe that the PTA Council perceives board actions and decisions with dissatisfaction and/or suspicion," Sandra H. French, the board chairman, wrote in a letter to the council requesting the meeting to discuss "how together we might rebuild a relationship based upon collaboration and mutual trust."

The night's moderator, Elizabeth Crosby, president of the Maryland PTA, stressed the importance of working together. "You will not be successful in educating children in this county unless you have parent involvement," she told board members.

Suggestions that came from the meeting include revising the board's hearing policy to allow for regular PTA input, identifying immediate and measurable goals for the school system, providing better and earlier access to board meeting agendas and reports, improving communications and increasing respect.

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