Howard Week

October 12, 2003

Howard High principal appealing dismissal of lawsuit

The principal of Howard High School, which was recently added to a list of the county's struggling schools, is embroiled in a legal dispute stemming from criticism of her leadership and professional competence.

Principal Mary J. Day says in court papers that she has endured "a long-term campaign of malicious, wrongful and/or illegal acts: including breach of contract, negligence, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy" from county and state education representatives and their unions. She is appealing the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought in Howard County Circuit Court against some of her critics.

The lawsuit - against the Howard County Education Association and its president, Joseph R. Staub Jr., and the Maryland State Teachers Association and its county liaison, Marius Ambrose - focuses on their actions in 2001.

Landowners decide to sell to make way for project

With giant yellow earthmovers closing in around James Oliver's carefully tended 3-acre Howard County homestead, he and his wife have decided to sell their home of 35 years to make way for the Maple Lawn Farms mixed-use project, rather than risk court condemnation, Oliver said Monday.

"I guess you could say that we essentially gave up the fight in order to get on with our lives," Oliver said, although he has not heard whether his oral agreement to terms is acceptable to the county or developer Stuart J. Greenebaum.

The county wants to build a four-lane extension of Sanner Road through the middle of the Olivers' land to provide a northern entrance to the Maple Lawn Farms development, which will include 1,116 homes and 1.2 million square feet of office and commercial space.

Timing of principal's vacation under scrutiny

The principal of Howard High School took a vacation last month, a week after she learned her facility had been added to a list of struggling schools and prompting officials to consider tightening the leave-approval process.

Howard High Principal Mary J. Day took five days off, Sept. 22 to Sept. 26, one week after she had been told her Ellicott City school was being added to the county's School Improvement Unit, which provides extra resources and attention to underperforming facilities. The timing of Day's vacation, so close to the start of the school year, had some questioning its suitability.

"We would like our principals to be in the building whenever students are," said Roger L. Plunkett, who oversees Howard's administrators. "However, they are entitled to their vacations, and we don't have guidelines" telling them when it's appropriate to take time off.

"Maybe we have to assume responsibility and develop stronger parameters," Plunkett said.

Joshua Kaufman confirmed as school board member

Joshua M. Kaufman was confirmed Wednesday night as Howard County's newest school board member by a unanimous vote of the County Council, despite opposition from an organized group that lobbied for an appointee with a background in local education.

Three council members expressed concern about whether Kaufman will devote enough time to the job because he commutes daily to Washington, where he is a democracy specialist with the Agency for International Development.

Kaufman took the oath of office at the school board's meeting Thursday.

Deli owner fatally shot; 1 of 2 suspects charged

A robber shot and killed a Jessup deli owner Wednesday, grabbed a bag filled with cash, and within minutes began leading police on a high-speed chase through two counties and the city that ended with a car crash, the arrest of one suspect and the shooting of another by a Baltimore County officer, police said.

The victim, Kwang Jun Kim, 53, owner of the Jessup Plaza Deli & Convenience, in the 7800 block of Washington Blvd., and a Presbyterian church deacon, was shot once in the head about 11:30 a.m. in his store after a struggle over the bank bag containing $125,000. He was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where he died.

Police charged Walter J. Blannon, 38, of the 1600 block of N. Calvert St. in Baltimore with first- and second-degree murder and armed robbery, assault and theft, charging documents say.

Board of Education cuts capital budget proposal

The Howard County Board of Education shaved millions of dollars off the superintendent's proposed capital budget Thursday night in a marathon session.

By 11 p.m., the board had pared Superintendent John R. O'Rourke's budget request from $149.8 million to $116.6 million - in part by eliminating additions at Hammond Elementary School and Hammond Middle School and doing away with a planned cafeteria expansion at Clarksville Middle.

Members also deferred an addition at Gorman Crossing Elementary for a year.

But the county's budget director, Raymond S. Wacks, said a request of even $115 million would be nearly impossible to fund.

Board of Appeals rejects funeral home for Highland

The unusual characteristics of a rural crossroads prompted three of the five members of the Board of Appeals Thursday night to deny a petition to construct a large funeral home in southern Howard.

Developer Souder Builders sought "conditional use" permission to build an approximately 12,000-square-foot structure on about 4 acres near Route 108 and Highland Road for the Donaldson Funeral Home of Laurel. Its chapel would seat 120, with 45 parking spaces.

Neighbors of the Highland site felt the 1 1/2 -story building would dwarf others nearby.

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