Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

January 11, 2004

Public should know investigation results

It has been a month since Superintendent John O'Rourke became aware of allegations of undue influence and student grade changing involving Deputy Superintendent Kimberly Statham and Assistant Superintendent Roger Plunkett. You ran a story on the matter in early December, stating that Superintendent O'Rourke had hired Chesapeake Associates to conduct a thorough investigation. What were the results of the investigation?

The public has a right to know because the integrity of the School System's grading system and the conduct of two top officials and the Superintendent are at stake.

Superintendent O'Rourke's contract is up for review by the Board of Education this month. The Board must hold the Superintendent accountable for the conduct of his top lieutenants. The facts must be made public before the Board votes on whether to renew Mr. O'Rourke's contract. The public has a right to know whether the Superintendent and his two top associates have been honest in the conduct of their public offices. Neither the press nor the Board should let this matter die or be swept under the rug.

Centennial High School has lost the best principal it has had since Angelo Fortunato. Principal Lynda Mitic resigned just before this ... was made public. Those of us who have had students at Centennial High School know that Lynda Mitic represented the highest level of ethical conduct and was a tremendous example for students and teachers.

What is Superintendent O'Rourke's position on all this? Does he have the courage to stand up for what is right no matter the cost? Both the public and the Board need to know what the Superintendent's position is, what the investigation has revealed, and what he is going to do about the matter.

In my mind, this matter is far more serious than the Superintendent's attempt to extract from the Board through contract amendment $190,000, if his contract is not renewed. The grading ... matter is more serious than the apparent failure of the Superintendent to hire and retain competent staff and make good appointments.

Will the Board have the courage to hold the Superintendent accountable for his administration of the School System? Specific answers must be given by the Superintendent, and they must be made known to the public before the Board decides whether to renew the Superintendent's contract.

Mary Jane Rudnicki

Ellicott City

Whatever happened to rebate from CA?

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

An old child's saying brings home the point that anyone who falls for the same trick twice must accept responsibility for his/her own gullibility. But who in Columbia is playing tricks on us? Could it be the Columbia Association (CA), acting through the Columbia Council, which "straw" voted right before Halloween to rebate part of the $5.7 million FY 2003 surplus back to the Columbians who overpaid CA? Is it the same Council that now refuses to provide any rebate whatsoever? Is it the same Council which now says it has less information on the surplus (the amount that would be labeled profit were it not for CA's tax exempt status) than it had two months ago, even though the books for FY 2003 closed April 30, 2003, and the CA audited financials were available a month or so later?

Fellow Columbians, it is time to refuse to tolerate any more of CA's monkey business. We who have not been vigilant enough can no longer turn a blind eye to the tricks of CA staff and some Council members. Look at your current annual charge ("tax") and CA's proposed FY 2005 tax on your property which has been, or will be, assessed up to 70 percent higher than the last go-around. Decide for yourself if you are being fairly charged for the costs of services CA provides to you. See if your present or future CA "annual charges" are half or more of your County property tax bill as many residents have already seen. Then start the New Year by telling your Council members and your state legislators where you stand.

Joel Pearlman

Columbia

Support amending Open Meetings Act

Delegate Liz Bobo deserves praise and support for her bill to restore real significance to the Open Meetings Act. Citizens cannot participate in their own government if they do not have access to enough facts to make prudent decisions. If this bill is passed, all of Maryland will have a real "Sunshine Law" with one small but serious exception. Residents of Columbia, second largest city in the state will still live on a diet of PR releases with no chance to overcome the handicap of the use of closed meetings by the Columbia Association Council/Board.

On advice of their hired counsels, both in-house and out, they close meetings with abandon on questionable justification and threaten minority board members with penalties if they release any information about the closed meetings. Even the conclusions reached in the closed meetings are not routinely announced.

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