Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

January 25, 2004

Reader supports O'Rourke's ouster

New Chairman Courtney Watson and the members of the Howard County School Board are to be commended with respect to their recent decision not to renew Superintendent John O'Rourke's contract when it expires this year. Their action is a breath of fresh air compared to the attitude of prior Boards, which seldom demonstrated any independence of the entrenched administrative bureaucracy.

Mr. O' Rourke had requested at least a 6 percent raise for himself and for his top lieutenants in the coming year. While the same raise is also requested for the other school system employees pursuant to their contracts, I am certain that there was no principal, teacher or aide in the system who was making $196,000 prior to any raise being instituted.

The superintendent and his assistants are also already paid substantially more than other high-level county employees, a disparity that needs to be scrutinized in our current times of substantially increased taxes (both real estate and income) and strained budget resources.

Mr. O' Rourke has attributed the success of the school system to his efforts, ignoring the fact that Howard County parents are some of the most affluent and highly educated in the nation; with such a supportive base, high achievement should be a given. Parents here are very involved and invested in the school system, and County taxpayers have time and again committed their tax dollars to paying for quality education. In fact, given all our advantages, the average SAT scores and number of National Merit scholars produced compared to other nationally rated systems are not that extraordinary.

Leadership, integrity and vision are required components for this position. Mr. O' Rourke's apparent focus on feathering his own nest, which to many seems more than "fine-feathered" enough as it is, demonstrates his lack of leadership. It also demonstrates his insensitivity to the financial burden placed on taxpayers.

The questions of poor planning and management raised by the school system's requested historically high capital budget, together with other clear management lapses and problems within both the Superintendent's office and the school system at large, are more than ample justifications for the Board's actions.

Mr. O'Rourke is demonstrating extraordinary "executive arrogance," which the Board was right not to accept or tolerate. I applaud Chairman Watson and the other members of the Board for their action, and I hope that it is indicative of a new era of accountability for the school system's top administrator.

E. Alexander Adams


Time for O'Rourke to leave office

Recently Mr. John R. O'Rourke, superintendent of the Howard County school system, sent a message to all staff in which he promised to "devote myself fully to my duties for my remaining days as superintendent." He stated, in regards to his communication with the Board of Education, "I made it clear that I intend to continue to devote myself to my duties and the children of Howard County." He further stated "Given the importance of all of this to my reputation of 36 years, I will not have any further comment until Dr. Grasmick completes her review."

And yet Mr. O'Rourke, according to the Jan. 22 Sun article, requested and participated in an interview with a reporter from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in his office. It appears that the purpose of this meeting was to complain about the decision to not renew his contract. The form of his complaint was to make unfounded accusations against the chairperson of the Board. Obviously Mr. O'Rourke had invested a lot of time and effort in anticipation of the interview. He was armed with a list of talking points and a stack of documents.

We are unclear on how this interview, conducted during work hours, qualifies as the duties of a superintendent or how this is devoting oneself to the needs of Howard County students. Let us hope that the eyes of Howard County students are not on the Superintendent at this time. Mr. O'Rourke's example on how to achieve results is not exemplary.

Mr. O'Rourke indicates that he is concerned about his reputation. He would do well to look at the previous superintendents of Howard County, who enjoyed stellar reputations. They worked tirelessly to build the school system into one of the finest in the state of Maryland. They realized that it takes years to build a reputation, but only seconds to tear it down. We urge the Superintendent to end this bloody public discourse. It is time for Mr. O'Rourke to move on.

Cynthia Ardinger

Susan Nass

Ellicott City

Officials' response to scandal lacking

The Howard County Board of Education and the Superintendent's response to the scandal has been woefully inadequate. The correct response of the School Board and The Superintendent should have been that all faculty and administration personnel involved in the scandal, however remotely, be fired.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.