Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

September 05, 2004

County schools need an ombudsman

The Howard County Board of Education is considering creating a position of ombudsman for the school system. Other school systems have ombudsmen; Montgomery County has had one since 1970. The ombudsman hears complaints, refers citizens to the appropriate officials for information, and offers various solutions for redress of problems.

The need for an ombudsman in Howard County is obvious, even to the Board of Education. There are no funds in the budget for a new position. However, I think the funding source is there; it's just not so obvious.

The Board members are paid $1,000 per month. Each month, in addition, they receive $275 for "expenses." They don't itemize or account for their expenses; they get the check every month along with their pay. In fact, it IS pay.

The official salary of $12,000 per year was enough to attract 10 qualified job applicants in the last primary election. Three of these applicants are still competing vigorously for the right to be seriously underpaid for a very demanding (and nearly fulltime) position.

I am absolutely certain that a qualified individual would be found to serve as the school system ombudsman on the same terms.

I am therefore calling on the five board members to voluntarily donate their monthly "expense reimbursement" to fund a stipend for the position of ombudsman. The five extra paychecks add up to $1,375 per month.

I think everyone on the Board would find the investment paid for itself. I bet the school system would find the savings in litigation, investigative reports, and wasted staff hours paid for the position, too. The advantage to the public would obviously be beyond price.

Joanne Heckman

Harper's Choice

The writer, who ran for school board in the March primary, chairs the Public School Accountability Political Action Committee.

Waverly Woods issue is not about race

I feel the need to reply to Rev. Martin Burnham (Aug. 15) about the ongoing issues relating to Waverly Woods and the proposed senior housing there.

I am a resident of Waverly Woods for the past four years and I've been concerned about the portrayal of the neighborhood in The Sun. Apparently, 800 or more residents signed a petition to oppose the building of Waverly Gardens. However, I and my family were not one of them.

There are people in Waverly Woods who welcome the addition of the new building and those who would move into it, myself being one of them. I feel ashamed and outraged at the behavior of my fellow neighbors and feel that they are shining a negative light on the community as a whole.

With regards to Rev. Burnham's allegations about racial discrimination being the underlying motives, I disagree. The Waverly Woods community is very diverse and I don't believe that is the underlying issue here.

The underlying issue is economic discrimination. To put it bluntly, many in the community do not want "lower income" people moving into their neighborhood and they have trumped up a politically correct reason for opposing this building.

Instead of coming out and saying they don't want "low income" residents moving in, they instead are focusing on an increase in the number of units. I personally would have more respect for the opposition if they just were honest about why they are fighting this fight. Unless they honestly want the public to believe that they think 30 extra units and a 4-story building in a neighborhood with 3-story condos is worth all this fuss. Somehow, that argument seems transparent.

Michael Brubaker

Waverly Woods

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