Domestic partners would benefit

EDUCATION

Education Beat

News from Howard County schools

April 10, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

BESIDES PAY raises, another new provision of a tentative contract between the Howard County school system and the teachers union is the extension of full health benefits for school employees in same-sex domestic partnerships.

The union's general membership -- representing 4,000 teachers, guidance counselors and psychologists -- is expected to ratify the tentative agreement by tomorrow's deadline, said Joe Staub, president of the Howard County Education Association.

If approved, school employees would join their counterparts in county government, who were extended the benefits last year under a policy change approved by the Robey administration. The new provision would also apply to school staff represented by other unions, Staub said.

"You want to ensure that all county employees have the same medical coverage," Staub said.

To qualify, school employees must meet similar criteria spelled out for county employees, including having been in a committed relationship for at least one year and be of the same sex.

The Howard chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) had been pushing for the school system to follow the county government's lead.

"One of the reasons we pushed it is market competition," said Collette Roberts, PFLAG's co-founder and chairwoman. "You could attract better-qualified employees when they have a comprehensive benefits package."

Baltimore City schools offer benefits to domestic partners, regardless of sex, if they show that the couple had been in a relationship for at least six months. Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Carroll counties do not offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners.

Accolade for music

The Howard County school system has plenty of academic accolades. Now, it can boast about its music education.

The school system has been named one of 101 best communities for music education in the United States through a survey conducted by numerous organizations devoted to music and learning, including the National Association for Music Education, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and the National School Boards Association.

"It's certainly an area to be proud of," said Rob White, the school system's instructional facilitator of music. "We just feel that music and the arts in general go hand in hand not only with traditional assessment of doing well in school but lifelong learning."

The county's high school bands and other music groups have won numerous state and national awards, White said. This past year, Howard County students represented nearly 50 percent of the Maryland Junior All State Band for seventh- through ninth-grades, which requires an audition.

Besides Howard County, two other Maryland districts received honors: the Wicomico and Worcester school systems.

The survey measured music education funding, enrollment, student-teacher ratios, participation, instruction time and facilities, among other factors.

Big day: June 16

In a little more than two months, Howard County students can forget about homework and school altogether.

The last day of school for students -- except graduating seniors -- will be on June 16, pushed back three days because of snow days in late February.

For seniors, the last day is May 27.

12 Carson Scholars

Twelve Howard County students have been named recipients of the 2005 Carson Scholars Fund Award.

Dr. Ben Carson, a Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon, founded the fund with his wife, Candy. Students must be in grades four through 12, have at least a 3.75 grade point average and possess humanitarian qualities. Winners receive a $1,000 college scholarship and applicants can reapply each year.

Third-time recipients include Briana Gapsis, a senior at Glenelg Country School, and Annika Wheatley-Heckman, a junior at Howard High School.

Second-year recipients include Sarah Cookson, a sixth-grader at Wilde Lake Middle School; Emily Horton, a fifth-grader at Waterloo Elementary School; Jonathan McCoy, a senior at Long Reach High School; Molly O'Neil, a fifth-grader at Forest Ridge Elementary School; Lisa Tom, a sophomore at Atholton High School; Morgan Wallace, a ninth-grader at Mount Hebron High School; Maxwell Weinberg, a sixth-grader at Cradlerock School, and Matthew Zuchero, a sixth-grader at Lime Kiln Middle School.

First-time winners are Seth Manoff, a senior at Centennial High School, and Sophie Keane, a fifth-grader at Clarksville Elementary School.

Contact the writer at 410-715-2837, or at hanah.cho@baltsun.com.

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