Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 10, 2005

Special education making progress

I am a special education assistant at Phelps Luck Elementary School. My school is listed as one of the four schools that did not make progress on the Maryland School Assessment test this year.

Maybe a shorter version would be simpler, but for many special education students it should not be the main measure of their progress.

I am proud of our special education team. Every day at our school, our special education teachers work diligently to make sure our special education children are making progress, and they are succeeding every step of the way.

Often, special education is not recognized for all the value it extends when our children are in the inclusive setting. Our dedicated and committed teachers should be recognized for their special education expertise and their unending endeavor every day.

Accommodations are made for our children with Individual Education Plans. The MSA scores are an important measuring tool.

I understand that data is necessary to help measure students' progress. What is most important to me is the individual and dynamic learning that is taking place every day.

Test progress may be found lacking at these four schools, but I feel strongly the special education population at Phelps Luck is making great strides with or without their test scores.

Even if performance on these MSA tests is lacking progress, please know that at Phelps Luck we have special education students who are learning and thriving due to these wonderful, patient and dedicated teachers.

Lyn Goeke

Ellicott City

Cousin getting more than 3 percent raise

I read with great interest that the Howard County Board of Education is giving Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin an annual salary increase equivalent to the increment that the other employee groups in the system are receiving; however, this statement is clearly untrue.

Mr. Cousin will not only receive the 3 percent cost-of-living increase awarded the other employees but also an additional 2 percent step increase. Many of the teachers, support employees, administrators and supervisors will not receive this additional 2 percent step increase.

The superintendent is Howard County's highest paid public employee. He makes $199,00 a year, plus $38,000 contributed to a retirement plan and a car allowance of $575 a month. While many may think this amount is justified for a top-performing school system like Howard County's, it should be mentioned that the median school system salary is $45,426.

How can the Board of Education convince the citizens of Howard County that the highest paid employees at central office deserve this 2 percent imaginary step increase when they are already at the top of their scales? Furthermore, it hurts the morale of the employees that the Board of Education is trying so hard to improve.

Colleen Morris

Columbia

The writer is a Howard County teacher and was the chairwoman of the Howard County Education Association negotiation team.

County Council lacks objectivity on zoning

Thanks to Larry Carson's July 3 political notebook ("Objectivity on zoning questioned" ) for smoking out the Howard County Council. Council members freely admit they think there's nothing wrong with taking campaign contributions from developers and then making zoning decisions affecting those developers.

The councilmen really do work hard -- maybe a little too hard, if they're unable to grasp how this obvious conflict of interest is perceived by county residents.

They dismiss the idea of an appointed zoning board, and ignore the fact that zoning boards in many other places are appointed. Councilman Charles C. Feaga (Republican-Western Howard County) says, "Everyone appoints people who think the same way. It's always political." Wow. Talk about being cynical. It's not that tough to create an appointed zoning board insulated from politics. Since these councilmen seem to lack the imagination to do that, I've already pitched a plan to them.

My proposal may not be perfect, but it's a good starting point. By failing to even address this issue, our councilmen send the message that they'd rather retain power than fix problems.

While they may try to be fair, they can't possibly be objective. Why not? Because when politicians do zoning, virtually all zoning decisions are driven by politics. It's all about money.

In counties like Howard, citizens have grown accustomed to a high level of services. Politicians (of all parties) hate cutting services and hate raising taxes. So the only way to avoid service cuts, or higher taxes, is to increase the commercial tax base -- because residential development costs the government money, while commercial development provides revenue.

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