Hearing set for tomorrow on treatment plant vital to Glenelg High addition

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

November 06, 2005|By HANAH CHO

The legal challenge against a wastewater treatment plant vital to an addition at Glenelg High School begins tomorrow with arguments before an administrative law judge.

A hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Hunt Valley headquarters of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings and could continue for the rest of the week.

In September, Judge Neile S. Friedman ruled that the four western Howard County residents opposed to the treatment plant have legal standing to complain about potential water contamination and other environmental concerns.

The school system and the Maryland Department of the Environment had sought to have the case dismissed.

At issue is a shared treatment plant that would serve the 400-seat school addition and a proposed 32-home subdivision behind it.

Opponents are challenging a permit issued by MDE in the spring that expanded the amount of treated groundwater discharge the plant would release, from 32,000 to 50,000 gallons a day.

For many years, the issues over the septic system have hampered construction of the addition. Western Howard County does not have public water or sewer service and must rely on well or septic systems.

Because of the legal challenge, school system officials said the addition will be ready by April 2007 if a decision is reached later this month or early next month -- a delay from the initial completion date of August 2006.

Students, teachers and administrators are frustrated with the lack of movement on the addition, which they see as the solution to crowding at their school. Glenelg was 27 percent over capacity this past school year with 1,273 students.

School honored

Another Howard County school has been named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, continuing a tradition of schools here that have been recognized for this distinction statewide and nationally.

Clarksville Middle School was one of six schools in the state selected by the Maryland Department of Education last week. The six schools will represent Maryland in the national competition.

"It was very exciting and surprising," said Principal JoAnn Hutchens, who got a phone call Tuesday from Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, who delivered the good news.

The six schools were selected based on the 2005 Maryland School Assessment. Winning schools had to score in the top 10 percent of all Maryland schools on the state standardized tests, or serve economically disadvantaged communities whose test scores have shown great improvement for at least three years.

Clarksville Middle pupils have consistently scored high on the state standardized tests. On the 2005 MSA, more than 90 percent of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders passed the reading and math tests.

Hutchens attributed the school's academic success to teachers and parents and their efforts.

"We have a great community and staff. Students come to us ready to learn. Parents are very, very supportive," she said. "The whole culture of the school values achievement and success."

The school separates language arts into two classes -- reading and writing -- with each pupil getting lessons in both.

Moreover, teachers provide tutorial time for pupils falling behind in math and reading. "We try to individualize their strengths and needs," Hutchens said.

Besides Clarksville Middle, its lower-school counterpart, Clarksville Elementary, was most recently named a Maryland and national Blue Ribbon school. Previously, Centennial Lane Elementary in Ellicott City was named a national Blue Ribbon school.

`What Counts?'

In the cafeteria of the Howard County school system's Homewood Center last week, more than 100 parents, principals, administrators and community members asked each other fundamental questions about public education.

What do they value about public schools? And how do you measure success of students and the school system?

Part of the "What Counts?" forum sponsored by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Howard County was the first on a four-stop tour in Maryland. Started in 2002 by MABE, the forum asks community members and other stakeholders of the public education system to define what qualities they value in their schools and how they could measure academic success.

"It's getting folks engaged in talking about public schools and what they value," said Carl W. Smith, executive director of MABE. "What do community members and parents value? It can't just be test scores."

The participants -- including County Executive James N. Robey and County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon -- debated educational values such as affordability and accessibility, diversity, safety, parent and community involvement, equity among schools and civility.

Measures of school or academic success included meeting academic standards established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, attendance and graduation rates, elimination of the achievement gap among races, percentage of students attending colleges or getting jobs and student grades.

The data from the forum -- as well as from the other three in Allegany, Frederick and St. Mary's counties -- will be complied in a report that will be available to those school systems and community members.

School systems that have participated in the exercise have used the reports to determine priorities in planning, Smith said. The report from this year's "What Counts?" forums is scheduled to be released in the spring, he said.

NOTE TO READERS: Education reporter Hanah Cho has moved to the business section, where she will cover workplace issues, including writing stories for Wednesday's Working section. John-John Williams IV will take her place as the education reporter. John-John can be reached at 410-715-2837 or john-john.williams @baltsun.com.

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