Attendance Area Committee meeting canceled amid 'personal attacks' on members

Howard County public schools Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano and members of the Attendance Area Committee agreed during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to cancel the committe’s scheduled public meeting to review the fast-tracking of the county’s newest high school, after committee members said they faced “personal attacks” from the public regarding the redistricting process.

The meeting — originally scheduled for Sept. 20 and then postponed to Sept. 26 because of the Rosh Hashanah holiday — was planned for members to discuss Martirano’s latest proposal to open High School 13 in 2022, two years earlier than originally planned.

Feedback on High School 13 and its site location will be posted on the school system’s website.

At the board’s Sept. 19 meeting, committee members described “personal attacks” against them, their families and information about their residences that were posted online in the past two days. Martirano said the committee will no longer hold the Sept. 26 public meeting, but instead, will provide feedback on his proposal “electronically,” which he will include in his final redistricting recommendations to the board on Oct. 3.

The board approved Martirano’s proposed capital improvement plan last night. The committee was set to reconvene to discuss potential sites for High School 13, including he Mission Road site in Jessup and an Elkridge site at Landing and Montgomery roads.

“Their work had already ended,” Martirano said Wednesday. “I’m the one who asked them — because of the transparent approach in which I operate — I wanted them to have their eyes on, ‘If we used another school site aside from Mission Road, how would it be at the Rockburn site?’ I’ve not necessarily been very pleased with how some of the community members have been discussing this on social media.”

Martirano said committee members have been “harassed and attacked” on social media throughout this process, and people in the community have shared information on where committee members live as well as the schools their children attend.

“Quite frankly, my AAC members are feeling very unsettled by it all,” he said. “They’re volunteers and I want to protect them and not have them experience any further harassment online or in their communities. … We set an example for our children in how we treat each other and cannot expect our children to believe bullying and name-calling are bad when the adults in our community behave that way.”

School spokesman Brian Bassett said he was unaware of the specifics of the “attacks” made to committee members.

Martirano also extended the deadline for the public online survey to Sept. 28; the survey can be found at hcpss.org.

Martirano will give his redistricting recommendations to the Board of Education on Oct. 3 at the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School. The board will then garner public input during hearings on Oct. 26 and Nov. 7, or by email at boe@hcpss.org after Oct. 3.

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