It's easy to get lost in the back and forth about education policy decisions in Harford County, or anywhere else for that matter, and focus on problems like portable classrooms, security issues, teacher retirement plan funding and the like.
A danger when this happens is the focus is lost on what's right with our public school system, and there's plenty that's right. Maryland has one of the highest-ranked public school systems in the country, and Harford County's public schools have been among the top tier in the state.
A reflection of the generally good educational opportunities offered by Harford County's Public Schools came last week when Lauren Hunter, a fifth-grade teacher at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School in Abingdon, was awarded the national Milken Award.
Begun in Maryland in 1993 after being established in 1987 in California, the Milken Awards are unrestricted cash bonuses given by the Milken Family Foundation to teachers regarded by the foundation as stand-out professionals in their field. The award does not allocate a winner for each school system, so there is no guarantee in any given year a Harford County teacher will be a recipient. Harford County educators have, however, been honored in the past, most recently in 2008. This speaks to the overall quality of the teachers in Harford County Public Schools.
Moreover, it is worth noting that Ms. Hunter is a teacher in a school that these days has become part of a sometimes heated public discussion about funding priorities for school building replacement. People in Abingdon have noted William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary, though among the older school buildings in the county, is not high on the priority list for major renovations or replacement.
This is a substantial issue and one that needs to be addressed, but the awarding of a Milken Award to a teacher at the school shows that while there is reason to be concerned about the school building, the people working in it are more than very capable.