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Letters: Howard school board deserves thanks for new equity policy; and more from readers | READER COMMENTARY

New equity policy will extend model of fairness

As a mother of an African American male who receives special education services in Howard County, I often feel as if there is a tug of war between racial equity and special education in the school system. Children of color with special needs face the compounding challenges of both their disability and structural racism. They need a Board of Education that supports both special education services and racial equity.

I had the opportunity to share these concerns with the Howard County Board of Education members and was very pleased to hear that they voted unanimously for the amendments to the new educational equity policy (“Howard County school board approves new equity policy as blueprint for diversity, ‘accountability,’ ” Oct. 1). It is my hope that this policy will help ensure all students receive the full support needed to be successful. In my opinion, the amendments to the policy make it stronger and more accountable.

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James Rouse had the original vision for Columbia to be a model for fairness, equity, diversity and inclusion. As adopted, this new policy has extended that vision to the entire school system in Howard County. Well done!

Krystal Lighty

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Columbia

Equity policy will make finding data easier

Kudos to the Howard County Board of Education for passing the first HCPSS equity policy. I am very pleased to see that the Board of Education required HCPSS to make equity-related data widely available to the public on its website. Up until now, the limited equity-related data available has been scattered around the web — a far cry from being readily accessible to the public.

With the new policy, the school system will be required to report information in a searchable and analyzable format about school discipline; Gifted and Talented course enrollment; grade-point average, graduation and dropout rates; class size; teacher and staff diversity; promotion and retention; and more by race/ethnicity, gender, disability, grade and school, etc., all the while protecting student privacy.

Collecting and transparently reporting high-quality data is critical for the public to participate in identifying problems, developing solutions, and measuring progress toward our equity goals. As someone who spent a career developing national and international education statistics, I believe the Board of Education rightly has required huge steps forward.

Laura Salganik

Columbia

School board deserves thanks for equity policy

On behalf of the Howard County Equity Collaborative, we’d like to thank the Howard County Board of Education for unanimously adopting the school system’s new equity policy. We are pleased that the final amended and adopted version of HCPSS Policy 1080 — Educational Equity adequately addressed the amendments put forward by the Howard County Equity Collaborative.

This is a great first step to eliminating barriers that prevent children of color from achieving their full potential, including barriers to educational opportunity, good health and other determinants of well-being. By enacting Policy 1080 with our amendments, the school board set us on a path toward an even stronger school system and positions HCPSS as a leader in educational equity both in Maryland and the rest of the country.

Thank you to board members Mavis Ellis, Vicky Cutroneo, Kirsten Coombs, Christina Delmont-Small, Zachary Koung, Jennifer Mallo, Sabina Taj and Dr. Chao Wu for voting to strengthen the superintendent’s draft policy and doing right by our children. With that being said, now it is time for implementation and to move forward in making real changes for the students in our school system. Let’s get to work!

Daniel Burns, Larry Walker, Joan Driessen, Nikki Highsmith Vernick and Ming Li

The writers are, respectively, CEO of Equity4HC, president of the African American Community Roundtable, executive director of the Association of Community Services of Howard County, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation of Howard County, and chair of the board of directors of the Howard County Chinese School.

Why tax alcohol? Here are about 95,000 reasons

Regarding the added tax on the alcohol industry and increased booze sales (“Increase in alcohol tax could help address state’s health inequities,” The Baltimore Sun, Sept. 28), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that excessive alcohol use has led to “approximately 95,000 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States from 2011-2015, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 29 years.” The federal agency also warns that excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20 to 64.

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That is why the alcohol industry needs to be taxed out of existence!

Barring that, the CDC warning should be written in bold, large fonts on all alcoholic drink labels and posted in plain sight in all bars.

B. H. Meyer

Elkridge

Proposal for central library in downtown Columbia

The relocation of the Howard County Library System Central Branch was proposed several years ago as part of Howard County’s long-term planning. The location for the current central library will be a new transportation hub. Given uncertainties about land donation by Howard Hughes Corp. for the future central library, I would like to propose an alternative plan.

The Columbia Cultural Center will be a new addition to downtown Columbia. I propose to relocate the HCLS Central Branch and some affordable housing units to the cultural center. Given the limited available land in the downtown Columbia area, the alternative plan can save space and cost less money for our county in the long run. Furthermore, we don’t have much open land available there. I don’t see any plan for school site reservation for middle schools and high schools for the planned 30,000 new Columbia residents either.

The convenient location of the library will greatly benefit people living in downtown Columbia, especially families living in the affordable housing units within the same building as the library. Early exposure to active reading is crucial to a child’s development.

I have been advocating for a multi-functional, two-in-one library and community center. With the rapid advancement of technology, digital books have been increasingly popular, and they will significantly reduce the needs of paper books and library bookshelves. Inexpensive, easily accessible indoor community spaces are a highly desired resource for the community.

By relocating our central library to the Columbia Cultural Center and incorporating a two-in-one library and community center idea, we can consolidate community service, reduce cost by millions and serve our residents better.

Dr. Chao Wu

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Clarksville

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The writer is a member of the Howard County Board of Education.

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