Amid nearly 300 adults, 11-year-old Laura Twardowski -- an ambassador from Meade Heights Elementary -- worked her way to the microphone to offer school board members some ideas on spending next year's operating and capital budgets.

Her sixth-grade class had provided a laundry list:

"We need more classroom computers, restroom doors and the sixth grade moved to the middle school," Laura said as she struggled to lower the microphone. "We need science materials, math manipulatives, more reference books, dictionaries and walls between classes. When I leave Meade Heights, I would like to feel that everything possible is done to improve the learning environment. Learning is a terrible thing to waste."

Laura said she has had almost no time on the school's two computers since kindergarten.

The youngster drew a round of applause and the full of attention of board members seated in front of the auditorium at Old Mill Senior Wednesday night, during the second public hearing on the budget.

The board is scheduled to adopt its budget at 7:30 p.m Wednesday during a meeting at its Riva Road headquarters in Annapolis.

Unlike last year, when board employees paradedbefore the microphone to plead for their department's needs, the twopublic hearings primarily showcased parents and a few students.

The county's budget woes seemed utmost on the minds of all 66 speakers, most of whom spoke in favor of maintaining programs they say are working. The evening included a few requests for additional elementary teachers, counselors and computers.

Sporting yellow badges with the words "walls," a coalition of about 30 parents from Folger McKinseyElementary in Severna Park requested that walls be built at the open-space school. Another group of about 25 parents requested that construction of a new Solley Elementary School be made a high priority.

North County parents want to ensure that tight fiscal times will notinterfere with construction and renovation plans to turn Lindale Junior into a permanent home for North County High. The proposed capitalbudget includes a request for $9 million, listed as a priority behind eight maintenance and safety-related projects.

Karen Stillwell, representing the Arnold Elementary Citizen Advisory Committee, said she was concerned about projections of increased enrollment and fears that class sizes will increase.

Penny Price, a former student at Chesapeake High, offered heart-wrenching testimony on behalf of schoolpsychologists and asked the board to hire more.

"I had to see a school psychologist," said Price, who now attends a school in Baltimore County. "A young girl died and people spread rumors that I laughed at her. I was beat up and I threatened to kill myself.

"They really helped me out. I feel we should have more school psychologists."

Bruce Hughes, representing school bus contractors, askedboard members to live up to a 5.6 percent increase in their contract and to reconsider running high school activity buses that were cut to help address this year's $8 million deficit.

"We realize you are under pressure to keep costs down," Hughes said. "But cutting down the number of hours bus drivers work creates a serious hardship on the drivers."

Some speakers decided to use a more creative approach to make their points. Debbie Denford, a member of George Cromwell Elementary's Parent-Teacher Association, related the school's plight in verse.

I only have two minutes so I will be brief

As I tell you sorrowfully about all our griefs.

We at Cromwell have a roof, a roof that leaks,

Trash cans in the classes, trash cans in the hall

Catching lots of water, hoping no one slips and falls.

We like to have assemblies, but we don't have seats.

We need folding chairs and stage curtains, our school sure is beat.

The tiles are coming up, the rooms so loud,

We could sure use carpet, we'd finally be proud.

We need window shades to keep out the sun,

We used to have them, they're all rotten but one.

We have four blackboards and three rims,

We could sure use nets and balls to sink in.

We missed our school's science fair tonight,

We felt we had to do what's right.

Thank you for your time,

Please keep our school in mind

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