Golf enthusiasts defend program as school board examines $5.4 million hit list


Funds for Howard County schools may have been cut in the county executive's proposed budget, but that's no reason to eliminate golf, a group of golf advocates told the school board last night.

"To my way of thinking, it's not feeding the troops, it's feeding yourselves," said Donald Dunn, president of the Howard County Golf Association.

Mr. Dunn said that cutting programs such as golf means students would be deprived of opportunities that enhance their potential.

He cited the example of Lynn Hunter, a recent Centennial High School graduate who received a golf scholarship to James Madison University. Without Centennial's golf program, she would not have won a scholarship.

"To drop this program would be to eliminate that kind of potential," Mr. Dunn said.

The cuts that were addressed last night are part of a $5.4 million hit list showing where school officials would likely cut if county government trims the school board's spending request for fiscal 1994. While the administration and the County Council control the total amount the school system receives, they do not decide how the money will be spent.

Citing a salary disparity between county and school employees, County Executive Charles I. Ecker has refused to grant the school board's request for an extra $5.4 million. County Council members appear likely to grant only an extra $1 million to the school board's $149.5 spending plan.

Among 34 items on the school board hit list is the elimination of golf and gymnastics programs for a combined savings of $75,000 -- one of the smaller items to be cut.

Gymnastics supporters have testified against the cuts at previous meetings, and last night, it was the golfers' turn.

Mr. Dunn, among six to present testimony against eliminating golf, listed all of the new and proposed golf courses in the county and estimated that 314 jobs would be created by Howard's growing golf industry.

Also testifying was Leah Tabassi, who runs the county's gifted and talented after-school enrichment dance program.

She presented petitions to the board and urged members to attend a modern dance concert at Atholton High School on Sunday before eliminating the program's $10,000 budget.

"If you are planning to remove this program, at least you should see what has happened," she said.

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said the council will notify him of the school budget Thursday. He will then have to telephone board members to decide what areas to cut and report back to the council. The board will formally approve its budget June 1.

Last night the board also:

* Received the school system's first quarterly report on "signal incidents," which include racial and ethnic slurs, racist graffiti, physical difference slurs, sexual orientation slurs, "inappropriate cross-gender behavior," and "general physical intimidation and harassment."

The regular reporting of such incidents was started in January along with the school system's Education and Personal Rights policy.

The first report, covering Jan. 1 through March 31, listed 27 incidents of racial/ethnic slurs in 17 elementary schools, making up 75 percent of the total 36 incidents reported by grade schools.

Ten middle schools reported 13 incidents, nine of them involving racial/ethnic slurs, one less such incident than was reported by high schools.

High schools also reported nine racially motivated arguments and fights, and four incidents of racist graffiti.

* Received a proposal to ban smoking or other tobacco use on all school property -- inside or outside -- and in school vehicles. The board will hear testimony June 10 on the proposal, which takes a new state law on school smoking a step further.

* Received a recommendation that River Hill be the name of the new western high school in Clarksville and Manor Woods the new northern elementary school in western Ellicott City.

The board is expected to consider the names June 10.

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