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Spare our programs, parents tell board


The Howard County school board last night heard more pleas to spare some programs, including high school golf and the gifted and talented dance program, that are being considered for elimination.

Avid golfer Richard Rhodes suggested cost-saving ideas that could raise enough money to cover the golf program's $18,000-a-year price tag: Charge students who want to play a $50 green fee every year and shave $75 from each sport team's budget.

To cut such a small program to come up with enough money to cover the $5 million the county is trimming from the $200-plus million budget for next school year is ridiculous, Mr. Rhodes said. "It doesn't make sense to me," he said.

School board member Deborah Kendif reassured Mr. Rhodes that no decision had been made and responded, "Every little bit adds up."

Parent Diane Kropiewincki asked that the school board continue funding the afternoon dance program because "students really enjoy it, and it really benefits them."

She cited a litany of benefits, including students who learn about teamwork when they have to work together to improvise dances.

The students "are working their butts off," she said. "They train really hard. . . . Parents demand this program be continued. It's really important, whatever money is spent on it."

Parent James Coolahan, who represents the parochial Resurrection School, urged the school board not to cut transportation funding for private school students.

The board is considering cutting that funding as well as cutting transportation costs by increasing walking distances by a quarter-mile and starting high schools 15 minutes earlier -- at 7:30 a.m. -- to save more than $500,000.

Mr. Coolahan added that he and other parents would work with the schools' transportation office to find as many savings as possible. "All of us have an obligation to minimize whatever costs we have," he said.

Also last night, the school board approved the promotion of Sandra Erickson, coordinator of staff development, to associate superintendent of curriculum and staff development. She replaces Joan Palmer, who is leaving to become the deputy state superintendent of school improvement and support services.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who picked Ms. Erickson from a field of five for the job, credited her with developing the county's highly regarded gifted and talented program and cited her vast experience dealing with curricula from kindergarten to 12th grade.

"I think she will do an outstanding job continuing the momentum Joan Palmer has set into action," Dr. Hickey said. "She also has good sense of the staff needs, not just teacher needs, in the school system. She's an outstanding team builder and a good collaborator."

He said Ms. Palmer's departure is a loss, but "she's badly needed [at the state Department of Education.] They're strapped for resources." The board has set a final vote on the budget for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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