Change urged in picking school boardWhether intended...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Change urged in picking school board

Whether intended or not, the Baltimore County school board has garnered notoriety among the public.

There is an intuitive feeling among some that if we have an elected school board, there would be more accountability from its members. Having had the opportunity to research some of the literature on elected school boards, I can state that the accountability of an elected school board may not come free.

A responsive elected board would require a higher level of citizen participation than what occurs in the present nominating process in Baltimore County. Otherwise, factions and special interests, examples of which we see in other parts of the country, may emerge into the picture.

And while the desire for greater accountability has resulted in a large number of elected boards (95 percent of boards throughout the country), there is little or no documented proof that elected boards yield better school governance than appointed ones.

This year, we will likely see a number of bills for an elected school board in Baltimore County before the legislature in

Annapolis. We may also see bills advocating the codifying in law of the present school board nominating convention process.

In my opinion, neither of these directions may be right for Baltimore County. An independent task force on the school board selection process has identified some alternative approaches for school board selection, composition and oversight.

Some of these are reiterations of unheeded suggestions of prior task forces. There will for sure be other good ideas too. No process like the present school board nominating convention exists in a vacuum.

I urge both elected and appointed officials in Baltimore County to establish the means to examine the present process. Change what needs to be changed to make it more participative and responsive. Don't advocate knee-jerk bills.

It is perhaps that mentality that has produced the unsettled state of education in our county.

Andy Tomko

Perry Hall

The writer is president of the Perry Hall Middle School PTSA.

Right and wrong

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's theory is that in order to "make inroads" into the city's drug epidemic, the city will soon implement a clean-needle exchange program.

It's laughable to expect that individuals who are already irresponsible enough to use drugs are going to be overly concerned about their health. If they had a serious concern for their health, they would not use drugs in the first place.

Also, why stop at needles? Why not go all the way and provide drugs also? With "free" drugs, addicts wouldn't have to steal to support their destructive lifestyles.

I'm tired of hearing exceptionally educated and intelligent elected officials balk at doing the right thing. It's high time our elected officials started demonstrating courage.

Instead of wasting scarce resources on foolish programs, they should do what is right and attack the real core of our problems: a lack of common decency and knowledge of right and wrong.

cott A. Fenton

Owings Mills

New session

In its new session, Congress will have very important legislation to consider and vote on.

Our congressmen represent the people in their state who voted for them. They also represent those who voted against them, as well as those who did not vote at all. In fact, because of their position in federal government, they should be working for everyone in the country.

The recent vote on the budget almost certainly was not honest. When 100 percent of one party votes against and almost 100 percent of the other party votes for any bill, it almost surely shows a lack of individual research and decision making.

It would be very interesting to know what the real vote on the budget would have been, if those voting had done it strictly on their own with no attention to arm-twisting by political leaders, pressure from special interests and even disregarding re-election chances.

Let's hope the upcoming session of Congress will see decisions arrived at honestly.

illiam H. Kelz

Perry Hall

Literacy gift

The recent articles about positive and innovative programs in the Baltimore City school system are heartening. Dr. Walter Amprey is to be commended for being willing to try Tesseract, Teach for America and the Sylvan Learning System.

Many of the ideas espoused by these programs have been implemented for many years by the Brown Memorial Tutorial Program. Dedicated volunteers do one-on-one tutoring with students from two Baltimore City elementary schools and offer positive reinforcement to each child.

More than 60 volunteers from throughout the metropolitan area come to the center at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The program's goal is to help students improve their reading skills and to awaken in them a love of reading and a healthy self image.

In this 30th anniversary year of service to the children of Baltimore, the volunteers of the Brown Memorial Tutorial Program should be commended for their dedication and professionalism. They have offered many children a lifetime of literacy.

Gail Parker

Lutherville

Our taxes subsidize Green Spring Valley

If asked why Green Spring Valley stays so green, one might cite the visionary studies of the 1960s that championed environmental preservation.

In fact, however, Green Spring Valley's secret is the money it collects from the taxpayers of Dundalk, Timonium, Catonsville, etc. -- even though most of these people have never even seen the precious valley.

How does this happen? Every year we give massive tax subsidies to the wealthy land barons of the valley so they can live on their hundred-plus acre estates while paying little or no taxes.

We even pay some of them extra money if they promise to stay on their regal horse farms for 25 years or more. For example, a 100-acre farm in the valley worth $5 million pays only $503 in taxes a year.

Without royalty, we Americans feel deprived. To make up for this loss, we pay wealthy people to live on large estates so we can drive by and imagine how it would be if we had been born to the nobility.

Queen Elizabeth is one of the wealthiest people in the world, yet for the first time she is considering paying taxes on some of her $12.5 billion estate.

The Europeans were actually smarter than us. They designated only one or two families for this generous exemption. We give these allowances to anybody living on large estates.

The fair approach is to tax everybody equally on the value of their property. If we did that, you would hear loud screams from the landed gentry of the valley, however.

They don't mind preserving their estates at your expense, but it is unlikely they want to bear the cost of preserving it themselves.

Following the European model, we could buy a few thousand acres by taxing the real value of the valley and surround these areas with carefully planned residential communities. This way everyone could experience the peaceful environment.

Forty percent of Berlin, a city of 3.5 million people, is open space, parks and lakes scattered throughout the city. Twenty thousand smiling, happy people in Green Spring Park on a Sunday afternoon sounds better to me than tax relief for a few hundred wealthy land barons.

Let us tax the valley and keep our green.

John C. Erickson

Baltimore

The writer is founder of the the Charlestown Retirement Community.

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