Dumb decisionWho's dumb decision was it to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Dumb decision

Who's dumb decision was it to insist that Baltimore City schools open on time during the height of a snowstorm and with predictions of more snow, sleet and rain?

At a time when safety in the streets and safety in the schools have been prominent issues, to put students, teachers and staff at the mercy of such treacherous conditions is preposterous.

North Avenue's decision may well have been driven by macho posturing to sway an illusion of commitment to Baltimore City youngsters.

More likely, the decision reflected a timidity before the prospect of requesting a modified school calendar from the powers that be.

All of the counties around Baltimore have extended the school year to accommodate snow days when schools were closed.

Some, like Howard County, have added days to the school calendar regardless of future closing due to inclement weather.

The Baltimore City schools are embroiled in educational quagmire. There is the privatization of some schools, possible state takeover of others and a multicultural and efficacy effort that is more amorphous than remedial. And now slush-school day.

Arthur Harris

Baltimore

Old Glory restored

I'm writing this letter to express my sincere thanks to Lt. Gist and his crew from the Baltimore County fire department's Truck Company 5 in Halethorpe.

On Feb. 28, while returning home from work, I noticed that the large American flag at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Wilkens Avenue just east of the county-city line had become tangled atop its 40-foot flag pole. The flag was torn and hanging upside down.

I again noticed the flag the next day, still tangled and upside down. I was deeply pained and frustrated to see our country's proud flag in such distress.

I stopped at the restaurant and spoke with the manager, who stated she had received several complaints. However, she could not get the flag untangled from the pole.

I suggested the fire department. The manager stated she called 911 and was advised that the request was not an emergency call; the fire department would not respond.

At this time I decided to drive to the Arbutus volunteer fire department. I spoke with one of the engine company's members, who put me in contact with Lt. Gist of Truck Company 5.

I explained the situation involving the flag to Lt. Gist, who stated he would seek permission from his superiors to assist. Within a half-hour, the ladder truck was on site, removed the tangled flag and replaced it with a new one.

This action made me very proud of Lt. Gist and his crew, who took time to correct a small non-emergency that for several days saddened not only myself but hundreds of other citizens who saw the flag upside down.

Again, I would like to say thanks to Truck Company 5 for taking time to help Old Glory fly proudly as she deserves.

Charles J. Bury Jr.

Baltimore

Why no arrest

In reading about City Comptroller Jackie McLean's indictment, I noted that she will be served a criminal summons but not arrested.

This shows preferential treatment. I have been a member of the Baltimore County Police Department for 19 years and have arrested suspects for thefts of as little as $2.

Why does Ms. McLean's alleged felony theft of $25,189 not result in an arrest?

A public official deserves arrest and all the procedures that follow arrest -- such as booking, fingerprinting, photographing and a bail hearing -- just as any other citizen accused of committing a felony.

Ronald Kuhns

Baltimore

Support WIC

Babies are going to bed hungry in Maryland tonight and most every night. The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children simply doesn't have sufficient funds to feed all of the children in our state. I can't tell a baby or child they have to wait for food. Could you? They're not interested in space programs or super highways or Congress' spending reductions.

Forty thousand babies in America die before they're one year old. Low birth weight causes infant mortality, but WIC can alleviate this disgrace. Only 60 percent of eligible women, infants and children are served by WIC, which ultimately saves taxpayers money.

WIC decreases medical problems; thus it decreases medical costs. Full funding of this essential program should be guaranteed.

I urge Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes and Rep. Helen Bentley to support any and all WIC resolutions that support pregnant mothers, unborn infants and hungry children.

Please, let us not continue to neglect our most precious resource, our children.

Lorraine Whitely

Joppa

Patterson High School must change

In his letter of Feb. 16, Jonathan L. Jacobson said that Patterson High School was unfairly "targeted for state takeover."

I would like to respond to this claim by describing how eligibility for state intervention is determined. Further, I want to make it clear that reconstitution does not connote state takeover.

A state regulation requires the State Department of Education to look at school performance data and ask two questions:

* Which schools were far from meeting performance standards established by the State Board of Education and published annually in the Maryland School Performance Report?

* Among those that are far from meeting standards, which schools were declining in their performance from 1991 to 1993?

To answer these questions, my staff applied a formula that equally weights dropout rates, attendance rates and average performance on the Maryland Functional Tests. This allows us to identify a composite performance for each school.

Several high schools in the state, including Patterson, are far from the standards and need to improve. Patterson differs from other low performing schools because its average performance is declining consistently, year by year. Due to these conditions, Patterson became eligible for reconstitution.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jacobson expressed a common perception that the state has already decided to "take over" Patterson -- close it down, or contract with a third party to operate the school. That perception is incorrect.

We identified a serious problem and, by announcing Patterson High School as a potential reconstitution candidate, we initiated a process of improving the school.

Now the school and school system leadership must determine why Patterson's low performance is declining and submit a plan to improve the school to the State Board of Education by April 1.

The board will review Patterson's plan, conduct its own evaluation of the school and decide if the recommendations are appropriate. If other actions are necessary, the board will modify the plan accordingly.

We believe there are many fine teachers and students at Patterson High School. It is our desire to join with the Baltimore City Public Schools to support these teachers and students.

In making these difficult decisions, the board wants one thing: to ensure that all children in Maryland receive the educational opportunities they deserve and to which they are constitutionally entitled.

Right now, Patterson is not providing these opportunities to many students and is losing ground in its efforts to do so. For the sake of the students, Patterson High School must change.

Nancy S. Grasmick

Baltimore

The writer is state superintendent of schools.

Cowherd goes to the Olympics

Hats (excuse me, toboggans) off to Kevin Cowherd for his magnificent reports from the 1994 Winter Olympics.

His truly hilarious comments have been on the mark in an otherwise dull-reading sport.

As long as he reports, let the games continue.

Todd Holden

Bel Air

During the Winter Olympics, I read Kevin Cowherd's column in hopes of finding some humor. By and large, I was disappointed.

His snide remarks about Charles Kuralt's weight were tasteless, but he hit rock bottom with his description of skater Oksana Baiul's costume for the technical program as "Joan-Fontaine-meets-the-Starship-Enterprise."

Ms. Baiul was skating, as announced, to ballet music from "Swan Lake" and was dressed as Odile, the Black Swan.

Traditionally, ballerinas who perform the part wear a crown of black feathers, similar to the headdress Ms. Baiul wore. Mr. Cowherd's obvious unfamiliarity with a well-known staple of the arts is shameful.

Mary Ann Lechowicz

Baltimore

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