Feaga's Follies: Fire, then Schools
I do believe Charlie Feaga has gone too far.
First, he suggests that houses on fire be allowed to burn longer rather than allot more money to fire prevention resources. That suggestion has to be one of the most ill-thought-out, irresponsible and totally naive suggestions ever made by a politician. Then, Mr. Feaga suggests that the solution to Howard County's fiscal problems is to do the following:
* Ignore federal mandates concerning special education students and, therefore, spend less money in that area.
* Cut the salaries of educators in Howard County.
It seems to me that what we have here is a man so utterly obsessed with the tax rate that he has lost any semblance of rational thought. His suggestions for saving a few tax pennies are self-serving and ignore the long-term costs of his ideas. Many have already responded and pointed out how costly his suggestions on the fire tax could be, even to the point of losing human life. I'd like to briefly discuss Mr. Feaga's ludicrous education suggestions.
Let me preface my thoughts by pointing out that like other Howard County residents, I understand these are difficult fiscal times that require restraint on the part of everyone. However, to jump at an alternative that disproportionately punishes one segment of workers so severely is simply unfair.
All we hear from leaders in government and business is how terrific the Howard County school system is -- tops in the state -- and how that factor may be our county's best selling point in attracting businesses to locate here, thus resulting in improved financial status for our county. Yet, as everyone wants to take credit for this outstanding performance, as soon as things get tough, Mr. Feaga's solution is to attack those in the trenches who have made this system the best.
Make no mistake here, our educational system is as good as it is primarily due to the outstanding educators within the schools. These are the people who need to be rewarded, not attacked. It's almost inconceivable to me in this day and age when more and more is expected from those in the schools, that someone in a position such as Mr. Feaga's would suggest cutting educators' salaries.
In addition, Mr. Feaga's suggestion to ignore certain federal mandates and let the federal government sue if it would like is an amazingly irresponsible statement. All such a course of action would do is cost the county more money in a no-win legal battle. We would most likely still end up spending the money those mandates require but only after a drawn-out, expensive litigation battle that would further increase this county's debt. Whatever could Mr. Feaga have been thinking?
I would hope that this budget process over the next few years doesn't denigrate into something that few in Howard County want. Obviously, some difficult choices may have to be made, but Mr. Feaga's suggestions are so far out of line that it makes one wonder what kind of agenda this man really has.
No longer should citizens of Howard County remain silent on these issues that affect all of us so much. The long-range implications of the shortsighted suggestions of a couple of office holders may end up costing this county dearly.
The Howard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People views your editorial of June 5 as presumptuous and misleading.
Presumptuous because you chose to present an opinion on the workability of the NAACP report without any indication that school system officials have deemed the recommendations "unworkable." Since they are the persons responsible for effecting changes, the Board of Education, rather than The Sun, needs to make that determination. If you have received information from the Board of Education that would lead you to that conclusion, it is expected that you would have provided your readership with the facts that led to your opinion.
The editorial is misleading, because you chose to isolate two items from a list of eight recommendations that focused on the delivery of quality education to all students. Based on the philosophy of high expectations, the NAACP report calls for a revamping of educational policies, procedures and curriculum to model the strategies that have been reserved for gifted and talented students. It is our position that all students should benefit from the high quality of instruction provided to gifted and talented students.
Surely, you do not wish to imply that the Howard County school system is so far behind the times that it cannot benefit from the research cited in the NAACP report. School systems throughout the United States have shown phenomenal growth utilizing educational strategies based on high expectations. It seems that your opinion is based more on an unwillingness to change the status quo rather than the possibility that the NAACP recommendations are unworkable.
As of this date, the NAACP has not received a response to the report from the Board of Education. We will extend the courtesy to the Board of Education of not debating the issues prior to their official response.
The NAACP has made the observation that the community is encouraged to participate in the educational process on the one hand. However, when the community does participate, efforts are rejected out of hand. The same ideas and efforts that are viewed as creative, innovative, visionary and challenging when presented in some quarters are viewed as unworkable when presented by African-Americans. You do your readership a disservice.
Jenkins Odoms Jr.
The writer is president of the Howard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In Kevin Thomas' column on "The Academy" (May 14), he seems to offer a rather slanted picture of the happenings at Dunloggin Middle School. He suggests that Dunloggin's Jesse Scharff "sees himself as principal and thus is entitled to make decisions that strengthen the school." I assume this does not imply that principals are always right.
One cause of this conflict might be the result of Superintendent Michael Hickey's approach of moving principals around. There seems to have been a history of musical chairs or staleness going on among several middle school chiefs despite the high quality of education. . . .
What I don't understand as a parent is why we have to resort to playing games with administrators and teachers. In my opinion, they should be serving the public first, and if they choose, should be able to stay at one school for many years. It is apparently all well and good for superintendents to remain in a position for a decade or two, but not for principals. How are the teachers and students at Dunloggin helped by having four principals in the last 12 years?
Mr. Thomas' statement that, "Seventeen years is entirely too long for one teacher to be at the same school" is preposterous. Many of the outstanding high school teachers with whom I have come in contact are in their teens at one school. They form the nucleus around which can be built a strong cohesive teaching corps. Shunting these real teachers about for some unexplained "administrative" reason is ludicrous.
Also, Mr. Thomas writes, "It is hard to understand why a school community would get so up in arms over the transfer of one teacher." I can think of numerous Wilde Lake teachers whose involuntary transfer would create a firestorm of protest. Mr. Thomas doesn't seem to understand that it is the teachers who do the work, not the people on Route 108.
Mr. Thomas seems to refute his own argument when he refers to Dunloggin as "prestigious," while at the same time decrying the use of that "old traditional model of a junior high." It would seem that the "old" method is succeeding and the "new" method, which "stresses the uniqueness of children undergoing a transitional age," is some educators' flowery explanation of a lack of learning.
As for discipline, Mr. Thomas suggests that while "a teacher who is . . . openly defiant of authority needs to move on," discipline problems among students call for "positive reinforcement" over punishment. As usual in this country, we squabble over how to mete out discipline, so there is no strong signal to repeat offenders who disrupt the learning process. . . . Obviously, parents are not correct all of the time and are generally "snooty and inflexible," but this applies as well to the school board and superintendent. They can act the same way. For example, Howard County School Board Chairwoman Susan Cook's suggesting a halt to foreign trips for students or the administration's approach to its budget.
Our educators often adopt a rather arrogant attitude toward personnel matters and take actions which are not explained or are deemed beyond the understanding of parents, and, of course, are never wrong. Together with a rather bland and gullible school board, it is no wonder that parents yell when they are left out of the loop.
The problem of personnel management is one of the major causes of business failure in all areas of the American economy. There are so few people who have the ability to handle their underlings with respect and honesty. Thus, many practices go awry because of poor leadership.
A real principal or superintendent should have the teachers, parents and students eating out of his/her hand, especially with a PTA organization ready to assist. Most of these school conflicts are the result of weak leadership and the imposition of too many agendas.
R. D. Bush
After reading your articles dated April 13 ("Quarryman says regulators harass family operation") and April 17, various thoughts come to mind. First, being the smallest quarrier and owner in the area, I too have paid large sums of money for engineering and corrective construction to abide by the rules and regulations of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. I feel some of the rules are objectionable, but in the interest of society, I have abided by them.
Second, I feel that if I have to abide by these rules, then everybody should at least make a legitimate attempt to obey these laws also. I think that most of these rules and regulations are to stop the needless raping of land for the financial gain for oneself. I believe that when properly enforced consistently to everyone, equally, the rules and regulations will provide a more unified quarrying technique and will eliminate landowners/quarriers that have no interest for the environment whatsoever.
Third, I have found that DNR has and will go above and beyond to help and assist small quarriers, like myself, to obtain all the proper permits. They have been most lenient in both requirements and due dates.
Fourth, restitution of these quarry lands is important. Without strict guidelines on quarrying technique, restitution cannot be accomplished effectively, thus preservation of the land for future generations. I myself have been in many abandoned mines and quarries only to find disastrous consequences beyond compare.
Lastly, I don't think that because anyone voluntarily helps the county, state or federal government with various favors, it gives them or anybody the right to ignore rules and regulations. I pay taxes every day and so do most Americans but this does not give us the right to do what we want nor does it give us the right to break the law.
A. J. Vinci
The writer is owner of Vinci Stone Products Inc.