Society can't drop problems at school doorIn...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Society can't drop problems at school door

In my 15-plus years as superintendent of schools in Howard County, I have on occasion had my remarks misquoted or taken out of context by the media.

This is the first time, however, my comments on such an important issue have been so grossly misrepresented that I feel morally obligated to respond publicly. In The Sun's Sept. 28 article "School plans create divide," I was quoted by staff writer Larry Carson as saying, "Racial balance in schools is not our problem. That's the county's problem. The county makes decisions about housing."

Although this somewhat captures the flavor of my conversation with Mr. Carson, a subsequent editorial, "Changing course on schools," which ran on Oct. 1, took my comments totally out of context.

My point to Mr. Carson, which I will repeat here for the benefit of all, is that the school system is not responsible for creating the concentration of minorities and low-income people.

That has more to do with the distribution of affordable and subsidized housing, availability of public transportation, etc. As superintendent of schools, I do accept and have always accepted without hesitation responsibility for how the school system responds to the racial and socioeconomic mix of students the community sends to our schools.

For too long, however, society has laid its problems at the schoolhouse door and has expected educators to provide the panacea. I suggest that it does indeed "take a village to raise a child" and that it is time for all who have a stake in the future of our children and our communities to join with us in addressing issues which create disadvantage.

Michael E. Hickey, Ellicott City

The writer is superintendent of the Howard County Public School System.

Whither Clarksville?

I am a relative newcomer to Howard County as my family moved here only 45 short years ago. I grew up proud to call Clarksville my hometown.

Pride, of course, never stood in the way of making jokes about its single traffic light or having to stay alert on the way through, lest you blink and miss it. I attended the old Clarksville Middle School, now the Gateway School. I daydreamed in class while gazing out of the large windows that overlooked the surrounding farmland. I attended monthly 4-H meetings at Linden Linthicum Church and rode my pony in the practice ring on Trotter Road.

On Saturdays, in the midst of a weekend project, we'd ride up to Kendall's to purchase nails or some other type of hardware. Occasionally we'd bring a small gizmo that needed replacement. Mr. Kendall could always readily identify the piece and produce another just like it.

My family attended St. Louis Church and my photo albums are sprinkled with pictures of me posing in front of the old stone chapel. Pictures from my christening, first communion and wedding were all taken in front of the same evergreen tree, which served as a natural yardstick of my growth.

Clarksville is gone now, decimated by the unnatural progression of development. Route 108 has been straightened and widened to allow for growing population. Car dealerships and shopping centers line either side of the once quiet country road.

There is nothing recognizable anymore. Even the quirky Quonset Hut has been razed for more retail space. Soon, the white Victorian house on the corner on Ten Oaks Road will be torn down to make way for yet another gas station or fast-food restaurant. St. Louis Church will be left to stand alone, the only remaining legacy of Clarksville's past.

It will stand in mute reproach, anchoring one end of the new and improved, yet soulless strip of retail stores and gas stations that have become downtown Clarksville.

This isn't the legacy I envision leaving behind to my children. I realize that like death and taxes, development in Howard County is inevitable. A growing populace demands a growing infrastructure. But this race to the future should be tempered with respect for our past.

It should not steal the soul of our older communities to make improvements, we must take the time to preserve our character and not lose our hearts and heritage in the process.

Can we encourage reasonable development, yet hold tight to our historical and rural legacy? Can we salvage that which makes Howard County unique? Or will we succumb to being just one more non-descript bedroom community of suburban sprawl?

Old-timers and newcomers need to unite in the effort to save the soul of Howard County. I stand for preservation. Will you stand with me before it's too late?

Mary Catherine Cochran, Ellicott City

My parent's generation was personified by the selfless individual who sacrificed for family and country. Through economic depression and world wars, they did what they had to do without complaint, all the while contributing to their communities and fostering a sense of pride in their neighborhoods.

Contrast that to some of the residents of Pointers Overlook, reported on in The Sun Oct. 5 ("Columbia neighborhood covets Clarksville ZIP"). Living in Columbia and enjoying the much-lauded amenities of the association of which they are members, they are still incensed that the Post Office will not grant them a "paper" residency in a neighboring community (one that Columbia swallowed whole) in order to inflate their property values.

Perhaps if less concerned about living in higher-priced houses, they would be more likely to meet their financial obligations and disinclined to blame the Post Office for their delinquencies. Maybe we are a "global village," in which the traditional bonds that neighbors were accustomed to have become untied.

Chris Beyer, Ellicott City

Congratulations in Columbia for bond upgrade

Congratulations to the Columbia Association (CA) for having its bonds upgraded by Fitch's. I recall almost 15 years ago when Moody's, another rating service, considered downgrading CA's bonds.

Pat Kennedy, Bob Krawczak, Ray Meals and I went to New York on a miserably stormy day to attempt to convince Moody's representatives otherwise. We discovered that Moody's planned downgrading was due to faulty aritmetic on its part.

Nonetheless, we came back with an important message. If CA wanted to maintain, let alone improve, the rating on its bonds, CA needed to make a concerted and sustained effort to eliminate its accumulated deficit.

Thanks to the discipline of numerous Columbia Council and CA staff members over the intervening years, CA has done just that. The upgraded bond-rating represents the fruits of their collective discipline and will assure that CA's bonds are both marketable and have favorable interest rates into the new millennium.

Lanny J. Morrison, Columbia

The writer is former chairan of the Columbia Council.

Horses incomparable to other pursuits

I wish to respond to The Sun's recent article regarding the Columbia Horse Center ("Loose rein on Columbia's horses," Sept. 19).

I admit I cannot speak to the past or current financial management of the center.

Rather, my voice is that of a Columbia resident who believes the center offers talents to the community far more important than profitability. I have participated in lessons at the center for quite some time. Its staff is made up of consummate professionals. The health, safety and well-being of students and steeds is top priority.

I have participated in riding lessons at barns other than the center, barns that I know are "profitable." Unfortunately, many of the "profitable" barns provide substandard care for animals and offer instructors that behave abusively toward students and animals.

The center serves every facet of the community: the aged, adult and young; the physically able and challenged; various socio-economic groups; individuals whose primary language is not English, and those who are possibly our future Olympic equestrians.

Horseback riding is a sport as rigorous as any. It requires strength, endurance, skill, perseverance, ability to accept instruction and constructive criticism and practice.

But unlike other pursuits, it also requires love. Horses are living creatures. Thus, it remains fundamentally unfair to compare riding to other "profitable" endeavors, such as community pools and health clubs.

One may love the feel of the water when swimming, but one cannot love the pool. Similarly, one may love the workout when weight-lifting, but one cannot feel love for the weights. Unlike any other sport, riding well manifests in a loving, trusting relationship between rider, horse and instructor.

The old adage is true: the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person. I believe the Columbia Horse Center is good for the community.

I encourage all persons interested in supporting positive, uniquely rich local activities to visit the center, to join our family, and to render their own opinion about the center's benefits.

Rae Force, Columbia

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