Do parents lack confidence in the public...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Do parents lack confidence in the public schools?

This letter is in response to Pam Rogers' letter printed on Sept. 26 ("More on Wilde Lake schools").

To answer your question about how home-schoolers and private schoolers are different than those children being sent to a non-district school, there is a huge difference.

Even though I may not agree with parents spending unnecessary money to send their students to a non-district school, I disagree with private school and even more so with home-schooling.

As a senior at Towson University, studying elementary education, I strongly believe kids need to learn how to cooperate with others. What better place to learn that than in a public school?

Students have the opportunity to work with people from different races, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

After graduation, regardless of the type of education, these students will be forced to work with others in their employment or future endeavors.

This is not a skill that people are born with, but one that takes practice.

When students are home-schooled, they do not have the opportunity to practice this; in public school, students do group activities, paired activities and have different teachers with different philosophies enabling them to practice socializing and dealing with others.

If giving your child some one-on-one attention is what you think is important, why not just take the time to read with your child, help them with their homework or just talk one-on-one? Why would you move to Howard County, where the public school system is one of the best in the state and even the nation, and then not take advan tage of it?

Paige Ballenger, Elkridge

The writer is a Towson University student.

I live in the North Laurel area. My oldest daughter attended Laurel Woods Elementary from kindergarten through fifth-grade. My younger two children are open-enrolled at nearby Gorman Crossing Elementary.

When my daughter entered kindergarten in 1989, Laurel Woods Elementary was an excellent school and I had dreams of sending all of our children to it. By the time she was in third grade, we began to notice the downfall of our school with lower classroom standards, teachers unprepared to teach, a weak administration and behavioral problems that were largely overlooked.

It seemed that the administration felt that as long as the kids felt good about themselves, that was all that mattered. Upon entering the school, I found students wandering the halls, classrooms loud and students disruptive. Recess was a nightmare, including foul language, rough play and poor supervision, and day after day of entire classrooms "sitting on the wall" because of behavior problems.

By 1994, when it was time for my son to enter kindergarten, we were so concerned about the school that we decided to enroll him in private school. (Laurel Woods was on the "protected list.")

When my oldest daughter completed fifth-grade at Laurel Woods, it was so bad that we decided not to send our other two children there and enrolled them both in private school, hoping that eventually we could go back to public school.

When Gorman Crossing opened last year, we got our wish and transferred our youngest two back to public school: open-enrolled.

Did we find what we wanted at Gorman Crossing? You bet. We found a strong administration prepared to deal openly with problems; teachers prepared at all times to teach, and discipline problems handled fairly and consistently. Enter the school: there are no students wandering the halls, the classrooms are quiet during instructional time and students are learning. There are no problems retaining high-quality experienced teachers.

Until the county Board of Education is ready to address these problems and make all schools in Howard County equal, we should all be able to "open enroll" our children anywhere we want.

It is curious that there are four elementary schools in North Laurel, yet one of them, Laurel Woods, is home to the majority of the low and moderate-income families. The school board needs to address the issue of how it redistricts, and be willing to redistrict so that all schools get their share of "at-risk" neighborhoods, as well as of upper-income families, making all schools more diverse.

Unlike the Clemens Crossing residents who "open-enrolled" their children to Lime Kiln Elementary, our neighborhood is largely middle-income and cannot afford a bus. Yet we know that our local school is in trouble.

Most of the families who have open-enrolled to Gorman Crossing have had children at Laurel Woods in the past and have made a decision based on facts and their own experiences. In my neighborhood alone, several families home-school, several use private schools and a large number have open-enrolled at Gorman Crossing.

It is not easy to open-enroll. Our children can no longer walk to school and we have elaborate carpools, yet most of us who have done this would do it again in a heartbeat.

Until the Board of Education seriously addresses the issues at low-performing and at-risk schools and listens to parents at these schools, we should be able to open-enroll wherever we are willing to drive to -- or hire a bus.

Karen Allen, Laurel

As an upper middle-class executive drawn to Howard County because of the better quality-of-life available for my family, I am shocked by the "racist" spin-doctoring employed by The Sun's staff writers.

The fact that your writers chose to exacerbate the "white flight" issue while ignoring the exodus of black families in these same areas reeks of the racist views and ideologies which permeate newspapers such as The Sun and Washington Post.

A growing number of minority families seek to improve their quality of life by moving to Howard County from Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, to name a few. Diversity has nothing to do with the decision quality-of-life issues are the crux of the matter.

Wilde Lake High was mentioned in a Sun editorial as a model for how a school can improve test scores and turn itself around ("Waking up in Wilde Lake," Sept. 23).

That was an admirable attempt on your part to further cloud the real issue: Wilde Lake High School's turnaround was a result of Roger Plunkett, the new principal. Mr. Plunkett continues to be a very strict, no-nonsense disciplinarian. Parents who were satisfied with the status quo made his life extremely difficult. However, Mr. Plunkett persevered and Wilde Lake is now a model school.

If The Sun truly was interested in improving community relations and drawing attention to the problem, it would interview those middle- and upper-level black, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and other minority groups to see what is behind their exodus.

Anthony James, Scaggsville

Disbarment recommended for Bereano

Apropos the fate of Bruce Bereano, I applaud The Sun's editorial of Oct. 4 ("Bereano should pay price for abuses").

Having been involved in the law and its administration and enforcement for more than 50 years affords me a basis to form and express an opinion.

I have served as a military and civilian police officer as well as a parole officer and public prosecutor and have practiced law for more than 40 years.

To be accorded the honor of being a lawyer requires study, skill and character. A failure in character which results in serious violation of the law and which uses others as pawns to mask such conduct must leave no other result than disbarment.

To say that Mr. Bereano has "suffered enough" is to miss the crucial point: Honor and integrity are paramount to the fabric of the law and the maintenance of a free and just society.

Lewis Straughn Nippard, Ellicott City

Kane's Sudan column missed the mark

There's no doubt that the attention of Americans must be directed to the human rights policies of countries in sub-Sahara Africa. Gregory Kane's column, "Hollywood finally addresses suffering in war torn Sudan," (Sept. 26) seemed to be right on track although I felt using Hollywood as a segue way was a bit odd.

Realizing the devastation this civil war has wreaked on Sudan, he could have devoted more space to how concerned readers could contact their senators and Congress members in support of the Sudan Peace Act.

As for Mr. Kane's references to skin color and how African-Americans view it, his reasoning is repellent and dwells in the 19th century. There is no evidence to support the premise that African-Americans, whatever their complexion, abhor others who are darker than they.

Brenda Kirkpatrick, Columbia

More disappointments from the Clinton crew

How much more do the American people have to endure from President Bill Clinton and his appointees? President Clinton has freed 16 Puerto Rican terrorists and is seeking to close the Navy's target range at Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, a part of the Naval Base at Roosevelt Roads. Although it has been alleged that these moves are meant to help his wife's U.S. Senate campaign to influence the 1 million New York Puerto Rican immigrants to vote in her favor, the president refuses to give any explanation for his actions and has claimed executive privilege.

Now a Senate investigation is proceeding concerning Charles Yah Lin Trie bringing of bags of money to the Democratic National Committee to help Mr. Clinton in his re-election. It has been shown that there were contributions from the Chinese communists. FBI agents have testified before these committee hearings that the Justice Department attorneys sought to kill the investigation of this type of campaign contribution violations with no real explanation of why. Based on Mr. Clinton's past behavior, it would seem clear that there will be no admission about either of these matters unless a stained blue dress appears.

Donald B. W. Messenger, Laurel

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