Maryland should get serious about really improving...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Maryland should get serious about really improving its K-12 schools

With the General Assembly about to carve up a big tax surplus and a big tobacco settlement, Maryland is about to decide how really devoted it is to public schools -- and to attracting teachers.

Meeting these 12 school climate needs would testify well to that devotion:

1. Repair schools built in the 1950s and 1960s. Build walls in open-space schools.

2. Put a phone in every classroom. Put a 30-station computer lab in every poverty school.

3. Provide each kid a textbook to take home in each subject. Provide each teacher plenty of paper for photocopying to compensate for poor textbooks and to complement the good ones.

4. Assign to every new teacher a mentor who does not participate in his or her evaluation.

5. Expand TV ads to get parents to read bedtime stories to their pre-school children.

6. Reduce class size. Require reading teachers to teach remedial reading and not MSPAP.

7. Establish fast-track certification for would-be secondary school teachers: a one-semester course in professional matters followed by a semester of student teaching.

8. Fund fully the HOPE scholarship -- especially to motivate middle-school student.

9. Concentrate AVID (the Advancement Via Individual Determination program) in middle schools to help poverty students improve their skills so they can qualify in high school for honors and advanced placement courses.

10. Rehab more old buildings as alternative schools for chronically disruptive students.

11. Introduce the International Baccalaureate in more high schools. This program for very able students will among other things balance the huge sums spent on special education.

12. Repay loans of college students who become certified Maryland teachers for five years.

Marylands public schools will lose half their 49,000 teachers in the next three years, largely due to retirements.

At the same time, a respected national magazine rates Marylands school climate a failure. Solving the first problem requires solving the second.

James A. Hoage

Severna Park

Official wants return to zero tolerance on drugs

By abandoning a zero tolerance drug policy, the Janet S. Owens administration is abandoning its responsibility to equally protect all citizens and vigorously enforce the law.

County Chief P. Thomas Shanahan stated, Zero tolerance brought an emphasis on numbers. All that shows is that the police department was busy, not effective.

Wrong. In 1998, under John Gary and zero tolerance, $9.6 million worth of drugs were taken off the streets.

In 1999 under Owens, only $4.2 million worth of drugs, not even half the total under Gary, were confiscated. The amount of drugs removed from circulation is a valid measure of drug enforcement effectiveness by any standard.

In human terms, if drugs arent on the street, kids cant buy them.

The Owens administration wants to target mid-to-high level dealers. This is a return to the ineffective business as usual policies of the past. Prior to the implementation of zero tolerance in 1997, only $1.8 million worth of drugs -- 18 percent of the 1998 total -- were taken off the street. The balance found its way into our neighborhoods.

Opponents of zero tolerance claim it caused a drug lab and states attorney backlog. Complaints like these are symptomatic of status quo, bureaucratic thinking.

Manage and fund the staff to support a proven zero tolerance policy; dont change the policy to support the bureaucracy.

Drugs must be targeted at all levels. Families dont want police discretion at the street level. Thev want enforcement. Zero tolerance. Anything else puts kids at risk. Would parents want a small time dealer in their neighborhood, even if it resulted in a big arrest later?

Think of the message that broadcasts: You are not as important as children in other neighborhoods. Your safety and quality of life are negotiable, just part of a mid-to-high-level arrest strategy.

Our community cannot afford to accept this premise. It does little good to fund education programs if children return to neighborhoods menaced by street dealers.

The Owens administrations abandonment of zero tolerance and slashing of drug rehabilitation funding sends a clear message: In the war on drugs, Anne Arundel County is retreating at the expense of our most at-risk citizens.

Herb McMillan

Annapolis

The writer is alderman for Ward 5.

Columnist ignored real issues of Civil War

DeWayne Wickham was only correct once in his intolerant Feb. 1 OpinionCommentary article Tracing lineage of racist rebel flag. He is right that the battle at Sharpsburg was the bloodiest day in the War Between the States. To be exact it was the bloodiest day in American history.

On that day, 24,500 Americans were casualties. Yes, Americans. What Mr. Wickham and others wish people would forget is that all of the men who fell on that hallowed ground were Americans who were fighting for what they believed was right.

Mr. Wickham would have you believe that the 11,500 soldiers in gray who shed their blood were doing so for the right to keep others in bondage.

That is not the case, just as the Unionists were not shedding theirs to free the slaves.

President Lincoln himself wrote, My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it...

The men who went off to war did so because they believed their homes and their way of life were threatened.

For them, they were waging the Second American Revolution against a tyrannical government. (Do the English still consider Washington, Jefferson and Franklin traitors? I guess it all depends on where you sit.)

An example of this sentiment comes from a letter by a Captain Weaver, 42nd Georgia CSA. Writing to his wife, he said, I think we are seeing some hardships that will equal those of our forefathers in the old revolution; but if we can liberate our country and once more see it free, we will be satisfied to endure still more. It is this passion, and the passion of millions of other confederates that the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is charged with preserving.

The SCV is preserving the history and legacy of the confederate soldier through a wide range of activities including marking graves, scholarly publications, and monument dedications.

The SCV is a multi-ethnic, non-political organization that is only dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved.

This includes all facets of that history, notj ust one side.

I get sick and tired of hearing (as Mr. Wickham claims) that the SCV champions the idea of slavery. I also am offended for being stereotyped as a racist because I have respect for my American forefathers. There is no credence, whatsoever, in such divisive and emotionally changed fallacies whose sole purpose is to smear a noble organizations good name and to advance a political agenda.

Charles J. Kolodg

Pasadena

The writer is commander, Captain James I. Waddell Camp No.1608, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Coach's work enhances everyonesquality of life

This letter is in response to the Feb. 7 article Love of game not enough of a draw.

I read this article as a former high school and college athlete, mother of two aspiring athletes and wife of a coach of approximately 15 years. I will agree coaches are paid little, work long hours and have to work with some difficult parents.

I also agree school systems are having a harder time locating such dedicated individuals to lead our young children. However, two important factors were not mentioned.

On the negative side of coaching, let us not forget the media. My family has personally experienced irresponsible reporting by The Sun -- facts that were misquoted, conjectured or unfounded.

Some reporters believe it helps our children get ready for the real world by denigrating their performance or taking rumors and publishing them.

On the contrary, I believe it only harms the potential of the young player and the game. It is extremely inappropriate for the media to take a young athlete, rip his or her performance to shreds and call this fair play.

A good coach knows the sport, knows the community and can reach out to the children and parents.

Many principals and teachers do not have the desire, energy or understanding about why this type of contact with the community is so important.

From that outreach and caring will come the better record, the pride in the school and community and eventually the opportunity for players to go on to continue to realize their potential in college.

For some young students, sports are the only way they can go to college.

That is factor helps a child realize his or her full potential. This is the payoff.

In our family, coaching/teaching/mentoring high school athletes have become a year round family affair. I see our children look at their father and emulate his behavior.

I know they are seeing some of the most important lessons in life in that gym -- pride in accomplishing, striving to do your best, and a belief in oneself.

Perhaps the school systems in Maryland, which are struggling to find qualified and dedicated coaches, should change the way they advertise for coaches by emphasizing how a coach can get great personal satisfaction and add to a childs high school experience.

These same systems should recognize the invaluable service provided by these individuals, once they are hired, by supporting them and their programs and not by dismissing athletics as some ancillary activity which does not provide our children with immeasurable life experience.

Stephanie Popielski

Severn

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