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Schools must use building funds more efficientlyAs...


Schools must use building funds more efficiently

As parents and taxpayers, west central Anne Arundel County residents noted with interest that a senior state school construction official recently voiced concerns similar to our own regarding the unusually high construction cost estimates for a new county high school.

Yale Stenzler, executive director of Maryland's public school construction program, noted that the county's estimate is $20 million more than the most expensive high school ever built in Maryland ("The $63 million school," editorial Sept. 15).

The $20 million question is: why?

The county has indicated that the unusually high projected cost is because of expected future increases in construction costs. If so, why do county leaders continue to delay building the high school?

If the county acted now, the high school could be completed and open for the 2004 school year, shaving three years off the current projected delivery schedule. This could save millions of dollars.

But this would not address why Anne Arundel County has the highest school construction costs in the state.

During the past three years, the county has sponsored comprehensive facilities studies by a team of professional consultants and a group of citizens appointed by the county executive.

These studies have documented current and future county school facilities needs. They have also analyzed the county's construction cost data and projected future costs based on that historical data.

The weakness in both reports is that they do not analyze the effectiveness of current county purchasing and construction management practices.

Now is the time for the county to address how it is using the tens of millions of dollars necessary to accomplish what I and many other county residents believe should be the county's No. 1 priority: educating our children in schools that are safe and uncrowded.

How can this be accomplished? A logical first step would be for county school construction professionals to spend time with their colleagues from surrounding counties to learn how other counties manage their programs.

For example, Prince George's County and Carroll County each recently completed high schools that cost thousands of dollars less per student than Anne Arundel County's projections. Undoubtedly, lessons learned by our neighboring counties could be applied effectively here.

There is no question that Anne Arundel County can build its schools more cost effectively. Now is the time to start working toward that objective.

Dirk Haire


The writer is co-chair of the 13th High School Now Committee.

Column on slavery overlooked its context

Reading Norris West's commentary, "No Southern pride over slave legacy" (Sept. 11), I was saddened that a Sun writer would engage in such bigotry.

To call Gen. Robert E. Lee a slave-trader and traitor is the equivalent of referring to the Rev. Martin Luther King as a rabble- rouser.

Both had human imperfections; however, Lee still stands tall as a noble American hero.

Regrettably, Mr. West has a simplistic view of slavery and a poor understanding of American history. He appears to be unable to put slavery in its proper historical context.

Slavery was commonplace in Africa, where tribal chiefs and nomadic Arabs eagerly did business with European and New England slave traders exchanging their slaves for goods such as molasses, sugar, rum, foodstuffs, tobacco and other products.

In all likelihood, some of the slaves had themselves owned slaves before being taken captive.

Surely Sun writers ought to have a clear understanding of our nation's history and that of the world before writing on such subjects.

Gil Crandall


Accountability needed in juvenile justice

This letter adds another voice to the many who would like to see some accountability from the Glendening administration regarding an independent oversight body to correct the many mistakes in the administration's treatment of juveniles in trouble.

These unserved and misserved troubled youths only become adult criminals if we do not successfully intervene. If we do not reform this system totally, we will never reach a lower crime rate.

I hope The Sun will continue to follow this story, especially the questioin of after-care services and school attendance for juveniles in trouble with the law.

P. Ranney


Donation to firefighters was an inspiring act

Reading the article, "Benefactor gives boost to firefighters," (Sept. 12) gave a boost to my spirit and restored my faith in people.

How very generous of Carlo Rossi to give money to the Riviera Beach Fire Department to buy the new device that will help firefighters rescue people in smoke-filled houses where visibility is limited.

With this device, firefighters will be able to find the source of the fire faster, and thus save people and property faster.

Thanks to The Sun for running this story and God bless Mr. Rossi for this selfless act.

Marge Griffith


Bush's drug plan would help seniors soon

Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are both offering plans to help make prescription drugs more affordable. Having looked at both plans, I've decided to cast my vote for Mr. Bush this November.

If there's one thing I've heard from Mr. Gore again and again, it's that seniors need help with prescription drugs now. He's right.

But the only candidate with a plan that would really help seniors right now is Mr. Bush.

Under Mr. Bush's plan, states would get immediate funding to help low-income seniors afford prescription drugs. Mr. Gore's plan would be slowly phased in over a number of years.

Low-income senior citizens don't have the time or the money to wait around for Mr. Gore's plan to kick in.

Mr. Bush's plan takes care of these seniors right away, and he is committed to Medicare reform that will make sure the program is around for seniors in the future.

Let's vote for real Medicare reform and a real, immediate, prescription drug plan.

Let's vote for George W. Bush.

Don A. Bender

North Ferndale

It's about time Clinton grew troubled

Bill Clinton is troubled by the way Attorney General Janet Reno handled the Wen Ho Lee case; that's a laugh ("Detention of Lee abuse of authority, Clinton contends," Sept. 16).

I was troubled about the way Ms. Reno handled the Clinton/Gore/Hillary/Foster/Waco cases.

It's about time something in the U.S. Justice Department troubled Mr. Clinton.

Tim Wright


Focus on libraries should be wake-up call

The exposure The Sun has given to the plight of school libraries in Maryland is commendable ("Lost: school libraries," editorial, Sept. 1).

After spending years as a school librarian, I have also taught in a graduate program for those working toward a degree they need to become school librarians.

In that role, I have traveled throughout the state and seen dynamic librarians teaching students and performing administrative duties with too few resources and little or no help.

In those elementary schools fortunate enough to have a certified librarian, all too often that librarian is viewed as someone who provides planning time for classroom teachers -- and his or her worth is diminished.

At time when promoting reading is so important and learning information skills is essential, students deserve a school librarian who can provide these skills.

If children do not learn to use libraries in school, few will ever recognize the advantages of such institutions as the Enoch Pratt Free Library or other public libraries.

One of the primary goals of the school librarian is to teach students to become independent users of libraries, because in libraries they can find answers to questions, help for home improvement projects and hours of reading pleasure.

Current technologies are complex and students must be taught to evaluate the results of a search and be selective in their choices. That can happen in theschool library, if there is one and it is appropriately staffed.

Perhaps we have found our library champion and it is The Sun.

The paper's focus on the school library as a vital hub of any school should serve as a wake-up call to those who can do something about the problem.

Mary H. Hackman

Glen Burnie

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