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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Now is the time to fix Route 32

Last Saturday brought yet another fatal accident on the dangerous two-lane section of Route 32 between Route 70 and 108. Accidents, sometimes more than one a day, attest to the overcrowding, variable speeds, and many unsafe intersections along this stretch of road. With new houses being built throughout the area, with over 10,000 new jobs planned at Fort Meade and with a new offices being built along Route 32 in Sykesville, it is clear that the time to fix Route 32 is now.

Those who continue to look for a better plan for 32 are deftly stretching out the process and not addressing the more important issue of how to get Route 32 widened as soon as possible. State Highway specialists have spent years conducting studies, meeting with residents and revising plans. Creative approaches are now needed to shorten the approval, funding and construction timetables.

Let's appeal to Howard County to help fund the effort if the state will advance the construction schedule -- it worked for Route 29. Let's work with the federal government to improve the infrastructure needed as Fort Meade and NSA are expanded.

Let's work with Homeland Security and have Route 32 declared a D.C. evacuation route. Let's all work with our local and state politicians and let them know that we consider this a real issue and that real action is needed now.

I don't want my property value hurt by living near a gridlocked Route 32 and I don't like my commute getting longer each year. But more importantly, I don't want so many accidents and I don't want to see any more white crosses along the side of an unsafe Route 32.

Dan Smith

West Friendship

Teachers, not kids, come first for union

I read with interest your article on Mr. Joseph Staub, the outgoing head of the Howard County teachers union ("For teachers union leader, it's back to the classroom," June 24). Staub is quoted as saying that "I've always considered myself as a teacher, first and foremost." Later, he is credited with "organizing the union's 'working to the rule,' or doing the minimum amount of work required under the contract." He also says his job as union president is to "provide the best working conditions for the teachers and support personnel who teach. ..."

At the same time, his "biggest disappointment" was "the union's unsuccessful attempts to charge nonmembers an 'agency fee,' or a percentage of annual dues ..."

Yes, Staub makes it clear. It's teachers first and foremost that matter to Staub and his union, not the children they are charged with teaching, and it is union over nonmembers, attempting to extort money from those who do not find the union necessary or worthy. Perhaps this is why Johnny can't read; his unionized teachers are more interested in money, and will do the "minimum amount of work" they have to to get more. It's a pity that educational unions are seen as the biggest downfall in public education, and glorifying someone who tries to force nonmembers to pay the union is not in the best interest of The Sun's readers.

Douglas Dribben

Woodstock

We are not stupid, but we do vote

This is what gets me about county government -- lies, the power of the developers in Howard County, the useless Zoning Board and County Council (one and the same) and the cafeteria-style reasoning depending on the situation and who gets rich in the process. All this regardless of a referendum with more than enough signatures and what the taxpayers of the county really want. If one person is allowed to cheat and bypass the referendum then everyone else will want to do the same.

Marsha McLaughlin, county planning director, says that the anger of the residents of Woodland Village and neighboring residents is "unfortunate" ("Meeting on zoning bid fails to quell neighbors' ire," June 22).

McLaughlin states that office use seems appropriate because of the highway noise. Please, please, McLaughlin, we, the people, are not stupid. But we do vote.

We know what this is all about. Ask Councilman [Charles C.] Feaga, a family friend of [landowner Nancy] Cavey's for many years. I am sure he will help her with whatever Cavey wants on that piece of land.

We have lived in the same townhouse community for 17 years, and since Route 100 was built we have had no problems with the noise. It's not I-95. As a matter of fact, the line of beautiful trees, that will be cut down for yet more traffic, help keep the noise down.

On the other hand, what about the senior housing that was built within the last year just on the other side of Route 100? Highway noise seems not to have been considered when [developer Donald R.] Reuwer [Jr.] built those homes. Which is it, McLaughlin? Noise or just plain greed? Another empty office building makes more money than senior housing, which we would prefer and so told Cavey at the meeting. Does anyone care about our property values? Remember, us, the voters, the little people?

The area is residential. These are people's homes, not your friendly 7-Eleven store or another Merritt building.

Maria Alvarez

Ellicott City

Don't judge schools on small pupil groups

I am impressed with the supportive attitude expressed by Howard school officials in response to the recently released MSA scores ("Progress found lacking on MSA," June 22). Terry Alban, Howard's director of student assessment and program evaluation, understood that schools should not be judged on such small portions of their student body, and that teachers deserve credit for their hard work in trying to meet the goals. I hope that the media and public can be so understanding of the complexities surrounding this issue.

One of the chief complaints with the federal No Child Left Behind law is that schools are judged by the scores of many subgroups within the school, and labeled failing if these scores do not improve every year. The numbers show that this is junk science. Cradlerock School is judged on 59 students, Patuxent Valley on 81 students, and Wilde Lake Middle on 13 students. When we consider that one-third of middle school students are new to the school every year, how can we expect improvement every year? Schools can do their best, but when working with such small numbers, a few struggling, students can destroy a school's scores.

I write this as a native Columbian, coincidentally a graduate of Patuxent Valley Middle School and Dasher Green Elementary School (now Cradlerock School), two of the schools newly on the alert list, who is currently a teacher in the Bronx, New York. In the Bronx, schools are constantly labeled failing, forced to make drastic changes, and shut down over the course of a few years. This has taught me the crucial lesson that Howard officials seem to have realized, fortunately without having the same lesson in failing schools: Do not freak out over the provisions of a bad law.

Matt McLaughlin

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