The following is the text of public comments made by Sandra Monaco-Burton, President of Harford County Council PTA, to the Harford County Board of Education on November 22, 2010. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Good evening President Wolkow, Superintendent Tomback, Members of the Board.
My name is Sandra Monaco-Burton, President of Harford County Council PTA.
In anticipation of the Board receiving the School System’s proposed redistricting plan on the 29th, I wanted to speak on behalf of the parents to point out some details and convey parents’ disappointment in the process and with the plan.
In early 2009, the school system called for parent volunteers for its Redistricting Initiative. Each school sent five parents to a February 2009 meeting where participants were given this pamphlet. One of the sections entitled “the Process” explained:
“Our work over the next 18 months will include seeking public input to develop the parameters, to begin to formulate various options throughout the county, to review the various options with each regional focus group and with the entire school community, to make modifications and revisions based on the public input and the available demographic data, and to prepare recommendations to the Superintendent and Board of Education.”
We did develop parameters and were told that HCPS would be in contact regarding the next step. We left feeling like we were indeed part of the process.
And so we waited and waited. 2009 became 2010. The deadline for a plan to be shared with the focus group came and went. Eventually it was posted that there were delays in the process. We started asking when the next focus group meeting would be. First it was “the Fall” then “October” and then, finally, when parents pressed the issue in this room a few weeks ago, we were given the dates November 8, 9, and 10. But those meetings were not for focus group input. They were for the school system to reveal its plan and instruct the focus group to share the information with their school communities.
Parents in each community are attempting to review the maps and provide input on how the plan can be improved, but the few sheets of paper available to us have created many questions and provide no real data that would allow for a constructive revision of the plan. Communities are asking their focus group representatives questions that they cannot answer because focus group members were not part of the creation of the plan.
Parents are extremely frustrated by the short amount of time they have to submit improvements.
While Mr. Licata’s October 25 letter to the focus group participants makes a point to say: “In no way has there been an intentional attempt to minimize your involvement or input”, I hope the Board can understand why the parents do feel completely left out of the process. The school system itself, when it created the focus group, created expectations for the parents and then let them fall by the wayside.
Despite the limitations placed on us by the school system, parents are submitting proposals via email. You will hear from many of these parents in the weeks to come.
We are hoping that when you start reviewing the plan you will shed light on many of the questions it raises. I’m sure you are aware that parents do not believe the proposed plan comes close to meeting the needs of the children of this community. While we understand children need to be moved, we question the rationale and necessity of many of the lines on the proposed map. We hope The Board will be more accepting of our input and that you will not rush through this existing plan. We expect that the final plan will look less like bureaucrats sat at their desks and took a sharpie pen to the map, and more like a well-thought out community-supported rebalancing that enables our students to thrive.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight.
They never will. It will always be the developer’s fault, the BOE’s fault, the inept politician’s fault, and whoever else can be blamed. They will never get information soon enough, be notified soon enough, be allowed to redistrict their area, etc. They won’t admit that many schools need to be redistricted. Some even complain that the STAC contains members of the Dept. of P and Z. Any complaint will do. I especially like the the argument that they bought their properties based on where they go to school, implying that their area has the only good schools. Oh, and then there are the ones who somewhat admit that they are concerned about their house values, as if it was the concern of the BOE to worry about that issue also. For those of you who were promised that your children would always go to the same school, you were lied to by the realtor or someone. Give me a call, I have a bridge in New York City that you might like to buy.
Why do you always seem to have such a low opinion of peoples intelligence or motives? Not everyone who is concerned about school redistricting is as shallow as you make them out to be. Some parents who tookthe time to attend and spoke at the BOE this past Monday raised legitimate questions that had nothing to do with the issues you seem to suggest are the true motivation for their objections or dissatisfaction with the draft plan or the need for redistricting at all.
Mr. Licata’s comment in his Oct. letter already recognizes that the process was flawed regarding focus group participation. Knowing this would be an issue he attempts to minimize criticism by saying this was not intentional. Regardless of intent the result was the same. People have a legitimate right to get upset when they feel used. If the school system had no true interest in parent involvement in formulating the plan then do not pretend to do so. People can see through such smokescreens which only serves to justifiably generate mistrust and anger.
First Citizen says
Monster mist work for HCPS.
This is business as usual for HCPS, this time it just impacts the parents directly.
Parents should be concerned about having their opinions heard, and especially having valid concerns CONSIDERED. During the last redistricting, several months of public comments and concerns were listened to by the BOE and STAC. The STAC came back to the BOE with a “revised plan” that was so wacky, that the BOE rejected it in its entirety, and they were left with the original plan to modify on their own.
With the current lack of open communication and community involvement as described in Ms. Monaco-Burton’s letter, it appears that the redistricting is proceeding along the same path.
As Larry points out, parents should be VERY skeptical about the “numbers.” In the high school redistricting almost every meeting and/or presentation the numbers changed. The whole entire school board 2 years ago voted to put a Magnet School in Bel Air High School saying there was plenty of space for hundreds of students!! All someone had to do was look at the number of students in each grade at Bel Air Middle School to see there was no way that was true. I personally told Mr. Licata and he said they would look into it. Never heard about it again and Bel Air is at capacity.
Futhermore, look at how crowded both Bel Air High and Patterson Mill are and both of those schools have the highest class sizes of high schools in the county. They moved students but not personnel. Also, Patterson Mill Middle is overcrowded because of Boundary Exceptions granted by HCPS even though it is a violation of their own policy. HCPS also told parents they would be able to get Boundary Exceptions during the redistricting and then they were denied. The only people who get them are the personnel working for the school system. Ironically they admonish parents for wanting to keep their kids in certain schools but they are allowed to go wherever they want even if it is overcrowding a school. What message does that send?