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.