Monday, March 19, 2018

More Than Bake Sales

Over the weekend news broke that a substitute teacher used by the Howard County Schools had been charged with child sexual abuse for an incident in Montgomery County. Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano sent out a letter to parents on Saturday covering the situation in general terms.

If you want to know specifics I suggest you follow the PTA Council of Howard County on Facebook.  PTACHC President Vicky Cutroneo was been providing the most through, up-to-date information available on this horrific situation throughout the weekend.

Some folks think that the PTA is “merely” about bake sales or booster groups, after-prom parties and teacher luncheons.   The PTA Council in Howard County addresses those issues and so much more. They maintain an informational website as a resource but have recently entered the social media world by keeping members up to date on Facebook.

Want to stay in the loop on Howard County Schools? I’d recommend adding PTACHC to your social media diet.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. It’s quiet at the Snowden Starbucks, and I pick a seat with the scenic view of the bowling alley. I have reached the point that my glasses don’t afford me a clear view of overhead order boards. I reach into my memory and come up blank. I try to appear knowingly ironic as I order a “middle-sized” caramel macchiato.

I’m slipping from middle age to late middle age. I’m wondering if all the people I saw at the Wilde Lake Starbucks used to come here on a Sunday morning. The music on the sound system leans acoustic but not too mournful. Introspective with slight hint of perkiness. Audible wallpaper. 

There will be no Village Election in Oakland Mills this year. No one is running. Well, that’s not quite true.

 Six candidates are running for seven open seats on the Oakland Mills Board.  One candidate is running for the one open Columbia Council Representative seat.  This is a *non-contested race for both the village board and Columbia Council which means that all candidates will be deemed elected and begin their one year Board term on May 1, 2018.  The Oakland Mills Board will confirm the appointment of candidates on April 24, 2018.  

The last time I went to an Oakland Mills Village Board Meeting was to speak on behalf on Jonathan Edelson as Board Chair. I remember being particularly concerned about the lack of participation in Village Elections. I challenged the board to dedicate some time and energy to involving a larger share of Oakland Mills in the election process. 

We need more people to be informed, to care, and to vote.

I know this Village Board works hard and I also know that when one is in the middle of attending to the issues one is faced with, in the moment, those long-term goals slip out of consciousness. It has been a source of relief to me that I am no longer in fear of angry people trying to “re-invent” my Village. I do feel that our current board is caring for, nurturing, paying attention to our Village. 

This piece is in no way a criticism of their work. The problem of declining participation and uncontested Elections is Columbia-wide.

Columbia is a verb. Until it isn’t. 

Perhaps Columbia was a fad, a craze, a cult that didn’t necessary “take” with the next generation. Or perhaps the focus has shifted to just getting by. Both parents working just to make it. No extra money for baby sitters and anyway, what if something went wrong? We work too hard. We worry. We wake up early, go to bed late and wonder if we are making our children’s lives better or worse.

Like I said, late middle age. Visions of mortality. The sounds of the audible wallpaper are morphing into something more decidedly mournful. The Starbucks is filling up. We’re all together, alone at our separate tables. With our electronic devices. 

I tell you what. Let’s make a date to get together this Spring. Put it on your calendar now: the annual Oakland Mills Village Plant Sale. They still have that even if there’s no election. There will still be Spring, after all.

Annual Plant Sale
We will hold our annual plant sale for plants, hanging baskets, and herbs on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.  This is a great opportunity to purchase quality plants at great prices and for a great cause - it's a fundraiser for the Oakland Mills community.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


They seem to be reaching critical mass over here...

The top ten things that bug me, in no particular order:

1. Houses with the garage placed in the front as a focal point. Howard County has a lot of these!

2. People who snicker while other folks give testimony at public hearings.

3. Chess-shaming in reference to UMBC ‘s basketball win. “I thought they only had a chess team, ha ha.”

4. Outright meanness in social media groups. See also: telling the admin what to do.

5. People who think that abortion is the protesting equivalent of school gun violence.

6. How long Spring is taking to arrive this year. How tenaciously Winter is holding on.

7. The American way of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.

8. The fake School Superintendent account on twitter. Completely self indulgent and not remotely enlightening or amusing.

9. The way the local press chews up and grinds down journalistic talent.

10. People who will support you privately but not in public.

There you have it, folks. My take and also my invitation to you to do the same. In particular, any local pet peeves?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Time Sensitive

What could you do with $5,000.00?

The folks at Stevens Forest Elementary School have plenty of ideas of how to spread that money around to support their Title 1 school community. Right now they are within striking distance of third place in the contest, which would win them $5,000.00.

Contest details are here:

Here’s the deal. Today is the last day, so just go and vote once. That’s all you need to do, and then share this post to your friends so they can vote before today’s five pm deadline.

Vote here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happiness Is...

Columbia ranks as twelfth happiest city in the U.S.


Readers of this blog know that I take most ranking announcements with a grain of salt. This one just floors me. How do you quantify happiness? Who gets to choose?

The article in the Baltimore Business Journal mentions some of the factors that were taken into account. I notice that an active arts scene didn’t make the list. Hmm.

What would be on your top ten list of what makes you happy in a community? What’s your number one?

Be serious, or be silly. But, tell me: what makes for happiness in a hometown?

Add your comments here:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Walking Out

Whether we “allow” students to walk out or not, let’s face the fact that they have a reason to protest. Every student who walks into a school has a reason to fear gun violence within those walls. We can only say “it’s never happened here” right up until it does. We didn’t expect that horrific incident at the Columbia Mall, now did we?

It happens. It has happened. It is happening. It will happen, even here, if we don’t make a substantive change in how we deal with guns in our culture. Students know this. They have no motivation to say, “well, on the other hand” or “let’s not go overboard” or any of those mealy-mouthed, whataboutism claims.

Children lie dead in school classrooms. Classmates bleed out, ripped apart by by bullets from assault weapons. Students throughout the nation train and rehearse active shooter drills. This is not education. This is the antithesis of the learning and growth that School is supposed to represent.

Measures that turn our schools into prisons may be reassuring to some parents but students know better. Most of those same measures have already been proven ineffective in previous school shootings. Even if we turned every school into a SuperMax facility, our students could very likely meet their end at the movie theater. Or a nightclub. Or a shopping center.

It’s not the location. It’s the guns.

I believe in the right of students to protest. I believe that protest can be an effective motivator of change. I’ve seen some adults carping that kids don’t understand larger issues and merely want a reason to cut class. That just galls me. Let’s not sell our kids short. And besides, in every group are those who will understand and those who won’t. Even in groups of adults. That doesn’t mean we negate the rights of all because some won’t “get it.”

Whether or not one lives or dies or loses friends and teachers is relevant to every student. It is not an issue that belongs a to particular political party. It belongs to every child who goes to school and lives in fear. We have allowed this world to come into existence.

Our students are saying “enough”.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

An Odd Choice

I’m a bit late in getting to this srticle in the Howard County Times:

16 candidates vie for Howard County Council seats (Kate Magill)

Dated March 5th, this piece does a good job at sorting out who everybody is and what they are running for. It’s Howard County. You can’t tell the players without a score card. And in this case it’s more than merely a score card, since some candidates come with complex backstories that take three entire paragraphs to sort out. Ms Magill does an excellent job articulating Janet Siddiqui’s complicated candidacy.

But then, at the end of the article, something odd happens. Suddenly it turns into an interview with outgoing council member Greg Fox. What the heck? In a piece that is 16 paragraphs long, Mr. Fox warrants 4 of them. That’s fully 25 per cent. Whether one is a fan of Mr. Fox or not, what is the rationale for allowing him to have the last word on the council race in the article?

Is it perhaps because he is the only one of the current council members not running for anything? Does that supposedly render him impartial in the upcoming election? (Spoiler: he isn’t.) The portion of the article dedicated to Mr. Fox might best be labeled “how Republicans want to define the upcoming local races in order to hammer Democrats.” He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, and I’m sure there are others who share it.

But without such a clear label his words stand alone as some kind of an authoritative declaration on the race. There is nothing else in the article to balance his views. I find that odd.

Reporter Kate Magill has been doing an amazing job doing the work of several people. This blog post is not meant to pick on her. We need local journalists. We are lucky to have Ms. Magill. I’m just puzzled by this particular journalistic choice.

Should there be another voice in this article? Who would you choose?