Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Turn the Radio On

Tired of the same old Baltimore Sun editorials? Looking for something a little more balanced? Interactive even?

Tune in at noon today:

Understanding The Rift In Howard County School’s Leadership 

 (Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU))

Invitations to participate have been extended to both Superintendent Foose and BOE Chair Cynthia Vaillancourt. 

It's a call-in show. Call in.

As for me, I'll be eating lunch with three year olds.

I'm a long-time listener of the Kojo Nnamdi show and I'm sorry to be missing this one.

As always, I invite you to share comments here:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bend That Arc

To members of the County Council and to the County Executive,

I am writing to you in support of Council Bill 9 on the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr's national day of celebration and remembrance. I just read these words, and I want to share them with you:

Dr. King assured us that the arc of moral universe bends toward justice, but only if we stand up and speak out for what is right.  (Rep. Mark Takano)

Someone added:

That arc doesn't bend itself

It is my responsibility to speak out because I believe in this legislation. And because I believe in #One Howard.  I believe that all in our county should be included, respected, and valued. All. 

But I have seen some of the most angry, racist, derogatory language containing the grossest generalizations from those who are fighting the designation of Howard County as a Sanctuary county. Their hateful and selfish language alone proves how much this legislation is needed.  I'm guessing these folks haven't signed the #OneHoward Pledge. Their accusations and slurs are the farthest thing from it.

The contrast between the lofty ideals of the pledge and the wholesale rejection and vilification of people who are living and struggling in our county could not be more stark. 
We cannot have it both ways. Either we are #OneHoward or we are not. We must lead in a way that respects all in our community.

Instead of rejecting this legislation out-of-hand, I urge the council to listen to community input and work to make CB-9 a worthy example of our county's shared goals and inclusiveness. I encourage the County Executive to work with them. 

Above all, I expect our County's leaders to respect this for the serious issue that it is, rather than deflect from its importance by suggesting this is an exercise in political gamesmanship. You have an opportunity to show empathy and wisdom and strength by creating legislation that will protect people who are already our neighbors, coworkers, friends, classmates of our children. They are Howard County, too.

Please don't let them down.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Dear Angry Tweeter,

Do you know any Muslims in real life? Do you work with, serve in the PTA with, live in a neighborhood with Muslims?

What about people of different skin color? Or ethnicities different from your own? Or other religions?

Who do you know in real life?

Spare me the sound bite you got from an online article. This is Howard County. We live here. What do you know about human beings in real life?

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weather or Not

I saw a lot of angry Tweets yesterday from students and parents who missed out on a trip to NYC to see the Broadway production of Aladdin because of the school system's decision to cancel all Saturday activities. I can understand their frustration and disappointment. The weather they were experiencing seemed like nothing to cancel school over. They lost both money and an exciting and rewarding opportunity.

But canceling school or school activities is a slippery business. On extremely rare occasions everyone thinks you got it right. The rest of the time, some folks are angry that you closed, or some are angry that you stayed open. It is not an exact science and I would not want that job for a million dollars. My former father-in-law was an assistant superintendent for the Baltimore County Schools, and he gave me some insight into how difficult these decisions truly are.

I would imagine that the biggest goal is that no one gets hurt. In the case of ice, almost anything can happen once people get on the roads. What if one of the hired tour buses to New York skidded off the highway? Is it worth the risk if even one child was injured due to a weather-related accident? Then how would we feel about the decision to hold activities as scheduled?

Our children are precious. We don't want to risk their safety.

Several years ago there was a snow event that came on after the school day started. I frankly thought the schools should have closed early, but they may have missed the time window for making the announcement. I don't know. But I do know that a bus containing early childhood students was involved in a weather-related accident while bringing afternoon students to school. Some of them were special needs preschoolers,  I believe. Students I taught.

I was really upset when I thought of those children that I knew being in that frightening situation. I was indignant that the school system hadn't acted proactively to close schools or maybe to cancel afternoon classes in order to keep buses off the road while snow was so heavy. How could they have been so foolhardy with those precious lives?

But along with the ever-present need for safety is this:

On regular school days, M-F, we have the responsibility to provide instruction, make sure children are safe during the day, and provide food for those who need it. If we cancel school when it isn't truly necessary, we are falling down on meeting those needs. Deciding when to cancel school on account of the weather is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" proposition.

The truth is that there are so many variables that go into these decisions. Perhaps we should have parent representatives "shadow" the people making them in order to see the inner workings of the process. Seems like a way to provide greater transparency and it might even reduce complaints.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sticks and Stones

Let's just get one thing straight: Bill Woodcock is not a racist homophobe.

If you want to know why I'm so steamed up about this, read his recent post on The 53, entitled "Ill-Suited". Then read the comments.

It seems that nastiness in the comments section has become almost a full time job for some people these days. As you know, I've been an outspoken critic of anonymous posters. In this particular case, though, the commenter has identitied herself.

It must have meant a lot to her to be able to hurl that insult at Mr. Woodcock.

As someone who has worked with Bill on Oakland Mills- and Columbia-centric issues, and who has read his blog consistently for years, I can say without hesitation that he is not a racist, and he is not a homophobe. Those are nasty accusations and they are wholly unsubstantiated..

I'm pretty sure that Bill doesn't care two hoots about this comment. But I do. Because words matter.

If you have a good case, you can win your point through stating the truth. Making things up in an attempt to smear someone's good name and then merely repeating them everywhere you go is a poisonous attempt to sway public opinion. Good people get hurt.

If there is one thing this blog can endorse, it is this:

  • Speak the truth. 
  • Put your name on your work. 
  • Don't hurt other people to make yourself look good. 

Look for commenters, and blogggers, and public servants who are committed to living and working in just this way.

If they don't, it's a red flag that they cannot be trusted.

FYI: Trying an experiment. Comments here will be closed. Please comment on this blog's Facebook page instead. I invite discussion in a forum where false identities are more difficult to come by.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Curious and Hopeful, Revisited

Good morning, Friday. I'm looking at the world through what feels like a migraine. I've decided to run this post from three years ago today because of its continued relevance.  Just think of this, and you will know why I'm not done talking about this issue.

Although it wasn't directed at this topic, this quote from President Obama's Farewell speech brought my former students to mind:

Their children are just as curious, and hopeful, and worthy of love.

My People (January 13, 2014)

I work with special needs preschoolers. I love my work. I bring music and creative movement to sixteen schools in the Howard County School System. My students have a wide variety of abilities and disabilities. But they have one vital characteristic in common.

They are all beautiful.

It does not matter if they are not typically developing preschoolers. It does not matter if their bodies are not fully symmetrical, or their behaviors are difficult or unexpected. They are beautiful human beings who deserve care, respect and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

In our culture we tend to support the adorable-ness of babies and young children. So, even though some of these children might not look "normal", they are more easily accepted as "cute". We just love "cute", don't we? We open our hearts and minds to it.
Occasionally I run into groups of developmentally disabled adults when I am shopping. It might be the grocery, the dollar store, or Five Below. There may only be four or five of them, with helpers and caregivers, having a much-needed outing and life experience.

Other customers shrink from them. People cast sidelong glances, whisper to each other, move away. These people, my people, aren't cute anymore. They are full-sized, funny-looking, maybe even frightening. There is a strong sense of other-ness about them.
Somehow, some of these beautiful children I am teaching now will be those adults in the dollar store. They won't be cute anymore. People will avoid them. And yet they are the same human beings who deserve care, respect, and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

There are many challenges involved in integrating special needs children into the regular classroom setting. As students get older and the focus is more on academic achievement, the strains on both them and teachers and support staff are tremendous. But as I watch my daughter grow up in schools where she actually has some contact with these kids, I feel a spark of hope.

Maybe, when she is an adult, she will not be afraid of my beautiful people. Perhaps she might even know one of them. If this is a life experience that she gains along the way, I will be extremely grateful.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Goes Up

Proof that the world is coming to an end: page 37 of today's Columbia Flier.

Newspapers run on advertising. Especially this one which has a large free distribution. Full page ads are a big deal.

But, really?

So, if this is the future of Columbia maybe I'll join the Chicken Little Chorus. Maybe.