Friday, June 23, 2017

A Bit of Sun

Take (approximately) two minutes to accompany me on my first walk around Lake Kittamaqundi.

A bit of sunshine for your rainy day.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


There are times that I lament that I have nothing to write about. Right now is not one of those times. Today I could be writing about:
  • Last night's Pops Concert by the Columbia Orchestra at the Chrysalis
  • Yesterday's ceremony honoring the fiftieth anniversary of the People Tree and the return of the Carillon Bells
  • The County Executive's Veto of CB30
  • My first walk around Lake Kittamaqundi
  • An update on recent episodes of the Elevate Maryland Podcast
And that's not all. There's so much to write about that my brain is on overload. Which to write about first?

Overload. That reminds me.

School redistricting.

The school system released some preliminary information on Monday and there has been much discussion on Facebook about what it means. I have been extremely hesitant to join in because 1) our daughter will most likely not be affected, and 2) redistricting is not my field of expertise. I am loath to hold forth on something that many people feel passionately about when I don't have that sense of personal involvement that others clearly have.

This is what I do know. We have needed to do redistricting for some time and it has been put off, making this go-round a much bigger proposition. If you look at overcrowding in some areas and compare it to the schools that are under-enrolled, you know that this is just not sustainable. Almost everyone agrees with that. Yet almost no one wants their child (or, in some cases, their property values) to be affected.

Board of Education chair Cynthia Vaillancourt has responded to parent concerns as follows:

"Please don't get upset yet - but do get involved. This is a very very preliminary look at the options. The committee has not even been formed yet. There will be months of work and community input."


That's not really how this process works... "one hard plan in place and making a decision on that plan."  It is a "starting point" for a conversation and a months long process where a committee of community members ... with input from the community along the way ... do model various options and alterations.  There is a computer program which is called the "whiffer"... for "what if..." program that allows the staff to input polygons and assemble the impact on the 11 criteria.  By the time this is over in November, you will be sick of hearing about "the whiffer".

We wanted a better Board of Education. And we wanted a Superintendent who would work with stakeholders. If, in fact, we have gotten what we were looking for, then this will be a test of how that works. Is the process transparent? Is the community being encouraged to participate? Does the school system show responsiveness to concerns that are raised?

Now we engage in the process with them and see how it works. I don't think it is necessary for parents to "come out swinging", girded for the fight. But definitely come out. Participate. Listen. Learn more. Interact.

Will this make the redistricting process easy? Will it make everything go the way we want it to go? No. But it will make it a better, and fairer, process for everyone.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Music in the Woods

Tonight, from seven to nine, there will be music in the woods--Symphony Woods. The Columbia Orchestra will be presenting a free Pops concert at the Chrysalis . This event is a part of the Columbia 50th Birthday celebration. If you've been hearing a lot about the Chrysalis, but haven't seen it yet--well, now's the time. Bring your blankets and camp chairs and experience live music in the park. Here is some helpful info on parking.

There's a great article in The Business Monthly on Inner Arbor Trust CEO Nina Basu. Take a look here. There's a wealth of information about what's up next for the Chrysalis and how the plan for the entire park is moving forward.

There's another event going on downtown tonight, perhaps less publicized. At 5:30 pm, Columbia Association is marking the 50th Birthday of the People Tree, while also celebrating the return of the Lakefront bells. Have you seen/heard them yet? I took a walk around the lake yesterday and finally got to hear them ring.

It's possible that you can make it to both events with a quick dinner in between. At least, that's what I'm hoping to do.

See you there?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Too Old?

I started my day today by reading an article about the Mall by Andrew Michaels. If you've been wondering what's going on in Columbia's own cathedral of retail, I highly recommend it. It's thorough. I have to admit, this article probably told me more about the Mall than I needed to know.

"Too old?" You may wonder if I chose today's title because I think the Mall is too old, or that the concept of malls is too old. No, actually, I am wondering if I am just too old to appreciate the Mall. I just don't feel it calling me.

When the concept of in an indoor shopping mall was new and innovative, my hometown mall was Severance Center, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I was a small child and the mall was a new and gleaming cornucopia of experiences. It seemed like a retail embodiment of the Hot Shoppes cafeteria where my grandparents let me choose whatever I wanted for lunch, from row upon row of appealing choices.

As a teen I lived in an small Connecticut town that didn't have a mall. So I definitely missed out on that teenager/mall vibe. On the other hand, we could safely walk around town, visit shops on the Main Street and nearby shopping center, take the bus easily to where we wanted to go. Did I mention there was a Dairy Queen smack in the middle of town? But I digress.

When I was the parent of an infant or very young child in a stroller, going to the Mall was Getting Out of the House, in a climate-controlled environment. I can't underestimate its value as a sanity-saver during those years. Sometimes a meal out meant tag-teaming it at the Food Court, but that, my friends, was better than nothing.

But for some time now I have noticed a vague antipathy within myself when someone sugggests going to the Mall. "Do I have to?" I think.

Maybe I'm just too old. Maybe there's just no pleasing me. I don't know. Perhaps the ease of online shopping has neutralized any desire I once had to do the Mall thing. Don't get me wrong--I want the mall to be successful. I harbor no ill will. But if there's some magical lure for drawing me in, I may have become immune.

My husband still enjoys the Mall. My daughters both stop in there regularly. So clearly it's not to do with the Mall, it's me.

Maybe I'm just too old.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake

(Photo from County Executive's Facebook page)

Were you there on Saturday night for the 50th Birthday cake-cutting? I had planned on going but got spooked by the heat. If only summer didn't have to be so dang hot.

I noticed in photographs what a vast array of local elected officials were assembled for the event. In fact, many of the photos I saw are so crowded that you can barely see see Milton Matthews, President of the Columbia Association. I would've thought this was his gig, possibly flanked by each Village CA rep? As is typical, I wasn't there so I don't know how it all went down. I was happy to find this photo on the County Executive's page. (Used with permission.)

But I do wonder if there has always been so much HoCo representation at the Columbia Birthday event. I started this blog largely as attempt to examine Columbia vs HoCo tensions. It's interesting to see how intertwined the interests of both have become in recent years. I'm sure there are still some die-hards who feel that one could easily do just fine without the other, thank you. But by and large there appears to be a growing consensus that we must all hang together, etc., etc.

As the the cake itself--I hear it was from Charm City Cakes, of television's "Ace of Cakes" fame. I also heard that the general public would be receiving cupcakes. If so, who ate the fancy ceremonial cake? I'm curious.

What was your favorite part of Lakefest?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Someone Else's Dad

Let's not talk about my father today. Let's talk about somebody else's father.

Philando Castile should be alive today and celebrating Father's Day with his family. Instead, his family lives  with the horrific memories of his death at the hands of police. And with the knowledge that our justice system saw fit to hold no one responsible.

How do you remember your dad? Everyone has good memories and bad ones. Philando Castile's daughter was four years old when she watched her father shot and killed. No matter what good memories she has of his life, they will most likely by marred forever by this night of trauma.

I read an article this morning about what happened when teachers wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts in a largely white school district in Seattle. A five year old boy of color was worried about how the day was going to go.

But there was also a mom heartbroken by how the day had played out for her son.
“I was feeling scared to drop them off at school, [my son] in particular, being at Laurelhurst as a brown student in a sea of white peers and white staff,” she wrote to Principal Talbot.
That morning, the mom and her son talked about what his Black Lives Matter shirt meant. “He told me he felt scared,” the mom wrote.
“As we parked, he said, ‘Mom! I just got a good idea. If I get white paint and put it all over my body to cover the brown so they can’t see it, then people will stop killing us black and brown people.’
“I cried so many tears of sadness, fear, anger and feelings of lost hope yesterday morning,” she said.
Tears of sadness, fear, anger, and lost hope. A little boy who wants to paint over who he truly is on order to blend in, become invisible, stay safe. 
This Father's Day I am thinking of all the fathers who worry every time they leave home that they may never come back. Simply because of the color of their skin. And I am thinking of all mothers, wives, children, and family who watch them go and feel that fear, live with that fear, and see that our culture does nothing to change the system which causes it.
What kind of Father's Day is that?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Guest Post: A Second Look

A few weeks ago I expressed some skepticism about the County Executive's choice to fill the empty seat on the Board of Education. That skepticism was fueled by the reactions of parents in the community who felt they were not being heard, and that the choice was purely a political one.

This week I read another take on this story from former BOE candidate and in-coming PTACHC President Vicky Cutroneo. I thought it was important to share it here.

A Second Look

Yesterday, I met with Ananta Hejeebu, CE Kittleman's appointee for the vacant Board of Education seat.  As you may recall, I decided not to apply for the position believing that this was an opportunity to appoint a person with a skill set and perspective that would complement our Board of Education... isn't it nice to have Mavis Ellis' expertise on discipline and equity?  Christina Delmont-Small's budget expertise?  I admit when I hear people say we need board members "who think like us", I cringe.  Sounds like a cult.  (although I know it's more a reference to similar politics.. regardless.. it doesn't belong on the Board of Education.)  I believe the most productive groups are the most diverse...and this includes diversity of thought.  Board members should challenge and be challenged.  But I digress.

Lots of people have come out swinging claiming Mr. Hejeebu's appointment was all politics.  And you know what?  I was one of them.  Given the fact that I am a registered Republican and I was publicly critical of the appointment, I think sharing my thoughts may help provide some unbiased perspective.

Last June, I was the victim of a politically motivated smear campaign.  I'm not ready to share details  but suffice it to say. I was pretty devastated.   I asked people to meet me in person if they had concerns.  And most did.  Those who didn't weren't interested in education, they were interested in advancing their political agenda.

It's so easy to re-write someone's narrative for your own convenience with social media (and in my case, come creative photoshopping of campaign signs).  I realized it was important to give Ananta the chance I asked people to give me 2016.

Since the announcement of his appointment, Ananta has made himself available to anyone who has concerns.  He has met with special ed parents, learning all he can about current issues, he has attended SECAC meetings, BOE meetings, met with school and elected officials.   He is listening and learning.

We talked for over 2 hours yesterday.  I am impressed.  I'm not easily impressed, nor am I looking at this appointment thru a political lens.  I apologized for my premature and knee jerk reaction to his appointment.

Though he is a successful business owner, a church elder, a community and youth volunteer, what truly sets him apart is this:   he is a dad who has fought for his disabled son for 17 years.   I truly believe he will fight for your children as if they were his own.   His appointment is historic for the board as he will be the first Asian ever to serve.  I also believe if we desire our board to reflect our community, we benefit greatly with the addition of an HCPSS dad.

He may not know all of the laws, regulations and the ins and outs of each and every issue--but that is not so important as the desire to learn, ability to listen and the courage to take action.   I'm convinced that Ananta will learn, listen and get things done.

If you still have doubts, meet with Ananta, don't listen to me or anyone else.


Thanks to Ms. Cutroneo for giving me permission to share this here.