Turbulent times. Polarizing issues. Political parties drawing loyalty lines so rigid that no discussion seems possible. Many of my friends have been lamenting this lately. How do we try to solve problems if we cannot talk to one another?
Yet last night it was clear that an issue has arisen in Howard County which has garnered true bipartisan support. And that issue is our schools. As a follow up to the Howard County delegation hearing on upcoming legislation, they held a Town Hall Meeting last night on Education. The enormous room at HCC was full.
The meeting was moderated by former Councilwoman Courtney Watson and former PTACHC President Christina Delmont-Small. My husband and I were tag-teaming last night, so I wasn't able to stay for the whole thing. But while I was there, I was impressed by how well organized and smoothly run it was, and how respectfully community members were treated.
And what a beautiful sight it was to see the truly bipartisan nature of this initiative from the Howard County delegation. And so refreshing for community members to finally have their say, and be listened to. It has been a long time in coming.
Some of the major issues that were shared last night:
- Suspension rates for minority students
- Disrespect of parents
- How bullying is handled/not handled in school
- How the issue of suicide is handled/not handled in schools
- Mold in our schools
- Bullying of teachers and staff by admin and those higher-up
- Accountability in how money is spent
- Over-testing of students
- Responsiveness to parent requests for information and/or help
- Special Education
Some of the most heartrending testimony last night came from parents of special needs children who feel powerless in their attempts to advocate for their children. Having taught special needs children for 12 years, and worked with excellent special educators during that time, I felt both horror and sadness at their stories. These are truly our most vulnerable students, and the school system is allocating big money not to help them, but to deny them services and fight their parents in court.
I know that the meeting was being live-streamed last night. I am hoping that there will be a place you can watch it online. As soon as I know, I will let you know.
I saw this comment online from David Yungmann:
Thanks to all of our State Senators and Delegates who took the time to listen to parents and teachers tonight. Also thanks to Council members who attended to listen. Special thanks to Delegates Warren Miller, Frank Turner and Vanessa Atterbeary for championing a couple bills that will make our School Board and school system more transparent and accountable. You know things have gotten serious when Delegates Miller and Turner, the HCEA President and I are all on the same side of an issue.
But, as Frank Turner reminded those assembled, a change in leadership will involve continued involvement of the community. The delegation can't wave a magic wand. They are working on specific legislation that will help, but the issue of leadership is in the hands of the community, the voters.
The phrase "We, the People" is not an invitation to a Witch Hunt. It is an invocation to participation in representative government: democracy in action. And when people from both parties want to work together, well, that's a beautiful thing.
If you couldn't make it to the meeting, please send your story to Delegate Frank Turner at Frank.firstname.lastname@example.org