Building Community, Discussion with Dan Kennedy and Brad Barker - transcript

June 13, 2006

Building Community, Discussion with Dan Kennedy and Brad Barker - founding members - will be our Live Chat guests today starting at 1:00 pm and ending at 2:00 pm. Questions or comments can be submitted by clicking here before and during the chat. Or send an email to:

Question: Does the Builiding Community group have a process to address problems related to ethnic/cultural differences in our public schools?

Mr. Kennedy: We have a group that is called Tolerance in Schools and they are focused on the Washington County School System. The Washington County Public Schools Administrators, Dr. Abernathy, and others from her office did a presentation to the Building Community Group at last month's meeting. There are ongoing communications between the Tolerance in Schools group and the Washington County Public Schools system. In addition to that we've asked Tim Johnson from the Department of Justice to begin working with the schools on their SPIRIT Program (Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together).


Moderator: Founding the Building Community group was suggested by Timothy Johnson of the Department of Justice, who has been described as the group's "mentor" by one of its members. What exactly did Johnson say about why such a group was needed?

Mr. Kennedy: Mr. Johnson came to Hagerstown and met with several individuals, myself included, and the question on the table was "Do we think there is a problem with discrimination in Hagerstown?" And the was "Yes, we think there is." The answer to that question prompted the follow-on meetings and actions to develop the group.

Mr. Barker: The first step in the process was to identify other community leaders that would be interested in developing a community group to focus on this question. This first step resulted in a core group of leaders that were then tasked with bringing more people to a community meeting. Several meetings later, this resulted in a meeting of 70 community leaders of Washington County.

Moderator: What did you find, as a group, that led you to say "Yes, that there is a problem?"

Mr. Kennedy: Two of the problems specifically, at that time, were the hate mail received by two candidates for City Council, and the national controversy surrounding the renaming of Memorial Blvd. That prompted us to look deeper into what was being perceived by some as a major problem.

Mr. Barker: First let me start by saying that our group isn't entirely focused on problems. We did identify a lot of good things that are happening in Washington County. Our goal is to educate people on the perceptions that exist within the community, both positive and negative. That said, we identified 5 main areas for growth:

  1. Media Coverage

  2. Government/Community Relations

  3. Community Wide Awareness

  4. Employment Issues & Workforce Development

  5. Tolerance in Schools

Question: You answered the first question by saying you wanted to get the justice dept. involved in the SPIRIT program. Why is the group so quick to ask for Federal help? I thought this group was limited to Hagerstown. Why are you now branching out into Wash. County?

Mr. Barker: The SPIRIT Program is a 15 year-old program that is utilized nationally to encourage students to identify and solve problems in their own schools. When Mr. Johnson came to us to offer the resources of the Community Relations Service component of the DoJ, our group was interested to hear about the free services that they offer. WCPS readily accepted his offer of assistance.

To the question of the group being limited to Hagerstown, our members live and work all over Washington County and we all feel that everyone has the potential to benefit when we achieve our mission and goals.

Question: Mr. Kennedy - The following is a quote from a H/M article about the building communities group.

"Building Community's written goals include:

"Explore all issues of prejudice or discrimination, perceived and real, in our city and surrounding community."

"Identify the City's and County's strengths and weaknesses concerning integration of diverse groups into our community."

"Celebrate the strengths and strengthen the weaknesses within our community."

The group also has consolidated its eight committees into five:

media/coverage; government/community relations; communitywide awareness; employment issues and workforce development; and tolerance in schools.

Kennedy said the group is planning to release a more detailed statement about itself to the media in about a week."

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