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County needs to ask for more state school-construction cash

June 05, 2008|By Ruth Anne Callaham

Kudos for the recent opinion letter that drew on the use of classic lyrics from Three Dog Night's "Joy to the Word" song of the 70's. The author is a good citizen of Washington County and must certainly be a product of a Washington County public school education.

Our school system has worked hard to instill in students the importance of the classics. It's important to know the past and use the information to create a foundation for sound, knowledge-based decisions. Students are encouraged to reference classic literature to help folks understand the challenges of today.

One challenge we face is the need for schools construction dollars from the state. A line from Dickens's "Oliver Twist" comes to mind. Oliver lives for a brief time in an orphanage where officials give very small meals to the children as a cost-saving measure.

In need of nourishing food, Oliver looks authority in the eye, holds out his bowl, and asks meekly "Please, sir, can I have some more?"

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The political pundits will tell you that one county in our state was promised $55 million for school construction in exchange for votes on tax increases. The message for us is that Washington County must work hard to articulate our needs and compete with larger counties.

On May 8, our county was, for a day, the capital of Maryland. The governor, his cabinet and many others important to the governance of our state came to experience the best of our county. Everyone learned a lot and for that we are grateful.

However, in the governor's remarks about school construction funds he noted that Washington County has received $18.3 million in the past two years. Sounds great, but it is not enough and getting more is not easy.

Your elected school board has taken action to build on the "Capital for a Day" experience by sending a letter to the governor.

It reads as follows:

"When you consider that Washington County has been designated as a super-growth county, we are not receiving construction monies proportionate to our growth.

"Washington County has become one to the hot spots for growth in the high-tech and biotech industries, and is one of the remaining counties in the state that can still accommodate growth within reasonable proximity to major urban centers.

"Therefore, (Washington County) can be a significant player in the future of Maryland. Furthermore, our school system is one of the best in the state, spending less per pupil than a majority of systems, and a proven economic generator

"Additional funds for school construction are needed for:

"An alternative school to serve some of not only our own, but also the state's most vulnerable students. The alternative school will help youth with challenging circumstances to become productive citizens through a specialized program emphasizing technology and career options.

"A primary school in a Title I attendance zone. Those children need small classes with well-focused programs to overcome the numerous cultural and social barriers to success.

"An east city high school to accommodate the growth that will obviously take place in the east portion of our county as a result of economic growth at Fort Ritchie and Fort Detrick, and from BRAC initiatives.

"Investing in Washington County now will reap tremendous rewards for our state in the future."

Like Oliver, every resident of Washington County should be looking officials at the highest levels of state government in the eye and enthusiastically asking, "Please, sir, can we have some more?"

Ruth Anne Callaham is a member of the Washington County Board of Education.

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