Letters to the Editor - Aug. 16

August 15, 2011

School board needs to release K-2 achievement

To the editor:

When I asked the Washington County Board of Education (BOE) how and what they manage, they responded they do not micromanage but set the policy for their one employee, the superintendent, to implement.

Let us review how well that approach has worked. This table is the BOE's state ranking during former Superintendent Betty Morgan's tenure, using MSA passing rates and comparing Washington County with 24 school districts in Maryland.

                            2003    2011

Elementary math    10th    17th

Elementary reading    10th    15th

Middle school math    6th    10th

Middle school reading    9th    12th

These rankings over the last eight years cause me to question if the BOE is satisfied with these results and trends. I also wonder if the retired school administrators discuss these facts before they endorse candidates for the BOE. The rapid deterioration in third- through fifth-grade math and reading results forces me to repeat my plea for transparency and full disclosure by the BOE on the educational attainment of 5,000 kindergarten through second-grade students.

Do current and retired professional educators, school administrators and BOE members acknowledge these results and trends from their policies, master plans and superintendent's annual performance criteria setting? If they do not, then students and their parents have no hope. But if they do and are open to other policies and procedures, I have three recommendations:

First, students should only be promoted beyond second grade once they have achieved 100 percent educational readiness in reading and math. If a parent or any teacher or administrator wants an exception to this policy, then the BOE must accept its responsibility for the educational attainment of that individual child and make the decision to socially promote.

Second, a measureable set of performance criteria for the superintendent should be made public before the school year begins in August. These criteria should be solely geared to measuring change from actions taken. In other words, there should be no fuzzy, unmeasurable intentions — agendas, plans, tactics, targets, goals, strategies, programs or objectives.

Finally, the BOE should require the superintendent to report on interim progress being made on these performance criteria during the regular BOE agenda item known as superintendent's report.

Implementing these recommendations would mean a "Commitment to Accomplishment" we can count on.

Tom Janus

Area lost link to history with pair of July deaths

To the editor:

The month of July brought an end to an era of local history.

On July 2, Paul E. Mentzer passed away, and on July 7, Kenneth Jones passed away. Both of these men were a great loss to their families but also were a great lost to Hagerstown's history. These two men were the last original members of Company B, 116th Regiment.

Company B originally was a Guard unit, but with the outbreak of World War II, the 116th Infantry Regiment became a part of the 29th Division. The 29th Division was assigned the task of assaulting Omaha Beach on D-Day. The 116th Regiment, Company B was part of the second wave. Jones took part in the assault and later went on to be awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Early in the war, some Company B members were given the opportunity to transfer to the newly formed paratrooper unit for a little extra money. Mentzer made the decision to transfer and was assigned to the 82 Airborne. He made two combat jumps — one into Sicily, the other into Holland (Operation Market Garden). Mentzer also took part in different amphibious assaults in Italy and was awarded various medals and commendations for his combat service.

It is sad to realize that these two great World War II veterans who served their country and community are now gone. They spoke sparingly of their war experiences, choosing to keep those memories to themselves. Another page of history has closed. I just hope future generations remember Company B and the sacrifices those men made for us and their country.

Thank you Paul, Kenneth and Company B; may you find the peace you so justly deserve. Rest well with God.

Richard Moats

Thanks to all who helped out-of-towner in need

To the editor:

On Thursday, July 21, I was headed back to Michigan from Virginia when my car broke down on Interstate 70. I managed to get off at the first Hagerstown exit. It was extremely hot and I was very stressed and frightened. Because of the kindness of local business people, my crisis was greatly minimized.  

I would like to publicly thank the manager and staff of the BP Station at 1760 Dual Highway, Amanda St. Clair of Enterprise, Matt of A Bargain Towing, Brian Concovia of Hagerstown Ford  and the staff of the Clarion Hotel.

It was refreshing to find the "small town atmosphere" in a historic and distinguished location. On my next trip south, I will stop and explore the history of your friendly town, thanks to the brochures given to me by a very helpful waiter at Barefoot Bernie's.

Margaret E. Bartos
Sterling Heights, Mich.

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