Lack of Leadership is Hijacking Howard County, Maryland’s Greatest Treasure: Our Peace and Unity
Howard County Families for Education Improvement (FEI) has
grave concerns about the lack of leadership, inclusiveness and transparency
displayed by Howard County government officials during the current school
redistricting process. We hope that the Howard County Board of Education
members, however they ultimately decide, do a much better job of independently
and objectively evaluating the facts while giving our members’ testimony and
their guiding Policy 6010 adequate consideration.
FEI has dedicated considerable time and effort to researching and putting forth objective, expert, and credible analysis of the research which proves that redistricting specifically to address achievement gaps is an inconclusive strategy and may actually harm students, rather than help them. At the hearing on County Resolution 112, nearly a hundred residents testified in opposition to CR 112. A handful testified in support – but unlike FEI members, they did not provide independent research or evidence to prove their point. Not one of those supporters purported to represent the populations intended to benefit from the proposal. Our local leaders must get it right for our County’s young people, the first time.
Alarmingly, Councilmembers cited concerns about how they would ever find the time to listen to all those desiring to speak. Councilmember Mercer Rigby irresponsibly commanded the public to go online and read testimony submitted– racist, contentious testimony bearing no relationship whatsoever to the policy arguments being legitimately put forward in opposition. In advising the public to read this testimony, the Councilmember herself admitted it was sent using fake names and fake addresses. In fact, no one has been able to verify the identities of those who submitted that information, nor where those writers live. Not one person delivered any oral testimony of a racist nature. Yet, it is highly concerning to see these faceless, racist, bigoted authors – who do not appear to actually exist – gain public traction and potentially influence our community’s leaders. This is incredibly sad, irresponsible, and divisive. What’s even worse – our children and the nation are watching. This potentially fake testimony is unfortunately tarnishing the national reputation of Howard County – a community which has prided itself on its diversity, inclusion and civility.
The research-based opposition to Superintendent Martirano’s proposal is in no way racially motivated; in fact, the opposite. The opposition, including our own FEI members, clearly cares deeply about ensuring all of our County’s children, particularly our children in greatest need, have access to the very best educational opportunities. We believe that redistricting, however necessary to address overcrowding and capacity issues (which we support), is not an evidence-based proven method for addressing achievement gaps. A solution must be created that separately addresses overcrowding and closing the achievement gap.
The lack of Howard County governmental transparency is intolerable and not what our County, or country, is founded upon. Initially, Councilmember Deb Jung responded to the hours of opposition testimony by submitting a reasonable, compromised amendment calling for a task force to explore how best to address achievement gaps – just like Montgomery County did, and Anne Arundel County is doing now. FEI applauded this response. We believe that process is as important as outcome. This issue is so important, and time is required to adequately review research and develop long-term, sustainable policy that will ultimately benefit our children for generations.
However, we were surprised and disappointed when the Council
convened on October 7 and announced that they had spent hours behind closed
doors working to essentially discard that reasonable amendment. The resulting
resolution passed by the Council ignored the many hours of substantive
testimony and reams of letters and emails delivered in its overwhelming
opposition. In fact, despite hearing powerful testimony about the hatred spewed
at Asian families as a result of this resolution, the Council actually voted to
amend the resolution to combine Asian and white residents.
Shockingly, Asian families are now completely discounted – literally. Howard County must be better than this.
We urge others in leadership to push through the unfounded scare tactics being used to create an environment of fearmongering and listen to the many voices of our legitimate community members.
We must get this right…for each child, each day during their
educational experience. Our children are depending on us. Our children are looking to see how we as a
community stand up and demand better from our leaders. Howard County needs our leaders to
courageously reject divisive extremism and financial special interests. We need our leaders to intently listen to their
constituents and respect their engaged involvement. We need our leaders to bring us toward the
reasonable middle path where we rely on evidence over ideology. We need them to bring the unity back into
Ultimately, we as a community demand this strong leadership and beg of our school board to provide it where others have failed us.
Families for Education Improvement, Inc.