Portrait of O'Rourke Commissioned

By Howard Notebook
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ousted Howard Superintendent John O'Rourke is returning to the hallways of the school system's central office -- though this time, he'll be confined to a 30-by-40-inch space.

The school board voted 3 to 2 last week to commission a portrait of the former schools chief to hang next to those of past superintendents Michael E. Hickey , Thomas Goedeke and John Edward Yingling . O'Rourke served four years before the school board decided not to renew his contract in 2004, instead appointing veteran administrator Sydney L. Cousin to the job.

Schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan said the portrait will be created from a photo of O'Rourke, who is interim superintendent of a small district in Upstate New York. The board approved paying up to $1,200 for the painting but urged Caplan to spend less.

Board Chairman Courtney Watson and member Joshua M. Kaufman voted against the portrait, citing its cost.

Elementary Groundbreaking

School officials broke ground Monday on the new northeastern elementary school in Ellicott City, signaling the start of long-awaited relief for crowded schools in the area.

The school, scheduled to open in 2007, is the result of an unusual multimillion-dollar deal between the district and private property owners. It will sit on nearly two dozen acres off Montgomery Road in Ellicott City formerly owned by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 7472 and the YMCA of Central Maryland.

School officials have declined to give details of the cost of the deal because negotiations for smaller parcels held by other private owners are continuing. But officials said they do not anticipate any delays.

Preservation Auction

A letter from Francis Scott Key written in 1842 to a friend and former resident of one of Howard County's most historic homes will be auctioned off at a garden party and fundraiser Sunday.

The letter by Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner," is one of several items offered for sale to help support a coalition formed last year to preserve the grounds and buildings of Belmont, an 18th-century manor house in Elkridge. The Save Belmont Coalition, made up mostly of residents near Belmont, is concerned that Howard Community College may try to build housing on the 69-acre property, which is covered by preservation easements. The college purchased Belmont from the American Chemical Society last year for $5.2 million and is studying ways to increase revenue at the facility, which has operated as a private conference and retreat center.

Key was a longtime friend of Daniel Murray and his wife, Mary , who grew up at Belmont and later lived with Daniel at the nearby historic Rockburn home, also in Elkridge. Key's letter of May 10, 1842, is addressed to Mary, a mother of 11 children, after Daniel had died three weeks earlier. Key, a regular visitor to Rockburn, counseled her on a financial matter and added, "I know I need not say what my feelings are to those so loved and left by one, whose memory is so dear to me."

The letter was provided to the Save Belmont Coalition by a Key family member. Other historic items for sale include 19th-century framed prints of Belmont and the Thomas Viaduct, which spans the Patapsco River and is one of the country's oldest stone arch railroad bridges. Local historian Sally Voris also will talk about Belmont.

The catered garden party will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Rockburn home in Elkridge; tickets cost $45. For further information, call 410-799-2082.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company