No Excuses for SAT Decline

A letter writer in your Sept. 26 edition stated that the Board of Education made a number of excuses to explain the decline in SAT scores at Thomas Stone High School. For the record, no one from the Board or the school system offered any of the excuses the letter writer attributed to the school system and the Board. Her source was an article that appeared in a competing newspaper and contained the opinions of the writer of the story.

We are committed to quality instructional programs that will lead to an increase in SAT scores for all students taking the test. We have established a benchmark that the average SAT score for the school system will exceed the state average by five points by the year 2005. We remain committed to that goal and have instituted a number of programs to help us reach the benchmark.

The SAT benchmark can be attained only through increased instructional focus and with a school-based management emphasis. I believe we have put those in place and will see the early results of those efforts with the next set of scores released.

We have offered no excuses for the decline in our average SAT score. Instead, we have directed our efforts to continually improve the quality of programs and instruction offered. These efforts will help our students achieve academic success, personal responsibility and career readiness.

JAMES E. RICHMOND

Charles County

Superintendent of Schools

La Plata

Land Swap Hearing

On Tuesday the Calvert County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing at Northeast Community Center in Chesapeake Beach at 7 p.m. The purpose is to receive public input on the controversial "Land Swap" proposal. Copies of the seven-page proposal are at Town Hall and the Northeast Community Center. I urge readers of the Southern Maryland Extra to attend and express yourselves. Please note that my letter to the local paper had the right day, wrong date. I apologize.

The key positives of this proposal are (and have always been) ballfield and community center improvements, and increased parking. The key drawbacks are equally clear.

The 60,000 square feet of future development space (pages 4 and 6 of the proposal) that was originally designated for water park expansion is still at the "Let's make a deal and guess what's behind Door No. 3 stage." Nobody knows what it will be, but we are being asked to accept it blindly. Are you willing to take that risk? The water park expansion has been in the planning stages for two years. You have to ask yourself, is this a "bait and switch" tactic?

The funding for this project is vague (page 5) or downright omitted (page 3). The original plan to use future recreational fees for the community center would have required a minimum of 500 new houses to be built in town. Is this inadequate funding and residential growth acceptable to the residents?

The parking solution (page 3) is shortsighted. The proposal provides for 140 more parking spaces. But what happens when we add Door No. 3, the water park expansion, and the facility uses most of all of the 140 parking spots. Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Page 4 states it is not okay to provide additional parking to the west (on the spoil spot) because it is "remote." But it is okay to put our children back there on the spoil site?

The proposal states the costs for new bleachers and a new scoreboard to be $15,000. Since the county commissioners are willing to light the current ballfield, why can't we just hit them up for an additional $15,000 to give the kids new bleachers and a scoreboard?

PAT "IRISH" MAHONEY

Town Council member

Chesapeake Beach

Watching Calvert's Children

In your weekly feature on Sept. 26, "The Week That Was--News of Interest to Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's Counties," you correctly stated that "The number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes in Maryland dropped by 16 percent in 1998, as the number charged with robbery, aggravated assault and murder fell to early 1990s levels."

You didn't mention that statistics regarding Calvert's youths are heading in the opposite direction. While the majority of the state enjoys lower juvenile crime rates, ours in Calvert have skyrocketed. Pick the statistic and Calvert is falling behind. School violence-related suspension rates, dropout rates, on-time graduation rates, and Department of Juvenile Justice intake cases are all on the wrong track. It's not just a case of higher numbers simply due to our phenomenal growth. Our rates of juvenile delinquency are increasing at just about the highest levels in the state.

We have huge subdivisions with no public transportation; few, if any, public facilities; and the longest commute times in the state. Our kids get into trouble while we're heading home from work because they don't have anything to do and there's no adult supervision. It's not an issue the Board of County Commissioners cares to address so hundreds of our children are falling prey to the evil on our streets.

Is it local government's responsibility to address juvenile delinquency or is it unreasonable to expect county government to watch our children until we get home from work? The way our elected officials in Calvert answer this question drives the direction of our juvenile crime statistics.

Be careful when you publish juvenile statistics pertaining to the entire state. Calvert County readers might get the wrong impression.

PAT ELDER

Calvert Crusade for Children

Huntingtown

Won't Miss Local Newspaper

Staff writer Annie Gowen's article about the departure of Ken Rossignol and St. Mary's Today will sadden few. Sure, skewering local politicians is "sport," and perhaps listing DWI offenders is a public service. But Mr. Rossignol told us too much about himself a while ago when reporting a tragic boat fire. Referring to a dead baby as burned "to a crisp," we learned about his editing criteria, and who he is. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Let's hope the good people of Beaufort, S.C., see him only with his golf clubs, and not with pen in hand.

LEO MALLARD

Chesapeake Beach

New Ballfield Overdue

I am writing this letter to ask that as many of you as possible attend the public hearing on Tuesday, at the Northeast Community Center gym at 7 p.m. concerning the proposed new sports complex in Chesapeake Beach. It is my belief that this complex consisting of two simultaneously usable ballfields (adaptable to football and soccer), with lights, larger tot lot, mobile bleachers, new rest room facilities (hopefully, including a concession stand), electronic scoreboard and 140 more parking spaces is long overdue in the northeast corner of the county.

We have had to play night games on the road for over two decades. It's time we played our home games at home--not Dunkirk or Hallowing Point Park. Currently, we cannot play all of our football games in one day because of lighting and parking deficiencies. Also, the 90-foot baseball diamond has not had a game played on it in three seasons because of the short outfields. Both current ballfields cannot conduct games at the same time as they share a common outfield. We currently have to move our practices to Dunkirk Park and Hallowing Point Park during daylight saving time. We must schedule these practices around the Dunkirk Warriors' and Prince Frederick Eagles' practices--as they have priority use of those fields. When do our children become the priority? When we have our own sports complex.

Please take the time to come out and support the new sports complex proposed by Mayor Donovan--at no cost to the county but to the full benefit of the whole county. Let our county commissioners know it's time for our kids to be the priority.

MIKE EMERY

President, Beach Buccaneers

Chesapeake Beach

Landowners Have Been Hit Hard

In a recent letter to the editor, Calvert Commissioner John Douglas Parran defends the need for a new fast-food restaurant in Prince Frederick, namely Arby's. I agree with Mr. Parran on this issue. Arby's is a wonderful fast-food restaurant and I am glad to have one in Calvert County.

However, Mr. Parran goes on to rave about what a wonderful nation we have because we oppose those who would over-regulate us and overtax us. Evidently, in Mr. Parran's mind these great freedoms do not extend to real estate ownership. I remember Mr. Parran leading the charge and making the motion to cut the number of development rights on rural property in half, thus cutting the net worth of many farmers and landowners nearly in half.

The sad part is that while many farmers and landowners have been financially ruined by this action of the County Commission, town centers and established towns such as Chesapeake Beach can extend their precious sewer and water systems to build endless town houses and "affordable" housing. I doubt if all the farmers and owners of undeveloped land in the third election district could muster enough development rights to put in a couple of huge town house developments like we recently see going in around Chesapeake Beach. Some of these town house developments are so massive that they look at first glance more like a cruise ship than a housing development.

Calvert farmers and other landowners have been hit hard four times in recent decades by land-use laws and regulations. In the late 1960s, with the coming of zoning, we were required to have three acres in order to build a house, except for a few "grandfathered" lots for tracts of land that had been subdivided for a long period of time. Before this time one could build all the houses one desired. In 1972 zoning was changed to require five acres to build a house. Later came the Critical Areas legislation from Annapolis requiring 20 acres to build one house adjacent to major streams and the Chesapeake Bay. This legislation not only devastated the value of undeveloped waterfront land, but homeowners along the Bay, river and creeks almost immediately had their tax assessments doubled.

Then, in 1999, farmers and landowners were hit again by the passing of Mr. Parran's motion to destroy or wipe off the books half of the remaining development rights on undeveloped property, which for all practical purposes now requires 10 acres of land for each house.

Commissioners who voted for Mr. Parran's motion have been quoted as saying they voted to take away half our development rights because the majority of citizens wanted them to do so. The Founding Fathers of our great nation realized that a democratic system of government has serious flaws and limitations. In their wisdom they put various controls and restraints on our system of government such as the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. The Bill of Rights helps to protect the individual citizen against the tyranny of the majority. Not everything is up for a referendum. For example, since there are more consumers or shoppers than merchants, could we vote to have the merchants open up their stores and let us shop for free? Some of our county commissioners would probably think so. And if they did allow us to wipe out the merchandise, no merchant would suffer as great a loss as most of our landowners have realized.

How can there be any stability or confidence in the value of land in Calvert County? We now know that the county commissioners can meet any Tuesday and vote to reduce or maybe even completely take away the right of anyone to build a house on their property. When will they be back for half of the few remaining development rights?

GEORGE B. SPENCE

Owings