The People's Plan

The Tri-County Council has unanimously adopted the Regional Strategy for Southern Maryland, which I presented to the Council in December. The development and presentation of the Regional Strategy completed my final mission as executive director of the Council.

Southern Maryland has now joined the ranks of a select group of competitive regions across the nation whose leaders have had the vision and foresight to develop strategic plans to guide their policies and decisions as we begin a new century. Very few regions in America have succeeded, as we have in Southern Maryland, in working together across local political boundaries and across the spectrum of diverse economic and community interests to build a framework for cooperative regional action. After 33 years of hard work, the Tri-County Council has accomplished this.

This Regional Strategy is the work of many hands. It is truly the work of the people of Southern Maryland. By its action, the Tri-County Council has honored the contributions of hundreds of civic, business and community leaders who worked tirelessly for a solid year, through more than 50 meetings, to set Southern Maryland on a ambitious course toward a future of promise and achievement. . . .

Through this Regional Strategy, the hundreds of citizens who framed it have declared that their united efforts will be guided by a powerful vision for the future of Southern Maryland:

"Our vision for the future of Southern Maryland is a dynamic, competitive, high-performance economic region, a mid-Atlantic center of excellence committed to the steady enhancement of our quality of life and prosperity, which successfully balances the development of high quality job opportunities with a commitment to preserve the region's extraordinary environmental and natural resources, historical identity and spirit of place." . . .

To fulfill our vision of the future of Southern Maryland, in the months and years ahead we will need to focus relentlessly on the difficult and challenging tasks set forth in the Strategy's action plans for economic development, transportation, agriculture and the environment. Accomplishing these tasks will fully mobilize our leadership, energy and creativity, move us into a position of competitive advantage among the regions of America, and multiply the resources that we have to invest in a new generation of prosperity and opportunity for our people.


Tri-County Council executive director, 1980-1998


Parents Need to Parent

Whine, Whine, Whine. That's all I hear lately from parents who feel that everyone else is responsible for the actions of their children. It is the school's fault that the kid isn't doing well, but what are the parents doing to assist them in their learning process. They don't come to school functions, don't participate in their children's sporting events (I am at many games and see these kids play their hearts out and not one parent there to say good job, just us teachers and just housewives). You don't come to PTA meetings or open houses but are the first to complain if junior is disciplined by us, or doesn't have all the extra perks of other school systems.

Nor do you take the time to really get to know your kids but you expect the neighbors and the local government to be your free baby-sitters while you drive home.

When is it time for you to be parents. Why is it always someone else's job to correct all the problems and accept all the responsibility for the mistakes that your child does because you're somewhere else. How many crusades are more important than just spending time with your own child.

I am the mother of four who raised them to be productive citizens of this community without blaming anyone else for their care but my husband and myself. I have averaged between 7,000 and 14,000 miles a year for the last 20 years helping my kids and the kids of working parents get involved in many activities in this county. No, there are no paid activities such as a mall or large recreation center to just dump them at, but there are centers at most of the libraries and other local churches and community centers--you just have to look for them.

If you are really concerned for their welfare you will take the time to get involved with them, not just some other group that wants to find others to blame. As a substitute teacher I see more of your children than most of you, and I can pick out the children who will eventually have problems. Yes, some are due to drugs, but how many of these same parents will allow a party at their home with drinking by saying, 'Well, they are going to do it anyway, this way I can keep them safe here, or can keep it under control.' Wake up. The drinking age is still 21. Set the example by setting the consequences for breaking rules not condoning them.

It's time for the parents to accept the responsibility for the actions of their children, not the police, or the county government, or the schools, or the whole community. We're there to assist you and help you but we didn't have these children, you did--and with that you need to accept the largest share of the responsibility.

I have lived in this county for 25 years. I moved here from Prince George's County and was raised there and in the Washington area all my life. When I came here I realized it wasn't the big city and I didn't want that anymore anyway. I also realized that there also weren't the few extra perks of the big city, but that was my choice. It was also your choice to accept that when you moved here. So live with it and concentrate more on what is here and not constantly complain about what isn't.

Get to know your kids; be their parent, not their buddy. Do your job and I will bend over backward to help but I won't do it for you, nor should anyone else.

Juvenile crime usually starts at home with bored kids with no supervision. Ask any local policeman.


St. Leonard

Help Students Learn

Mr. [Superintendent James E.] Richmond and the Charles County Board of Education are missing the point when it comes to the education of our students ("No Excuses for SAT Decline," Letters, Oct. 3). They need to quit beating the dead drum of SAT scores. Every academician I know understands that SAT scores are a poor indicator of future success. The testing program was established for one purpose and that was to provide a way for colleges to decide which student would get one of the few slots in college. Now almost anyone can attend college and they are used to see which college you will attend (a highly competitive one or less competitive). Nobody else really cares about SAT scores. Employers don't care. They only want to know what skills you bring to the workplace. When was the last time someone asked you what your SAT score was?

I for one would be happy to see area SAT scores decrease if they decrease for the right reasons. The right reason is that more and more of our students see college as a viable option and take the test. If more students take the exam, and all other factors are held constant, then the average test score will decline. This looks bad, but the truth may be that we are sending more students on to higher education. How about if we measure the number of college students that leave the Charles County school system and do not need remedial education to pass college level math and English? Would not these be better indicators of how well our educational processes are doing?

Instead of SAT scores, our school administrators should work to understand in what areas our school systems are really failing. Why do so many students show up at college, on the job, or in the service ill-prepared for the work ahead of them? Why are so many of our students labeled lazy or unresponsive when the real blame lies in an educational system that stymies learning and excellence? If students don't want to learn then why did Nicole McAllister, in a Sept. 26 Maryland Independent Letter to the Editor, "Doesn't Math Count?," ask why sixth-graders can't compete in Math Counts? Here is a student begging for an opportunity to take her skills to a level far higher than anything she will get in a classroom, and the only answer the Board of Education can give her is tied up in red tape and bureaucratic babble. Our children are filled with a desire for knowledge, why are we keeping excellence out of their reach?

Businessmen for years thought that quality and productivity problems lie with the worker. The workers were lazy, irresponsible, and needed close supervision. Businessmen reasoned, "If you stood over the workers long enough quality would improve." But it did not. Not until companies adopted the thinking of quality professionals like Dr. W. Edwards Deming did quality and productivity improve. Deming espoused the concept of the "willing worker." He believed that workers needed a management structure that would help them identify and break down the barriers to quality and productivity. Then improvements would occur. If you study this field you will find that is what happens when quality principles were correctly applied.

Our classrooms and educational processes are run like the factories of the '50s. With much attention being focused on the irresponsible and lazy student. So what is the problem? Classes are often lecture-based and boring. Real learning involves all of the senses. Students retain only 10 percent of what they read, 20 percent of what they hear, but 90 percent of what they do! The classes are not integrated while life is. English is taught without a connection to math, which is taught without a connection to science, etc. Relevance is not established. Why should a student take interest in a class that has not first established a reason for study in the first place? Students must become involved in the learning process. They, not the teachers, must make the connection between the classroom and what they want to achieve in life. They establish the relevance, they establish the integration, and they set their learning goals. Teachers need to be the coaches, the mentors and facilitators of the learning process. They should not stand in the way of students who want and demand excellence of themselves. All our students can be successful. Let's help them.



Align Priorities With Goals

I note with interest the furor over the recent reports of declining SAT scores in Charles County and the fact that these scores are among the lowest in the D.C. area. Perhaps the blame can and should be laid at all of our own feet. If my memory serves me correctly, the issue of the Southern Maryland Extra that first reported the declining SAT scores, in a report that did not fill a full page of that publication, devoted nearly six full pages to public school sports issues. With the Oct. 3, 1999, edition sitting in front of me, with an editorial reply concerning the declining SAT scores from the Charles County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. James Richmond, again nearly half the front page and 5 interior pages are dedicated exclusively to public school sports issues. I appreciate the benefits of physical activity and the spirit of competition. I myself am an avid runner. However, if the focus and goal of the government, school system, parents, students and the media is SAT success, academic achievement and college graduation en route to a successful career and rewarding life, then we do not have our priorities aligned with our goals. It is that simple.

We praise sports participants for their achievements, whose odds of a career as a professional athlete are undoubtedly less than the odds of winning the lottery. We give them a pass when it is convenient for us and leave them out in the cold when they are no longer able to entertain us. What do we do for those students who do achieve academically--nothing remotely close to the recognition of an athlete who can hit or catch a ball. Which ability is more valuable in the long run of life?

More often than not we ignore, ridicule, or marginalize the academic achievers. Perhaps if academic achievement received weekly notice, in the same fashion as athletic events, from the government, school system, parents, students and media, then SAT scores would improve, students would improve academically, and more students would be able to continue on to colleges and universities and to rewarding and fulfilling careers and lives.

For all involved: Align your focus to your goals. Accept some personal responsibility for this issue. Quit pointing fingers as a method of action--it serves no good and does nothing for our students or our efforts to reach our goals.



Give the Mayor His Due

The first time John Whisman and I came down Route 4 was soon after its concrete splendor was laid through farmlands from the Beltway to Prince Frederick. On our way back on that first trip, we drove up the "scenic" route--261--and lucked onto the Rod 'N Reel. We had lunch--and my first soft-shelled crab--looking out on a narrow, sandy beach populated by ducks and gulls giving a constant floor show. It was a gray, overcast day, and the little town of Chesapeake Beach was not much to look at. We weren't drawn to living in this sort of dreary little town, no matter how nice we found the people to be. It happened that we rented an apartment on the beach while our house was being built, and we got to be friends with the postmaster and the storekeepers and the little restaurants, but once our house was completed, not much was here to pull us back, except the Rod 'N Reel.

Gerald Donovan was about 21 years old then. He worked in the restaurant from the time he was 14, with time out for service in the Marines.

Over the years I have watched that complicated mind of his work out one problem after another, making gifts which some people called self-interest, and others believed to be generosity and farsightedness.

I remember when times here in this county have been really grim. A lot of people went out of business. Some of them gave up and moved away. John and I embarked on a small publishing endeavor ourselves, when the days were the darkest. I won't forget that one of the full-page ads we could count on even though our circulation was pretty small was the back cover ad for the Rod 'N Reel, and they paid their bill.

I remember too how, instead of becoming one of the musty smelling restaurants common to resort towns that for decades remain static, counting on old-timers who don't give a rap for decor to drink up the overhead, something was always happening to keep that establishment interesting.

I think of Gerald Donovan's mind as a wonderfully complicated gathering of neurons which enable him to look at situations where nothing exists and see something that others cannot see until they become real. I think he suffers from the penalty exacted from men of vision. I think he is capable of making mistakes, but he is also capable of admitting it, and learning from them.

It is too bad that the people who are charging him with all sorts of motives other than good ones cannot see a time line of the complicated juggling of land and ideas that have made Chesapeake Beach a place some of them have recently adopted as their home. It is too bad that they cannot know what exercises of the mind have led to the fact that this strip of bay country has sewer, not just enabling developers to build, but enabling families to choose to live here. The presence of the Railway Museum was an act of enlightened generosity combined with the vision of the county Historical Society. The beautiful community center did not just happen. The fact that there is an attractive shopping center, and a cluster of services including a library did not spring whole out of Gerald Donovan's head as an evil scheme, but came about as a well-planned design to create a livable, pleasant place to live. And Gerald Donovan did not do it all single-handedly. People who find fault with him use unpleasant words to describe the ability to put together resources to make things happen. Politics is not a dirty word. Smarter people than I call it the art of the possible.

There is room in Calvert County and in Chesapeake Beach for newcomers to play a role in decision-making and in intelligent growth. And growth is a sign of life. But for people who have a couple of years on the ground to decide that three generations of people who have worked to make this little bayside village an asset to the county and a place that people will enjoy to visit and even decide to live might think very hard before they use character assassination and innuendo to try to bring down a man who may drive them nuts because he sees a future they don't see. It would be awfully nice if they could enjoy this pleasant and improving little town instead of resisting the kind of changes which initially turned it from a drab little fishing village into a place they would like to live. Surely bright, able people have much to contribute to the fabric of this community rather than turning factions against each other and poisoning the air with cruel words that will be hard to take back.

And if anyone wants to take on a completely undeveloped, "unspoiled" community and keep it as they find it, West Virginia beckons.


Port Republic

Enforce Accessibility Laws

I read with great interest the article by Jessie Mangaliman in the Sept. 30 issue, "Disabled Access Extends to Pulpit."

I would like to extend my appreciation to the folks at the Maryland Codes Administration for this strong enforcement of the Maryland Accessibility Code. As a former chairman of both the Maryland Statewide Independent Living Council and the Maryland Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities and the current president of the Amputee Association of Maryland Inc., I know well how the Maryland Codes Administration in the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has worked hard on improving the code and in education and outreach to local governments on its contents.

Progress in removing physical barriers to permit inclusion of Marylanders with disabilities is a slow process as the law only applies to new construction and new work on old buildings and facilities. There is no requirement to make old buildings and facilities accessible. Therefore the existing provision needs to be strictly enforced if there is to be some hope of a future that is accessible in the main.

What the article makes clear is that local government is not being strict in enforcing the Maryland Accessibility Code and one must ask the state to step in. This may be the case elsewhere as well as in the three Southern Maryland counties.

Citizen involvement is needed in learning more about accessibility and universal design. Only with a firm base of information on the topic can our citizens demand that their local governments strictly enforce the Maryland Accessibility Code.

Now is also a time for local governments to start adopting the new "visitability standards" already in place in the City of Atlanta and the City of Austin.



Why Obey Zoning Rules?

I wish to call Calvert County readers' attention to a zoning hearing this coming Tuesday (Oct. 12) at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse in Prince Frederick. Please consider attending this hearing, calling, e-mailing, or writing your county commissioners about the proposal to violate the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan by allowing a commercial zoning designation on Route 4 and Cherry Hill Road outside a town center. The use in question is a shack on 0.02 of an acre of land where trailers, Christmas trees and vehicles are sold in the highway right of way, in flagrant opposition of zoning laws and a court order. Yes, that's right, your tax dollars have paid for hours and hours of county staff time (zoning and legal) to try to prevent [this violation]. The owner is currently operating in defiance of a court order. He has posted a sale sign on the shack asking $75,000.

Please ask your County Commissioners these questions: Do you support the Comprehensive Plan, especially the concept that commercial growth must be in town centers? Can just anyone use a shack along Route 4 as a commercial establishment with no parking except the highway right of way and then ask to be legitimized? What about those business people who do follow the zoning rules and at great expense, build in town centers and adhere to all the parking requirements, architectural review procedures, etc.? Are they just fools, or do they fail to have friends on the Board of County Commissioners?