If there's one thing the Charles County school board seems to have trouble doing these days, it's agreeing on those many honorary resolutions they consider at each meeting. Once mere formalities that breezed through, resolutions such as one designating February as African American History Month are becoming more and more a point of contention, taking up quite a bit of agenda time.
At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, Margaret Young was the only board member to decline to sign the African American History Month resolution. Last month, when the issue first came up, she argued that "resolutions that differentiate by race or gender and acknowledge only one segment of our population marginalize the accomplishments and contributions of all minority groups that make up our country's heritage and history."
Same goes for a resolution designating March as Women's History Month. "Again, I see the emphasis here on gender, which I'm opposed to," she said Tuesday.
The resolution for Women's History Month also drew some words of concern from board member Collins A. Bailey, who said the language of the resolution excluded women who have chosen to remain at home as homemakers or mothers. Bailey proposed changing the wording to include stay-at-home moms and housewives.
Other members thought differently. "I have a problem with that," board member Mary L. Haff said. "If you add mothers and families, where do you stop? When you start spelling out moms, then you have to deal with stepmoms and adopted moms."
The discussion didn't end there. Next was a resolution designating March as Fine and Performing Arts Month--a celebration of music, theater and visual arts. The hangup this time? Whether or not music, theater and visual arts should be combined into one resolution or have one resolution each, a question raised by Haff.
A resolution for Read Across America didn't make it through without some disagreement either.
"There's got to be something we can do to change this," Haff said jokingly after the seventh resolution of the day failed to stir up an argument. "We can't break our string this afternoon."
Votes of Confidence for School Board Officers
The Charles County Board of Education surprised no one when it elected its officers for this year.
Wayne Cooper, a 52-year-old businessman from White Plains, will serve his second year as chairman. Kathy Levanduski, a Waldorf parent, was elected to her second term as vice chairwoman. Levanduski, 35, was first elected to the board in 1996.
Cooper said his first term as chairman "started out extremely difficult," without detailing the difficulties.
But "as the year ended," he said, "there were so many good things going on."
Funding for Dunkirk Park Improvements Increased
Skateboarders in Calvert County will soon be able to work on their rail slides and tail slides and other moves in one of the most "rad" parks anywhere. But that's not all.
They'll also have a pretty rad resting place when the wheels stop spinning and they need to move their tails indoors.
On Tuesday, the Calvert County Board of Commissioners pledged an additional $150,000 toward the Dunkirk Park skateboard and picnic grove projects, already projected to cost $539,477.
One reason for the cost overrun was the need to build an "innovative evaporative system" for the park's restroom.
"The cost of the restroom increased from an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 to $87,000 when it was discovered that there was not adequate perkable area for the septic," Paul D. Meadows, chief of Calvert County Parks and Recreation, wrote in a memo to the commissioners.
The rest of the extra money will be used to cover other construction costs that are higher than projected.
The request drew concern from several area residents. David Sisson of Chesapeake Beach criticized the cost overruns and called the request "vague." Sisson suggested that it be reviewed further.
"I would recommend you shelve this project," Sisson said.
A main concern raised by the commissioners had to do with an old issue related to the problems encountered in the park: namely, the septic problems being suffered by many residents in the Dunkirk area.
Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard) suggested the county "take another look at the Dunkirk Town Center and sewage problems."
But like the other commissioners, Buehler decided to go forward with the park.
"I think it will help kids," he said.
Lone GOP Candidate in Hoyer Race
Maryland Republicans won't have to wait for the March 7 primary to unite behind a candidate to challenge Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer in the 5th Congressional District that encompasses all of Southern Maryland.
State Del. Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins (R-Charles) apparently will have the GOP field to himself. Joseph T. Crawford, the only other candidate in the Republican primary, has withdrawn from the race, state Republican leaders announced Monday.
Hutchins, a proven vote-getter in Charles County where he led all House of Delegates candidates in the 1998 general election, may represent Republicans' best chance in years of unseating Hoyer, who is seeking an 11th term. Hoyer won easily in 1996 and 1998, after a tough race in 1994--the first election after the 5th District "moved" south following the 1990 census. The district, which was formerly centered in Prince George's County, now consists of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties, as well as southern portions of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.
Crawford, a member of the Republican Central Committee in Charles County, pledged to work for Hutchins's election. "I'm glad we can work together toward a common goal--and that's to get Steny Hoyer out of office," Crawford said in a statement released by the Maryland Republican Party.
Hoyer, whose careful tending to the defense and other federal high-technology installations in the district has boosted his political stock among voters who often seem more conservative than he is, still faces a primary opponent. Bruce M. Ross of Beltsville will be on the Democratic primary ballot.
Mitchell Is True to New Schools
Motherhood. Apple pie. School construction.
He didn't address the first two, but make no mistake--Charles County Del. Van T. Mitchell (D) believes in the third.
This much is known because Mitchell stood up at Tuesday's joint meeting of the Charles County Board of Education and its Board of Commissioners to assert he is--apparently contrary to rumor--in favor of school construction.
Seems he had received a number of telephone calls alleging he did not want to build schools.
"I'm just here to clear the air," Mitchell said. "You can't build enough schools. You can't build them fast enough."
In fact, Mitchell said, the county should get a move on and pressure Annapolis for school funding while the school funding kitty is so big. In the early 1990s the state spent about $60 million a year building schools, but it's now spending $250 million, Mitchell said. The next governor might not have the money or the inclination to provide such a level of school construction funding, he said.
"We're missing the boat," Mitchell said. "I would jam [in] every project you could possibly jam. . . . If we're going to do it we better do it in the next three or four years."
Message heard, and projects will be proposed, said Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large).
"If the [legislative] delegation is saying, 'You put them in there and we'll get them'--fine," Levy said. "I can assure you we will have no trouble putting additional schools" into funding requests.
Staff writer Todd Shields contributed to this report.
CAPTION: STENY H. HOYER
CAPTION: THOMAS E. HUTCHINS