Proud of PTSA

I would like to be able to address the article that was published in the Oct. 10 edition of Southern Maryland Extra regarding the decision at Northern High School to disband their PTA.

First, let me just say that I am more sad than upset with what I read. I have been involved with the PTA and PTSA in Calvert County for 11 years -- five as a PTSA president. In all of those years I have had the pleasure of working with the most wonderful parents, teachers, staff and students, who are all involved in PTSA for one main reason: a better education process.

I am having a hard time understanding why Amit R. Paley would write that there is a "bitter struggle" among our organizations. These are harsh words. There is no struggle between any of the PTSAs in Calvert County. If Mr. Paley would have attended our last County Council meeting, which he was invited to, he would have seen the presidents, council representatives and board members in our monthly roundtable discussions that dealt with healthy school lunch programs, legislation issues, Maryland School Assessment testing, and local safety and security issues in our schools.

Yes, we did mention the situation at Northern High School and want to be sure they understand the action they are taking. Among us at this meeting was the president of the Sunderland Family and School Organization (FSO). Her thoughts and insights were much appreciated as she presented her reasons Sunderland went to an FSO instead of remaining a PTSA.

Ms. Beeman of North Beach was quoted in the article as saying she stays out of the PTSA and the PTOs because she thinks that "they are kind of worthless" -- and this is not intended to single her out by her statement; however, it is very upsetting when you hear something like that, knowing full well that these people may think PTSAs and FSOs are worthless because they have absolutely no idea what these organizations do at their school.

Let me just give a small list of the things the PTSAs at Appeal Elementary, Southern Middle and Patuxent High schools do: We lobby for smaller class sizes and better redistricting policies; we are involved in safety and security in the buildings and on the school buses; we try to provide parents with information on alcohol and drug abuse; we promote programs that are funded by the federal government to include cultural arts events, the Reflections program and the Reading Is Fundamental program; we work member to member, school to school, county to county in an advocacy system that makes sure all children are given the best possible education; and we make phone calls to the legislators and send e-mails to our local, state and national officials to let them know we accept nothing less than the best education for our children and youth.

Yes, we do raise money, take dues for membership and hold bake sales and fundraisers so that we can buy books and needed materials for the media center, the PE department and individual classrooms. We work for college scholarships, pay for our mailings and provide books, school supplies and lunches for those who cannot do so. We make sure that the lunches your children receive each day meet the national standards of nutrition and that the after-school programs fall under the proper guidelines, and we hold teachers accountable for their actions, if needed.

We are not only parents, we are citizens of the county, senior citizens, Board of Education members, state senators and even first ladies of the United States.

I know that time is precious for everyone, but so are our children. I am very, very proud to say that at Patuxent High School we have one of the most active and organized PTSAs I have ever seen. All of us who sit on the executive board are working parents. There are three full-time Calvert County school system employees who are the vice president, treasurer and committee chairman. Our principal, Gordon Libby, attends each and every one of our meetings -- and if he can't, another one of our fine administrators will sit in for him, or just come and sit alongside him. We have two parents whose children have graduated, yet they remain on the board to make sure the work continues for the students who remain. We have teacher representatives along with student government members who are actively involved.

Patuxent High School has just under 300 PTSA members for the 2004-05 school year. Our dues are $6 for each member, and we did not have one person object to that amount. Many of these parents are also involved and are members of the Band and Athletic Boosters, Future Business Leaders of America, drama and ROTC programs.

I can speak for myself and the PHS executive board when I say that it takes all of us to be able to have the wonderful, working PTSA we have at Patuxent High School, and we are there if any parent at Northern High would like to ask us questions or has concerns. I would never force any parents into an organization that they are not comfortable with, but I do encourage all parents to become involved with their children's education. Volunteer, attend programs, talk to teachers -- not just during a conference but any time you feel you need to know more about what is going on with your student.

The biggest reward we have found is that your children see that you are involved in some manner with their school and their life and that makes them feel important -- important enough that you took your busy time to devote to them.

I guess after writing this, I am not so sad anymore about the article that was written. I am proud of the PTAs and PTSAs of Calvert County. I am extremely proud of the Patuxent High School PTSA, Gordon Libby and all of the administrators, teachers and staff there. But most of all, the parents.

Lori L. Sikorski

President,

Patuxent High PTSA

Lusby

Fund Calvert Education

I wanted to bring the public up to date on what is happening with contract negotiations between the superintendent's negotiation team in Calvert County and the teachers union, Calvert Education Association. One word sums it up: nothing. On Oct. 7 and 8 the two negotiating teams and their hired mediation representatives met at the beautiful and expensive Chesapeake Beach Hotel and Spa in Chesapeake Beach. The superintendent's team picked this hotel after twice turning down our union's request to settle this matter through free federal mediation. Keep in mind that both sides then had to hire an arbitrator at the price of $1,800 per day to mediate between our two teams.

At this mediation session both teams met in a large conference room and then were sequestered in their very own suites for the two business days that this mediation took. How much do you think that cost our school system? Guess what? The money isn't done being spent yet because the arbitrator couldn't broker a deal between the two sides. He's going to meet with our two teams again Nov. 2. Keep in mind that he makes $1,800 a day for this. How can our school system afford to keep doing this? Oh, yes, we charge our students fees to play sports in this county. That's one of the ways the superintendent and Board of Education have plenty of money to blow in order to blatantly disrespect their teachers, support professionals and students.

In case you haven't heard yet, Calvert County ranked 15th out of 24 school districts in the state in per pupil spending last year. We are over $700 below the state per pupil average. This may not sound like a lot, but if you multiply 17,000-plus students in the county times 700 you will find out that we are more than $12 million below the state average in per pupil funding. Is this why you live in Calvert County? So your children can get a low-funded public education?

A lot of people will say, "Look at the results, we get a lot of bang for our buck." We also get elementary kids that never see a science or social studies textbook series until middle school because we don't have the money in the budget. We get regular education kids that never see any enrichment in their programs because if the teacher doesn't pay for it, or the parents don't spend extra money, the school system sure doesn't have the money for it. Aren't you tired of a school system that continually under-funds the education of your children?

I know I've been blaming the superintendent and the lay Board of Education for a lot of these problems, but our county commissioners are also to blame. They usually tell our superintendent how much money they have to give him before he ever asks, so he's somewhat hamstrung as well.

But in a county with an overflowing budget surplus that still shouldn't stop him and the board from going back to the county commissioners and asking for more. We need to rise up as a community and make sure all three of these groups start doing what they are supposed to. Please call, e-mail and write your county commissioners, Board of Education and school superintendent and ask them why your children aren't important enough to spend even the state average money.

I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but you may as well get used to it because this is the most important issue facing education in Calvert County. Your kids deserve it, your kid's support professionals deserve it and your kid's teachers deserve it.

Shannon M. Fitch

President, Calvert Education

Association

Prince Frederick

Seniors Should Vote

This is a call to arms for our senior citizens. By that I mean that voting time is coming closer and closer. Time to sharpen our wits. For this is the time that we can collectively vote to eradicate a negligent congressperson. Our lethal weapon is our vote. With that weapon in our hands we can do wonders.

The average congressional person is very much aware of our collective power. Because one thing Congress has found out in the past is that seniors read. And listen to the radio. And so they are aware of the issues, and they are also aware of the particular congressperson's record. A congressperson's record speaks for itself. And if the record shows that a certain congressperson has done or not done the right thing for us, they will let it be known at the ballot box.

And to our seniors, I would like to say this: As long as you can mark an absentee ballot or push the right button on the computer screen -- in the right places, of course -- you have a lethal weapon in your hands, your vote.

And folks, there are so many important issues that we are concerned with, such as prescription prices, health care, food prices. For, at times, it is a tossup which one you are going to purchase due to lack of funds. Also, the issue of Canadian drug prices vs. U.S. prices. Plus the quagmire of the Iraq war and the useless loss of so many of our children's lives. So you see folks, it is important that you vote Nov. 2.

Get to the polls by car, bus or skates or wheelchairs. Just get there and take your neighbor with you. Activate your lethal weapon -- your vote.

Lemon H. Moses Jr.

Waldorf

Ensuring Fair Elections

Between 1.5 million and 3 million voters were not able to cast a ballot in the 2000 presidential election because of problems in voter registration systems. Too often, citizens who registered to vote didn't have their names on the voter rolls at the polling place. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which protects these voters, ensuring that every eligible voter who goes to the polls can cast a ballot and have the ballot counted. This is called the provisional ballot requirement. It is the number one good government reform that must be in place for the 2004 elections.

Beginning on Election Day 2004, if you arrive at the polls and there is a question about your eligibility, then you have a right to a provisional ballot. You can't be turned away without an opportunity to cast a ballot. For example, this means that if your name does not appear on the registration list for the polling place or if you do not have the required identification, you still must be given a provisional ballot.

Before counting the provisional ballot, election administrators will make an official determination of the voter's eligibility, and after the election the voter can find out whether his or her vote was counted.

This new federal provisional ballot requirement, if implemented effectively, can keep the country from experiencing another election in which voters are turned away from the polls and ballots of eligible citizens go uncounted.

Barbara Fetterhoff,

Annette Funn

Co-presidents, League of Women Voters of Calvert County

Prince Frederick

Gallery Needs Support

I completely support and appreciate the artists and artwork presented in the Wylde Women Art Gallery. I have the utmost respect for Tammy Vitale and the other artists showing in and running the gallery.

I was truly saddened that someone would try to censor such a meaningful and thought-producing piece depicting symbolic doors. I feel that art is supposed to produce an emotional reaction within us. Art brings us feelings of love, nature, appreciation of beauty, color and decoration; but it also can bring us a release of other emotions. Art can evoke sadness, loneliness, despair and grief. This is the purpose of art, in my opinion. Art gets the viewer involved.

I feel that the very fact that someone would have such a strong emotional reaction to this piece means that it really worked. It has been said, "Art imitates life."

Those doors can represent so many things to people, even now that the center closed its doors to the freedom of expression. I believe that artists should be free to comment on life and on emotions that they feel by letting these emotions take form through their artwork without fear of censorship and judgment. Truly, that is what inspiration is all about in art.

So, I am writing to say that I wholeheartedly support the views and rights of this gallery and would like to see it find another place to show its works of art. I would hope that the St. Mary's Arts Council and the public will support it in this endeavor.

Alison Taylor

Leonardtown

Fear 'Stadium Horse'

Baseball in Hughesville, like mom and apple pie, sounds like the American dream and conjures up visions of Norman Rockwell paintings. Indeed, Aubrey H. Edwards, executive director of the Charles County Economic Development Commission, speaks of the proposed stadium as a source of "civic pride providing wholesome family entertainment and recreation for all of us" in a recent article. The problem, Mr. Edwards, is that the stadium is a cleverly dangled carrot that opens the door to additional development, adverse to family entertainment and the quality of life of all Southern Marylanders.

Like the citizens of Troy, the unwary residents of Hughesville (and all others along the Route 5 corridor) are expected to open their village to the "Stadium horse" that, once inside, will control our destiny and start the pillage and plundering of our beautiful countryside. Like the robber barons who decimated and scarred the West Virginia countryside, all those with financial interests in our tiny little hamlet seem to know what is best for us.

Citizens of Hughesville: Wake up. Once a stadium is built, zoning changes to our agriculturally zoned neighborhoods will be open for the moneychangers to do their worst. Already in the planning stages are an industrial park and a Harley-Davidson dealership.

These do not sound like wholesome family entertainment to me. I have very little use for an industrial park and can drive to a Harley dealer, if I am so inclined. For that matter, I can drive to Bowie to enjoy baseball. But once the Trojan horse is in our back yards, we will need to drive even farther, just to get away.

The beauty of Hughesville is in the simplicity of country life and the solitude away from all of the noise, traffic, crime and pollution. The uncountable stars that we enjoy from the solitude of our back yards is one of the reasons I chose to live here.

Looking for wholesome family entertainment? Try taking your children fishing or crabbing, go camping, read with them, attend church regularly or spend a summer night gazing up at the light show that nature created before the glaring lights of a stadium take that experience away.

I encourage all Southern Marylanders to seriously research and consider what the Charles County commissioners have been hiding from all of us. The advocacy group Preserve Hughesville supports sensible long-term growth that is truly in the interests of the local residents and not just those with financial interests.

When pondering the future of our rural community I remember the words of Laocoon to the Trojans who said in effect, Whatever it be, I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts.

Mike Mrozowski

Hughesville