Large Elementary Schools

Detrimental to Students

The St. Mary's County Branch of the NAACP is quite concerned about the current plan to increase the size of Leonardtown Elementary School or other elementary schools being considered. We feel that this policy decision should be entered into carefully, pursued through an open public process, and executed only after all decision makers are fully informed of and knowledgeable about the great body of scientific studies on elementary school size. These studies overwhelmingly document the negative effects of large school size.

The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory published in its School Improvement Research Series Kathleen Cotton's work, "School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance." Cotton compiles useful analyses and conclusions from many studies, and she said there was a great deal of consistency from study to study. She writes, "The students who are most adversely affected by attending large schools are members of racial minority groups and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds."

In her summary section, Cotton discusses the many areas where the studies consistently show that large schools are detrimental to overall elementary school performance and to student achievement.

When reviewing the advantages to small elementary schools, Cotton notes that student attitudes are more positive; student social behavior is more positive; extracurricular participation levels are higher; student attendance is better; dropout rate percentages are lower; students' sense of belonging is greater; student self-concepts are higher; interpersonal relationships are more positive for teachers, administrators and students; teacher attitudes are more positive; and academic achievement levels are often superior to those of large schools.

Of the fact that the studies varied a bit in their definition of a large school, Cotton writes: "Many researchers, however, indicate that an appropriate and effective size is 300-400 students for an elementary school."

Leonardtown Elementary School's proposed size increase was reported recently in a news article on adequate public facilities. The welfare of students of racial minority groups and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds could be most negatively effected by larger schools.

In conclusion, the local branch of the NAACP insists that the Board of Education return this issue, elementary school size, to its public agenda prior to taking any action to enlarge Leonardtown Elementary School or any other elementary school.

William N. Bowman

St. Mary's County Branch

of the NAACP

Lexington Park

Thompson Asks for Votes

In SMECO Board Elections

Fellow Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative members, my name is Mike Thompson and I am running for the SMECO Board. I want to serve on the board because of my interest in the community, my interest in utilities, the match between my qualifications and the duties of the board, and my conviction that the election process needs to be opened up.

I have a great affection for Southern Maryland. Like many, I have deep roots here. My family is also heavily sprinkled with those coming recently to the area.

I worked at Verizon for 31 years, the last 14 in the tri-county area. I have a technical degree, have worked with large budgets, know about power generation and transmission, know the importance of employee issues, work well with others, think independently when necessary and know the SMECO footprint as well as the customers. . . . To give some background on the election process, in the last four elections I have been the only opposition candidate. The board sets the election process. Until this year, the only SMECO members eligible to vote were the ones who attended the annual meeting. Time, travel and parking limit that to little more than 1 percent of the members.

Last year, 1,300 out of more than 130,000 members voted. Choptank Electric, our sister co-op across the Chesapeake Bay, allows mail-in voting. This gives all members a reasonable opportunity to vote. Their participation rate is between 20 and 25 percent. My goal is to give every SMECO member that same reasonable opportunity to vote.

I pushed a lot this past year to open up the voting. With the help of others, with several letters to the board and local newspapers, and with the approval of the board, the process has been changed this year to allow absentee voting. While that is an improvement, it is not the answer. Providing a simple way for all members to vote is the answer.

I encourage you to attend the meeting in Hughesville on Aug. 31. If you do not plan to attend the meeting, I encourage you to vote absentee. If enough of us vote absentee, we will send a message that all members deserve to vote.

You have to request the absentee ballot by Aug. 15 for the Aug. 31 election. There are three ways to get an absentee ballot. With your membership number, you can call 301-274-4480 and SMECO will mail you a ballot. You can go to the SMECO Web site at www.SMECO.com and request a ballot. The third option is to stop by any SMECO office.

My goal at SMECO is to ensure our co-op provides our vital electric power efficiently and in a friendly manner. I ask you to consider supporting me in the election.

Mike Thompson

Hollywood