October 19, 2011
My name is Angela Ballard-Landers and I am the PTSA President at Mt. Hebron High School. I'm contacting you regarding an upcoming meeting and vote that will take place on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 at the 7:00 p.m. session of the Board of Education. This vote has to do with funding the Howard County Public School System is receiving from the State Board of Public Works.
An article published in the October 5, 2011 edition of the Baltimore Sun titled, “Higher Alcohol Tax to Pay for School Projects” states that Howard County will receive $4 million, a portion of which is slated to pay for the installation of turf fields at Atholton and Hammond High Schools. The Board of Education has stated this was a stipulation of accepting the funds and they have no say in how the money is to be spent.
I am concerned about the equity and fairness in this decision and believe the Board of Education has an obligation to take a strong position by expressing their displeasure to the Maryland State House of Delegates. Howard County has 12 high schools and the justifications provided by the school system’s director of facilities are not convincing during these difficult economic times.
Montgomery County is using its funds to make renovations at four schools and Anne Arundel County is building a new performing and visual arts theater at Annapolis High School. We are installing turf fields? I find it hard to believe there are no other upgrades or more critical needs that can be met with $4 million. Granted, Wilde Lake Middle School and Oakland Mills High School are to receive a press box and weight room, but these renovations will not consume a great deal of the $4 million.
An average size turf field is easily $500,000 - $800,000. Also, what about the cost of maintaining these fields? Yearly maintenance is approximately $50,000 per field; every 8-10 years turf fields need replacing, which is approximately $70,000 per field. There are also disposal costs for the crumb rubber material, which is estimated at $130,000 plus transportation and landfill charges. How will these expenses be paid? In addition, what is the plan to install turf fields in the remaining 10 high schools?
When the decision was made to install stadium lights at each high school, it was made clear that the lights would not be installed until enough funds were raised for every high school to receive them. What happened to the "equity" policy? I am all for turf fields, but not because of promises made along the way.
We are encouraging our parents and the community to come out to express their displeasure and ask the Board of Education to "Do the right thing". We have the support of Senator Allan Kittleman who has expressed his concerns to the Board of Education and submitted a letter to the Howard County Times. Other than the article in the Baltimore Sun, information to the public has been scarce and, in my opinion, the school system and the Board of Education have not been forthcoming to the general public.
If the Board of Education decides to vote in favor of the turf fields they will be sending the message that the equity policy is only used when it is convenient, but will be overridden depending on the funder. This time it is turf fields. What’s next? The board is sending the wrong message to the public and to all of the students attending Howard County Public Schools.
Angela J. Ballard-Landers
President, Mt. Hebron High School PTSA