Updated: Mar 29
Open Letter- via email dated Oct 13, 2013 To the Honorable Governor Martin O'Malley, As you know, Garrett County Schools are outstanding! They provide comprehensive and well-aligned curricula, instituting the entirety of Comprehensive Reform Models. Garrett County public schools are immersed in cutting-edge practice with expert, highly credentialed staff. These staffs are dedicated to maintaining achievements in educational performance inclusive of Common Core and Maryland Challenge Initiatives. These assimilated and integrated practices account for the outstanding achievements and testing performance scores on Maryland School Assessment (MSA) tests. The systems' approach, experientially and incrementally, is driven by an attentiveness to both mandated and integrated concepts including environmental literacy, school enrichment and universal design for learning to insure, intellectually challenging schools. The students' achievement is compelling, further, the integrative aspects and inclusion of exceptional student populations is trademark of the caring, empathic culture of our schools. Garrett County professional school leadership, for the past 20-years, has contributed to progressive-minded institutional memory, imprinting a legacy for ongoing accelerated standard-building and embedded contingency planning; a ‘snowballing' of proficiencies. Observers and critics would find it difficult to find gaps in any of the formative or summative assessments. In fact, leadership and school improvement teams in planning strategies have fully embraced each of the Partnership for 21st Century recommendations.
These forward-thinking and savvy, evidenced-based strategies have kept the public schools in competitive position, even where economic supports have been dwindling. Overall, this attention to historical and predictive-influences is laudable, especially in a climate where partnerships are riddled with the additional strife of more inward, insular planning and less focus of thought given to long-term residual impact. Garrett County schools, located in a rural- poor- tourism-focused economy, however, as they are encumbered in the State Aid for Education (Certificate of Taxable Income), is fated unfavorably and penalized in both the foundational and categorical elements of the formula. The rigidity of the formula, the size of the square widget for the round hole, doesn't consider economic variance. In addition to our State-Aid formula problems, we have a declining school-aged population and shifting demographics. And, these factors, makes it appear as though we will be faced with closing additional community elementary schools. It is difficult to forecast with definitive certainty given the potential extraneous influences, but, school closures generally set-back communities, at least in the short-term and often in the long term. Closing schools in small, rural communities are generally known as travesties. For Garrett County, it may blight our portfolio of academic achievements, the 'good news' described above. Governor O'Malley, we appeal to your keen insight for remedies to our funding crisis. Your, inside knowledge in navigating a similar funding-closure scenario when Mayor of Baltimore City, in addition to subject-matter expertise in educational reform and work with the NGA Center for Best Practices, can only be to our benefit.
Local community schools produce higher achievement potential, improve graduation rates, and create a culture of safety, civic-character, and community participation. Community schools, particularly in working class communities, represent opportunities for growth in local economies and attract business and profoundly benefit the families they serve. The Journal of Research in Rural Education reports clear economic results from community schools such as professional employment, contributions to the quality of the local workforce with secondary increases in innovative ideas and business investment. Increasing the college-educated population base directly provides wage-rate increases across occupations and skill levels. Governor O'Malley, all data show that quality community schools help the state and localities become more economically competitive. The 21st Century paradigm puts "knowledge first' and education investment is the best way, according to the Economic Policy Institute, to achieve growth, jobs, productivity and shared prosperity. McKinsey & Company (2009) indicated that high levels of academic achievement and attainment is tantamount to diverting a permanent national recession— as we increase educational achievement, we increase GDP— and for local communities, that translates into increased home sales, auto sales, and tax revenues. This represents an economic projection of accumulated capital, piggy-backed on the econometrics of labor (Solow Model), in a regressive analysis of ~$4 million dollars in the three-year limited growth cycle. At a time when our knowledge-based economies demand increasingly higher skills to be competitive, crippling local economies with school closures is completely NONSENSICAL!!! Please, provide us the support which we require, assist in saving-our-schools; help to maintain their vitality and vibrancy. Fondest Regards, Sue Athey Garrett County