Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

It appears concerns over Common Core-associated curriculum changes in public schools across Maryland have led some parents to pull their kids out of local public schools and enroll them in private institutions.
Through some basic research, I have been able to learn that over the last month about 15 public school students in Worcester and Wicomico county public schools have left their schools and subsequently been entered into private institutions. Obviously, that’s a small percentage compared to the more than 20,000 students enrolled in the two school systems combined, but it’s still noteworthy and confirms how adamantly opposed some people are to the new curriculum changes.
Two months into the school year, abrupt student changes are unusual. Although they prefer to put their concerns behind them with the school change, two parents I spoke with this week said they were advised by their teachers to make the school change after they broached Common Core concerns, specifically the standardized tests and what is perceived to be a higher dependence on them. In fact, one teacher in Wicomico County told me she would enroll her kids in private school because of Common Core if it was an option from an affordability standpoint.
Of course, not everyone despises the curriculum change, and the Worcester County Board of Education is on record in believing Common Core and the associated new standards have been intensively vetted and will benefit teachers and students in the long run.
Whether that’s true will be debated for months to come, but a survey recently conducted by the Maryland State Education Association confirms major concerns within the classroom. Of the 745 teachers surveyed, only 9 percent believe their school has the technological or physical capacity to administer the new standardized, computer-based testing that comes with Common Core. Furthermore, 86% believe significant challenges remain to understanding and implementing Common Core standards.
There’s no question Common Core implementation is causing major headaches for teachers, students and parents. It’s not unlike the No Child Left Behind brouhaha, but it’s the ultimate statement when parents pull their kids from public schools they like that are funded by their own tax dollars in favor of hefty tuitions at private schools where they don’t have to be burdened with the major changes.

Back in January of this year, a Slurpee bet was made between Tony Christ, spokesman for the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice group and leader of the current performing arts center petition, and Ocean City Council President Lloyd Martin, the owner and operator of a 7-Eleven store in north Ocean City.
“On Jan. 10, 2013, I made a bet with Lloyd Martin, president of the council, that Ocean City’s “AA” credit rating would be downgraded this year. Loser buys the winner a Slurpee. Let me tell you why Lloyd will be buying me that Slurpee,” Christ wrote in a letter to the editor. “Businesses are closing [Olive Tree] or leaving [La Hacienda Restaurant] due to the poor business environment in Ocean City. Looking up and down the town of Ocean City, you can see vacant rental spaces and view sparse new businesses. Why? Excessive taxes. Assessments have increased over 200% since 2003 [$3.6 billion to $10.4 billion], while property values are only up about 30% over the last decade. This is a staggering tax increase. … Also crippling Ocean City business is the unending barrage of laws, rules, ordinances, fines, fees and occupancy taxes instituted over the years. … this Council is spending money as if the rating agencies won’t notice. What side of the bet would you take?”
It was learned this week that Christ owes Martin a Slurpee. Fitch Ratings held the town’s rating of AA- stable for its $12.7 million bond, which includes the performing arts center, the subject of a current petition drive being led by Christ. In its report, Fitch called Ocean City’s economic outlook “stable”. It said, “The town has a fund balance to handle potential revenue shortfalls and cash flows for the peak employment in the summer season and for emergencies. During the fiscal year, the town council evaluated economic conditions and weather-related risks that the town could be exposed to and prudently changed the policy of 12 percent of general fund expenditures to 15 percent. As of the year-end at June 30, the town met and exceeded the policy.”
Regarding the petition, the signature deadline is Nov. 20. Expectations are the petition will not meet the required 1,200-plus threshold, but we will find out for certain next week.

How much it will cost to add surveillance cameras to the Boardwalk will soon be known as the city has issued an advertisement for bids, “for the construction of Boardwalk Network Camera Installation.” Bids will be opened next month.
In an interview in August, new Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said the system will be an active one monitored by police constantly and will go a long way toward allowing authorities to keep a better handle on the entire Boardwalk.
The chief said the video cameras will act, “as a force multiplier so we can have those additional eyes that can give us assistance and place them in strategic places based on our data from previous incidents. That will help maximize our defense and maximize public safety.”