Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – March 3, 2017

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Prince George’s County got its hand slapped this week and hopefully it’s a lesson for all other school systems in the state looking to undermine the governor.

In the months following last August’s executive order mandating all school systems start their school year after Labor Day, Gov. Larry Hogan often referred to critics as “whiny.” He maintained their inability to be flexible and responsive to the desires of a majority of Marylanders was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. That seemed to portend the state’s unwillingness to consider waivers from school systems citing hardships from a post-Labor Day school start.

Most of the school systems in Maryland have agreed to start after Labor Day. They altered their calendars to accommodate the change while also ensuring they meet the June 15 end date. From news reports outside the area, it doesn’t appear it was terribly difficult for the jurisdictions to do so. However, an exception was the Prince George’s County Board of Education, which last month approved a school calendar setting Aug. 22 as the first day of classes. That’s a full two weeks before the Tuesday after Labor Day.

As a result of the state department of education rejecting that calendar, Prince George’s will resort to its least favored start date of Sept. 6 and end date of June 13. In a statement, Prince George’s County Public Schools’ CEO said, “I am concerned about the basic needs that many families struggle to meet, such as regular nutritious meals and child care. We do not believe this mandate prioritizes children and families.”

There are a lot of adjectives I could use to describe that ridiculous scare tactic, but the governor’s use of the word “whiny” suits me just fine.

Michael DeLeon named his non-profit organization that offers programs and presentations about drug-free living Steered Straight, Inc. “because young people today can’t be scared straight.”

That was one of the many messages that resounded with me after listening to DeLeon, former professional skateboarder and actor Brandon Novak and a local woman speak about their addiction backgrounds on Tuesday night in Ocean City.

At the event on Tuesday, I sat a couple rows behind about 25 people aged 20 to 30 years old by my estimation. It was startling to watch as two individuals repeatedly passed out in their chairs. While there’s a chance they were exhausted, it’s not a stretch to assume they had been using at some point that day. The next day I learned one of the individuals in attendance had overdosed and died after recently serving a stint in a rehabilitation program.

How anyone could listen to the presentations made at this event about the dangers and evils associated with drugs and within hours return to using is beyond my comprehension. However, therein lies a greater problem. Addiction is a disease. There’s no such thing as being cured from it and therefore rational explanations do not exist. There’s no way to understand what it means to be addicted unless you are inflicted with it. It’s a constant and daily battle to make the right choices.

The man who died Wednesday was on the right path. He was to graduate in May from Wor-Wic Community College, had teaching aspirations and had for years been working with the youth in his community through Little League. He had by all accounts a bright future now that he was clean. Evidently, that night he was not strong enough to overcome his temptations and he lost his life as a result, leaving behind a shattered community of family and friends.

While it may be true we can no longer scare the youth and teenagers of the dangers of drugs, we as adults can parent our kids armed with fear for their present and future. We need to channel that trepidation into a positive motivation to openly talk with our kids, no matter how young, about what’s happening in our community. We need to micromanage them if we have to in order to stay abreast of what’s happening in their lives. We need to share with them the stories of young lives being lost rather than hide it from them. We should control the dialogue while we can and try to instill in them awareness and understanding. They need to be exposed to the dangers ahead if they make poor choices. It might not scare them in the fashion we think it should, but it’s part of the steering process that is parenting in this new day and age.

It was great to see the Town of Berlin does have plans to replace the banner on Town Hall.

I stopped thinking about the banner over the entrance to Town Hall years ago. I just figured it was going to be there forever. That seemed odd to me since it was a banner, but I assumed it was funding thing and the town didn’t want to take it down out of community pride.

This week it was learned there have been plans in place to replace the banner with permanent signage (see the story on page 8).

As far as the signs themselves go, they look nice to me and I like that they are uniform with the other signs welcoming people to town on Routes 50 and 113 and Libertytown Road. Of course, it’s always a good idea to remind everyone visiting town that a few years ago it was named “America’s Coolest Small Town.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.