Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Good Afternoon, Council Members."

Testimony by Ms. Shannon Hamm at the July 25th joint meeting of the Council's Education (ED) and Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committees:

Good Afternoon, Council Members.

My name is Shannon Hamm, I am a 19-year resident of Rock Creek Hills and a 27-year resident of Montgomery County. Both of my children are B-CC graduates in the IB program. I moved to this county to send my children to our wonderful public school system. We have Great Schools. Great Schools Need Great Locations.

There is no question in my mind that Westland is at capacity, the statistics support that. But how is this being addressed? Have we done our homework? I suggest not.

Today’s joint hearing between the Education Committee and the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee is my opportunity to state for the record that the Site Selection process was flawed. Members of the Board of Education are on record agreeing to this, staff from MCPS are on record agreeing that the process was flawed. Two clear examples were that the Citizens’ Association in Rock Creek Hills did not receive adequate notice before the vote was taken on April 28 by the BOE, as no one from our neighborhood was on the site selection advisory committee. Secondly and more importantly, the BOE failed to consult with the Planning Board before making its decision. Even though the SSAC report indicates that staff from MNCPPC were members, Chairwoman Carrier’s letter dated April 29, states her clear concerns over this matter.

Given that so many officials in the county agree that the Site Selection Advisory Committee process was flawed, we cannot continue to support a broken process and make another bad decision. Let’s work together to make this a great outcome for our citizen’s and our children.

I have thoroughly read the Site Selection Advisory Committee Recommendation Report for B-CC MS #2, dated March 8, 2011. I have to say as a public servant, the report lacks strong analytics, performance measures for determining the outcome, as well as lack of quantitative criteria for developing options. This is not a report I would want to put my reputation behind. I do not understand why there was such an urgency to generate this report, when MCPS has a long range planning department that projects school capacity. We have very smart staff working in the county and I am not clear how this became such an emergency.

Thus, I ask that the Council direct the BOE to start a new more collaborative process for conducting a more expansive Site Selection Process that is collaborative and inclusive. Now is the time to start thinking outside of the box, and look to public/private partnerships. Seek out new relationships with agencies and developers that moves us forward with building a Great School. Allow the BOE to recommend to the County Executive that a placeholder for constructing a new middle school in the B-CC cluster be accepted in the CIP this fall.

To continue to conduct the Feasibility Study for the B-CC MS #2 at Rock Creek Hills Park, will lead to building a clearly inadequate school that will not meet MCPS’ educational specifications due to the small acreage and topography. Specifically, the site is less than 2/3 the size it was when Kensington Junior High School existed, owing to the long term leasing of 8.22 acres to our elderly residents at Kensington Retirement Community. To date, no option presented can meet all of the educational requirements. More importantly, this middle school will divide the middle schools demographically.

I know that finding available sites in the lower county for schools is a difficult challenge. I also know that parks are not vacant land. Rock Creek Hills Park is home to 2 regulation soccer fields that support the Westland and B-CC athletes, as well as supports over 400 permits a season. Without Rock Creek Hills Park, where then will students in the cluster be sent for their athletic requirements? It appears to be a recipe for even more travel time for students.

We need to work together in the county to partner with each other to solve tough land use issues. Our Great Schools have produced Great Minds that can, if the will is there, do the right thing and find a Great Location for a much needed school.

Thank you for allowing me to speak.

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