In a week when it comes out that suspensions are skyrocketing at East County schools like Key Middle School, it's not surprising that some parents might want to send their pre-teens elsewhere. But when nearly three-fourths of suspensions in Montgomery County are handed out to black students, it becomes increasingly apparent why the school system may want to spread the "diversity" around, if you will.
Enter Hampshire Greens, the golf course neighborhood at New Hampshire and Norbeck where "mandatory busing" has become a beacon of hope for Key officials and a pain in the butt for residents. Key might be eight miles and a forty-five minute bus ride away (past three other middle schools) from Hampshire Greens, but that's okay for Superintendent Jerry Weast. "I . . . do not find the Hampshire Greens situation to be unique or unusually burdensome," writes Weast in his recommendation (warning! PDF file) to keep the middle school boundaries exactly as they are.
At a Board of Education meeting Monday night, Weast "recommended that Hampshire Greens continue its articulation" or assignment to Key, according to a report by Northeast Consortium representative Phil Kauffman. In addition, the PTAs of the three neighboring middle schools - White Oak, Briggs Chaney and Farquhar - supported Weast's recommendations.
Would either of those three schools have anything to lose from letting a few Hampshire Greens kids in - or five, to be exact? Not at all. Even Key, for whom those five kids singlehandedly lower the percentage of minority or low-income students at the school, won't see much of a difference no matter which way the district lines fall. Weast's own report shows that if Hampshire Greens was redistricted to any other East County middle school, the percentage of black students at Key Middle School would increase from 49.2 percent to 49.5. We can already see the suspension rates skyrocket as frustrated teachers try to discipline their students of color.
What a waste of time! There is a serious issue in Montgomery County Public Schools that needs to be resolved, and we're fighting over whether a handful of kids can go to a school in their own neighborhood. Why should we trying to engineer super-diverse schools when we can't even handle the populations that are already in these schools?
This fight is a loss for everybody: the Hampshire Greens kids who may still be trekking across town to school every day AND the at-risk youth of Key Middle School, whose entire organization - from the administration to the PTA seems more concerned about putting a high-income Band-Aid on a low-income problem.
Pictured: a map of the four East County middle school districts (Banneker, in Burtonsville, is excluded) and the location of Hampshire Greens, currently served by Key Middle School, eight miles away. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.