Thursday, August 28, 2008

HoCo SAT Scores Up

With one member of the Talk Team wrapping up his high school experience, we're thinking a lot about colleges these this comes as welcome news..

From HoCo schools:

Students in Howard County's Class of 2008 significantly outperformed their counterparts in Maryland and across the nation, according to SAT data released today by the College Board. The average scores for Howard County's 2008 graduates increased in all tested areas, while state and national scores showed very little change from 2007.

Howard's average score in Critical Reading increased three points from 537 to 540. In mathematics, the increase was one point, from 556 to 557. The highest jump was in writing, where Howard's average score increased by 7 points, from 537 to 544.

"We have become accustomed to our students scoring above state and national levels, but that does not mean we become complacent," says Superintendent Sydney Cousin. "Even though our scores are 38 to 50 points higher than the national scores, what is most impressive is we continue to see our scores increase. That is remarkable."

Nationally, scores remained constant at 502 for critical reading, 515 for math and 494 for writing.

Here's a WaPo link to results from other local systems.

And links to stories in the Sun and WaPo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sticking It To The Boys

Back in the day, there was quite a fuss at our old high school when a girl wanted to play on the boys soccer team. There was no soccer team for girls at Wilde Lake or any county school at the time. We even had a cameo on one of the newscasts saying we supported her right to try out for the team. Our memory is now hazy whether school officials banned her from play or whether she simply didn't make the squad, but she was tough and determined, no doubt about it.

Now we read in the Sun that a boy at River Hill wants to at least practice with the girls field hockey team. Luke Chopper had already resigned himself to not being able to play in games, but he signed on a manager in hopes he could at least swing a stick in practice.

Apparently, that's a problem, too.

Mike Williams, the coordinator of athletics for Howard County Public Schools, said TitleIX, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, was an issue.

"When we looked at what we're trying to do to comply with TitleIX, it was a situation that would have definitely led us toward noncompliance. That was just one issue. There are safety issues along with it," Williams said.

Chopper, 14, said he just wants to play.

"I've been playing since I was about 6, and I kind of want to keep it going. I've been playing for so long, and not being allowed to play makes no sense," said Chopper, who learned the sport at the Mater Amoris Montessori School in Ashton and will play for a boys team at the U.S. Field Hockey Association's national tournament Thanksgiving weekend in California.

Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said the decision whether to allow boys to play on a girls team is left up to officials in each county, but boys cannot play in regional and state field hockey playoffs.

The state policy was contested in federal court in 1990 by a boy who wanted to play field hockey in Cecil County, and the court sided with the MPSSAA, Sparks said.

Mom told the Sun she is considering legal action.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DuVall's Final Season

Way back when we were in high school, in the mid-70s, Doug DuVall was only starting to build a football program that would become the envy of the county. But you could tell from the way he carried himself, and his players responded, that he was something special.

In the Sun today, we learn that Coach DuVall says this, his 36th season, will be his last with Wilde Lake's Wildecats.

"I remember, when I started coaching, I just wanted to win my first game," he said yesterday, between classes at the school where he began his career in 1972. "Then I wanted to win 100, then 200, now 300. But you should never spend your whole career in one place."

That thought and others first came to him when his friend, the late Dunbar coach Ben Eaton, died suddenly in August 2007.

"Ben sent a pretty clear message," DuVall said. "Everything has a rhythm and a time. I need to enjoy my life. Spend time with Jan [his wife] and our family. Coaching is a consuming lifestyle. Coaching football is a 12-month, eight-hour-a-day job. I'm looking to do something a little less demanding."

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Commuter Spaces On The Way

From the State Highway Dept....

(August 15, 2008) – To meet the demand for commuting options in Howard County, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) will begin a $170,000 project to improve the MD 175/Snowden River Parkway ridesharing lot in Columbia. As part of the resurfacing project, SHA will increase the capacity of the 210-space park-and-ride lot by adding 27 parking spaces. SHA will complete the project by the end of August, weather permitting.

To complete this work - beginning Monday, August 18 - SHA will close the park-and-ride lot nightly between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Vehicles parked in the lot after 8 p.m. will be towed. Information on towed vehicles will be available at the Maryland State Police Waterloo Barrack by calling 410-799-2101. Additional ridesharing lots in Howard County include MD 32/Broken Land Parkway and

MD 100/Long Gate Parkway. Variable message signs are in place to alert motorists of the upcoming work.

SHA awarded the contract to R. F. Kline, Inc. of Frederick. Citizens who have questions about traffic operations along MD 175, or other State numbered routes in Howard County, may call SHA’s District 7 Office at 301-624-8100 or toll free at

1-800-635-5119. For additional ridesharing locations, log onto

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tatyana Goes For Gold

The Flier has a piece on wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden. She's headed off to Beijing for the Paralympics where she hopes for some bling.

McFadden will have plenty of chances at gold at this year's Paralympics, which kick off with the opening ceremonies Sept. 6. She has qualified to participate in the 100-, 200-, 400-, and 800-meter track events, in addition to competing as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team.

The 100, the event in which she won silver in 2004 and also held the world record earlier this year, is her strong suit but, according to McFadden and her coaches, there is the chance for success across the board.

The Flier also says this about her legacy in Howard:

In July, after years of pushing and a testimony by McFadden in front of the Maryland General Assembly, the "Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities" bill was put into effect. The new legislation was a huge breakthrough in that it will require Maryland public schools to provide disabled students with equal access to physical education programs and high school sports teams, either among themselves or with able-bodied students.

Schools have three years to comply, and it is estimated that it will cost more than $2 million statewide to implement the program.

While McFadden is headed off to college and won't reap the benefits of the bill, her sister, Hannah, a wheelchair athlete going into seventh grade at Lime Kiln Middle School and already a swimming and track star, will have an easier time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Relief Coming to Penn Line

From WaPo:

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved the purchase of 13 double-deck coaches yesterday for the MARC rail system, at a cost of $22 million.

Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari told the three-member board that the rail cars will be used primarily on the Penn Line, which provides service between Washington and Baltimore, adding 1,700 seats.

The rail cars are being purchased from the Virginia Railway Express and will be modified before coming on line in Maryland, Porcari said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Careful what you read in press releases you come across in random Google searches. Sysco isn't going to partner to sell groceries to Columbia residents.

HOUSTON, Aug 19, 2008 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX News Network) -- SYSCO Corporation (NYSE:SYY) today corrected information released late yesterday by Dezina Marketing, Inc. (Pink Sheets:DZNA). Contrary to the Dezina press release, which SYSCO Corporation did not review or approve, SYSCO has not negotiated with or entered into a joint venture with Dezina to provide its products online to residential customers. SYSCO does currently deliver foodservice products to commissaries operated by Dezina.

Furthermore, quotes attributed to Keith Shapiro, president of SYSCO's operating company in Baltimore, Maryland, were not reviewed or approved by Mr. Shapiro and information describing SYSCO and its financial performance was outdated or inaccurate. Current information describing SYSCO can be found at

SYSCO is the global leader in selling, marketing and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, lodging establishments and other customers who prepare meals away from home. Its family of products also includes equipment and supplies for the foodservice and hospitality industries. The company operates 180 distribution facilities serving more than 400,000 customers. For the fiscal year 2008 that ended June 28, 2008, the company generated more than $37 billion in sales. For more information about SYSCO visit the company's Internet home page at

You've Been Warned

It's time again for our own bit of Beijing.

From HoCo PD:

The Howard County Police Department is advising drivers of expected delays Sunday, Aug. 24 due to the Iron Girl Triathlon in Columbia.

The swimming and running portions of the event, which includes 1,500 participants, take place inside Centennial Park, however the cycling portion takes place on various roadways in the county.

Motorists traveling on the following roadways from 6 a.m. until noon should expect delays and plan ahead:

MD Rt. 108
Homewood Road
Folly Quarter Road
Carroll Mill Road
Mt. Albert Road
Cantor Lane
Jumpers Hills Road
Triadelphia Road

Police officers will be directing traffic at the major intersections, but 20-30 minute delays should be expected.

And then, there's this:

In an effort to promote awareness and reduce the number of alcohol-impaired drivers on the roads, the Howard County Police Department will conduct a sobriety checkpoint this week at an undisclosed location. Police are reminding citizens to designate a sober driver or refrain from drinking alcohol if their plans include driving.

Last year in Howard County, eight people died in alcohol-related collisions and 1,340 people were arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Howard County. So far this year, eight people have died in alcohol-related collisions and 801 people have been arrested and charged with DUI.

Police hope that by promoting awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving, the number of drivers under the influence will decline, reducing collisions and injuries.

Please remember to drink responsibly, drive safely and always wear your seatbelt!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A New Entrant In The Grocery Wars

Peapod's got some competition.

Sysco Systems, the giant food purveyor to restaurants, hotels, hospitals, colleges and corporate offices, is looking to penetrate the residential market through an online grocery operation that will based here in town, according to this release.

The company is teaming up with a local firm called Dezina Marketing to market and distribute food to folks like us at what Sysco says will be significant savings -- and free delivery.

Could this be Wegman's without the traffic? :)

Denina currently operates a "Deli Around The Corner" commissary that provides food to business customers, delivering 300 lunches today, in Timonium. It plans to open a similar operation in Columbia by the end of October serving business customers and residents within a 3-mile radius of its store.

The two companies are developing an interactive, virtual grocery shopping website that will simulate an actual grocery shopping experience. The site will be made available to target audiences and will have customer use incentives built into the system in various forms.

Monday, August 18, 2008

e-Progress at C.A.

Maybe we missed the great unveiling but CA's Web site has been updated and it seems much easier to find links to villages, e-mail addresses for board members etc. We learned that CA has a monthly TV show. Don't expect prime time production values or hard-hitting reporting, but at least it adds another outlet for public interest programming at a time when much of the mainstream media in town is cutting back.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rocky Run R.I.P

If you haven't read the definitive account of why the closing of Rocky Run is such a loss, check out this account on Columbia Compass.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Five Schools Fall Short Of Fed Standards

The Sun reports on the state's annual report of school progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, saying about 84 percent of all schools met the federal targets. Statewide, Maryland put 169 of 1,129 elementary and middle schools on a list of schools that need improvement, compared with 176 the year before.

Here's what the Sun said about Howard:

Five schools in Howard County - two elementary and three middle - did not meet federal standards this year. The schools are: Bollman Bridge Elementary, Stevens Forest Elementary, Harpers Choice Middle, Patuxent Valley Middle and Oakland Mills Middle.

School system officials said that there are plans to redirect additional support to them. "There are forces in place with curriculum [department] to deal with the schools," said Portia White, Howard County's coordinator of testing. "This system has rallied around these schools and has put the [measures] in place to help them succeed next year."

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said there was no need for alarm.

"All of these schools have successfully met our local standard of having 70 percent or more of their students scoring at proficient or above in both reading and mathematics," Cousin said.

In a release, Howard school officials said 53 of 58 elementary and middle schools in Howard County met Adequate Yearly Progress standards, as defined under the federal law.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rocky Run No More


We saw this on the Howard County Maryland blog. Rocky Run Tab & Grill is closed.

And to think, we had yet to finish sampling all the hot sauces or exhaust our creativity with crayons!

How I Spent My Summer Va-Ca

If you are super agent Pat Hiban, you climb Africa's highest mountain:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rites of Summer: Dog Days

Here's how we spent part of our summer vacation:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Parking

Howard County General Hospital has opened a five-level 542-space parking garage, according to this story in the Examiner.

The garage is the first completed part of the hospital’s $105 million, 233,656-square-foot expansion and general renovation project.

The core project component now under construction is a new four-story, five-level patient tower that will include 90 private rooms in the surgical, cardiac/telemetry and medical/surgical units, according to hospital officials.

The hospital, now with 219 beds, will see a net gain of 42 beds when the project is finished.

The total project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2011, officials said.

Until then, we wonder if there's any spare spaces for carpooling commuters.

Friday, August 1, 2008

4th Arrest In Oakland Mills Shooting

Just as HoCo PD prepares to meet with Oakland Mills residents at 10 am on Saturday for a "gang awareness summit" at the Other Barn, comes this news from the Sun via AP:

A fourth arrest has been made in the murder of a 23-year-old Columbia man on May 17, Howard County police say.

Police say Kevin Jennings, 19, of Pikesville, drove the men involved in the shooting to Columbia's Stevens Forest Apartments, where the body of Jason Batts was found in a parking lot.

Jennings is charged with first-degree murder, hindering the investigation and conspiracy.

Ronald McConnell of Columbia was arrested in May, and Daymar Wimbish and Lamont Johnson, both from Owings Mills, were arrested last month.

Police said they believe Johnson fired the gun at the shooting scene.

Does Driving Less Make Us Feel Safer?

We'll refrain from making a joke about how this might be good for Dunkin Donuts:

From HoCo PD:

In an effort to cut back on fuel consumption due to rising costs, the police department is announcing mandatory conservation measures, effective Aug. 1.

“Reducing our use of fuel is the responsibility of all members who operate a county vehicle,” said Police Chief William McMahon. “Of course, this mandate is not intended to impact the performance of employees’ assigned duties.”

All employees were instructed to reduce their fuel consumption by five percent. A three-month baseline average was provided to each employee with an expectation that reductions would be evident by Sept. 1.

McMahon says he expects the reductions to come from less off-duty use, more fuel-conscious driving behavior and other common sense conservation methods.

“Service to our citizens is our absolute top priority,” McMahon said. “In no way will we allow these cost-cutting measures to negatively impact service.”
Employees who do not achieve the five percent reduction in any month will be required to explain why the goal was not met.

The chief also announced changes for employees who serve in certain on-call assignments, including a discontinuation of take-home cars for some out-of-county personnel. These programs will continue, but may no longer include take-home cars for all the people who staff them.

In this situation, employees who are called out will be paid the current mileage rate for the distance between their residences and police vehicles, as well as the return trips home.

Police will place limitations on assigning additional vehicles to employees who reside outside of Howard County, regardless of assignment. There also will be new restrictions placed on vehicle usage for police supervisors, such as sergeants and lieutenants.

Operators of shared patrol cars are expected to take part in the fuel reduction efforts by limiting idling time to operational needs, avoiding unnecessary driving and improving driving behaviors while operating in non-emergency modes.

These mandates are the first fuel saving measures being implemented by the police department. While further actions and restrictions may be necessary, the agency is committed to not sacrificing the service it provides to the public.