Monday, June 6, 2011

Thinking big

This column originally appeared in Capital Business on June 6:

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

That’s a rhetorical question we toss around the house, to inspire our kids to aim high and take chances.
Of course, the difference between being fearless and foolhardy can be small.

I was thinking about that threshold last week while attending an awards banquet for the region’s chief financial officers, hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. (Capital Business was the media sponsor.)

More than other corporate officials, CFOs often have to assess risks and confront difficult choices. The good ones seem to know how to help their companies do the spectacular while avoiding the reckless.

I’m fascinated by how companies manage that push and pull. Executive engagement is often key.
At the NVTC event, Nigel Morris, one of the co-founders of the McLean financial giant Capital One, was honored for his contributions to the region’s technology business community.

“I’ve often wondered,” he said, “how much of Capital One’s success is due to luck and how much is due to being good.”

One piece of good fortune: The former Signet Bank out of Richmond was willing to take a chance on some no-name business strategists who were tinkering with ways data could be used to inform lending decisions.

Morris also credited the business acumen of his co-founding partner Richard D. Fairbank, who started in 1988 and remains the chief executive today.

Fairbank, he said, was a tireless “advocate for the best of human capital.”

And the secret for hiring the best? More than benefits and salaries, Morris said he learned that what most people want is “to be part of something bigger.”

Capital One certainly became that. When Morris retired in 2004, his start-up had become a public company valued at more than $20 billion. He now occupies himself with his family foundation in Alexandria and serves as managing partner of QED Investors, a firm that invests in companies that are trying to “solve a pain point for consumers.”

Morris is no passive bystander in the companies he assists.

“We are operators masquerading as investors,” Morris said.

Pushing them to think big, no doubt.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A graduation story

This column originally appeared in Capital Business on May 30.

It’s graduation season, which explains why I found myself in the stands of the auditorium at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore County campus recently watching a parade of caps and gowns happily clutching their real or faux diplomas.

Graduations can be inspirational stuff, and this one was no different.

One candidate for a master’s degree had to overcome serious affliction to claim her parchment.

Another got hers at the ripe young age of 70.

A third crammed his work into 18 months to get it all paid by the GI Bill, all the while holding down a full-time job and adjusting to life with an infant son.

Then there was one woman who spent eight on-and-off years working toward hers.

She too had a full-time job.

With two kids to raise, and an husband who kept long and unpredictable hours.

She found her education interrupted not once, but twice, by unexpected trips to the hospital. And her pursuit of a degree in Instructional Systems Development represented a shift in career plans from her days as an undergraduate.

But she persevered.

I know a bit about her because she is my wife, Valerie.

The example she set made it difficult for me to slack off in my own work. But more than that, watching her absorb knowledge and then apply it at home or on the job taught me just how magical an educational journey can be.

I seem to know a lot of women like that. My own mother did not get her bachelor’s until after she had given birth to four boys. She steadfastly kept after it until she realized her goal of becoming a teacher.

My mom is like that. She could barely run a lap around the track when I was in high school and ended up a marathoner and triathlete, racing in competitions up and down the East Coast.

It helps to be passionate about what you are doing, as serial entrepreneur Renee Lewis reminds in her interview this week with staff writer Steven Overly.

“Without passion, perseverance is hard to find, and perseverance is key to success.”

There’s a lot a business person can learn from advice like that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The AOL legacy

This column first appeared April 11 in Capital Business, The Washington Post's weekly local business paper, and my daytime job:

It has always been something of a mystery to me why, with all the technology talent we have in the Washington area, the only breakout Internet sensation the region ever produced was AOL.

Sometimes it seems we just don’t think ambitiously enough about our endeavors in this town. I like to goad audiences every now and then: Why not be the next AOL?

Of course, I know as well as anyone there’s a cautionary side to the AOL fable. Here was a company that appeared to defy the laws of economic gravity, until one day, it didn’t.

But it is not the business model that fascinates me so. It is the imprint that company left on the local scene. Plenty of AOL alums have gone on to parent new companies and, inspire other entrepreneurs, to take risks and think big.

That legacy was on display last week when Tim O’Shaughnessy, chief executive at e-commerce upstart LivingSocial, spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. (Capital Business was a sponsor and O’Shaughnessy is the son-in-law of Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham.)

Seated in the audience was former AOL chairman Steve Case, who once hired O’Shaughnessy to work at Revolution Health and who was an early investor in the deal-making Web operation.

O’Shaughnessy paid homage to Case, and talked about how he wanted to do his part to nuture a new generation of tech mavericks. He promised to be “hugely supportive” of staff who want to start their own companies, even if that means they will be short-timers at LivingSocial.

Better to have them for a brief spell than not have them at all, he reasoned.

For now, employees are probably happy to stay put. The company is acquiring customers at a dizzying rate, and last week it snagged a $400 million investment that values the company at $3 billion.

Lots of people are now paper millionaires. And many are no doubt dreaming about one day starting their own Internet game-changer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Banking on the community

The column originally ran in Capital Business, WaPo's new local business weekly:

By Dan Beyers
Monday, March 7, 2011; 15 

Among community banks in the region, one in particular has seemed to shrug off the economic turbulence of recent years: Eagle Bancorp.

Where others reined in their ambitions, the Bethesda bank has been busy making loans, building its portfolio and racking up one record-breaking quarter after another. That kind of performance defies the current narrative on the financial industry, where supposedly the world is adjusting to the new normal.

Chairman, chief executive and president Ronald D. Paul claims the bank was just in the right place at the right time, small enough to be nimble when the downturn set in and big enough to make the sort of loans that keep law firms, medical practices, restaurants and other local businesses up and running.

I tend to be skeptical of such Goldilocks analogies, but it is hard to argue with the bank's recent run of success. The loans are performing well and institutional investors have shown a healthy appetite for EagleBank's shares. The bank, with roots in Maryland and the District, recently opened its first branch in Northern Virginia and plans several more.

I heard all about EagleBank's progress last week when Paul and Vice Chairman Robert P. Pincus invited me to a meeting of the community bank's advisory board, a group of local business leaders who serve as ambassadors to the growing bank.

One member of the panel asked Paul and Pincus whether they were worried their success might prompt a response from the larger banks.

Indeed, Pincus said, the bigger banks tend to be "kind of paralyzed" after any recessionary cycle.
"But they are going to come back with a vengeance," likely by offering better rates, he said.

EagleBank's strategy is to take advantage of the lull to ply its customers with as many products as possible, whether insurance, investments, mortgage loans or what have you, "so it is harder to leave."

"We call it stickiness," Pincus said.

And who would help the bank sell those products? Around the table sat the owner of a limousine company, a printer, a commercial real estate broker, lawyers, the leader of a nonprofit, the owner of a concierge service -- all business people who come into contact with many more business people every day, and all incentivized to make referrals.

Then it dawned on me: To be a successful community bank, it's best to tap the resources of the community.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dead dredge

ExploreHoward reports the company dredging Lake Elkhorn is packing up and going home as a legal dispute continues:

Workers for Mobile Dredging and Pumping of Chester Pa. this week began vacating the work site at the 37-acre lake instead of resuming the work after a winter hiatus. Columbia Association board chairwoman Cynthia Coyle confirmed that CA did not extend an expired contract with Mobile.

"The main thing everybody needs to understand is the lake is not finished," she said, adding that CA is committed to completing the work. The firm, which got the $5.2 million contract in September 2009, had not finished when the contract expired in January.

Mobile Dredging filed a $1 million lawsuit against CA in November in Howard County Circuit Court for breach of contract, claiming the association had failed to pay for work performed The company argued that CA had not done surveys of the sediment before work began and could not therefore measure how much was removed. The CA board had authorized spending $1.2 million more on the job in August, claiming that heavy storms in recent years had left much more mud to be removed than estimated.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Signs of the times

The HoCo Council has approved new rules for signs downtown, allowing, for instance, "digital displays." 

Here's a summary from the Sun:

The council unanimously approved 18 amendments, plus numerous amendments to the amendments, including creation of the term "digital displays" rather than "video boards," which was the original name for electronic signs. The rules regulate the size, placement, illumination, timing and virtually every other aspect of every type of sign imaginable. The bill uses terms like "harmonic urban streetscape" to describe a plan that would make signs "an integral part of an overall development plan."

While many residents and visitors feel the lack of signs has made locating places in Columbia far too difficult, others feel the restrictions have preserved a more pleasant appearance.

Developer Howard Hughes Corp., Columbia's master developer, wants the freedom to be innovative with a rapidly changing electronic technology, while residents and some council members fear the visual clutter they've seen for years along U.S. 40 and U.S. 1 leaching into Columbia.

The Town Center Village Board, the homeowners' group that covers the downtown area, wrote to the council Friday that while the board opposed having video boards in downtown in testimony delivered December 20, the members now feel proposed amendments make the idea "more egregious."

"Ironically, new videos that are particularly attractive could be the worst distracters" for pedestrians as well as motorists, the board's letter said.

But council Chairman Calvin Ball, an east Columbia Democrat, said the members spent "an inordinate amount of hours" on the bill. "It is in much, much better shape than when it came to us," he said.

The electronic signs drew the most comment and criticism from the public, and several members praised the five pages of specific amendments controlling digital displays as compared with the original bill, which merely said that video boards are allowed in downtown.

"This five pages of criteria is the result of all of us spending more hours than we would like admit," working on it, said Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat. She offered amendments banning inflated signs in downtown, especially the "flappy guy"-style signs such as the one waving at motorists Saturday in front of the Firestone Tire store on Little Patuxent Parkway.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ulman picks new economic development chief

From HoCo pr:

 ELLICOTT CITY, MD — Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced today that Laura Neuman has been selected as the County’s new Director and CEO of the Economic Development Authority.

 “I am thrilled that Laura has accepted our offer and am extremely pleased that the EDA Board agreed that Laura’s track record and experience as a technology entrepreneur is just what this County and this region needs,” said Executive Ulman. “Laura’s involvement in so many levels of business development, from entry level positions at T. Rowe Price all the way to CEO of a company that was based in Howard County before it was sold for $230 million, offers a glimpse into the drive and passion that make her the ideal leader of the Economic Development Authority.”

 EDA Board Chair Peter J. Rogers, Jr., said, “Ms. Neuman stood out from a field of more than 70 applicants, and fulfilled Executive Ulman’s chief criteria for a new director for the county’s economic development efforts. Laura is a visionary leader with deep roots in the private sector. She is someone who can speak the language of the entrepreneurial community that will help create Howard County’s future.”

 Highlights of Ms. Neuman’s professional career include:

· Entrepreneur in Residence at University of Maryland
· Director of the Chesapeake Innovation Center
· CEO of Matrics Inc.
· Vice-President of Business Development and Sales, CAIS Internet

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity,” said Ms. Neuman. “Howard County has so many things going for it, and economic development is at the top of that list. With Fort Meade, DISA and Cyber-Command all in our backyard, the innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities are endless. When Executive Ulman and I spoke, it was clear we have a similar vision on how the Economic Development Authority can solidify Howard County’s position as the premier business location in Maryland.”

 Ms. Neuman is a Maryland native who holds a Masters in Business Administration from Loyola University and she has completed the Executive Program at Stanford Business School. Laura has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being named “Most Influential Marylander” and being selected one of The Daily Record’s “Maryland’s Top 100 Women.”

 As directed by the County Code, County Executive Ulman delivered his nomination of Ms. Neuman to the EDA Board, and then the Board interviewed the candidate and voted on the Executive’s selection. Ms. Neuman was chosen after an extensive, three-month nationwide search.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Schools approve $681 m. budget request

From the school board's e-letter to parents:

The Board of Education approved its fiscal year 2012 Operating Budget Request this morning. The request, in the amount of $681,171,710, will now be forwarded to the County Executive. 

In approving its request, the Board cut $1.6 million from the Superintendent's Proposed Budget. The reduction was made in response to the Governor's Budget Proposal, which provides $1.6 million less in state funding than school officials estimated when preparing the Superintendent's proposal.

The request represents a $5.8 million, or a less than one percent, increase over the current year's budget.

The Board's request
- Maintains current class sizes and all current instructional program offerings.
- Adds 46.2 positions for enrollment growth, 4.5 positions to continue ongoing programs, and 1.5 positions for program enhancement; decreases 9.0 positions to support mandatory increases.
- Adds an Allied Sports Program for students with disabilities.
- Provides planning money for an elementary World Language Program.
- Covers increases of $840,000 in fixed charges such as health insurance for new employees, retirement costs, and workers' compensation.
- Adds $250,000 to upgrade the school system's Integrated Financial System.

The request does not include costs that may result from negotiations with employee bargaining units, which are currently underway.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The mall is no home for the homeless

This ran in WaPo recently:

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 10:21 PM 

For years, the Mall in Columbia shopping center has been a popular early morning haunt. There are power walkers, caffeine-craving commuters and, often, some of Howard County's homeless, who buy coffee if they can afford it or sometimes just stake out a spot to pass a few hours.

Now, though, the premier mall in one of the nation's richest counties has started taking a harder line against the homeless.

In recent weeks, at least two homeless people have been banned from entering the mall, and about 20 more have been told that they should stay out during the early morning, according to some homeless people and their advocates.

"I understand that the mall is private property, but it's open to the public, and when you're trying to utilize the services of some of the vendors and you're thrown out, that's almost a violation of your civil rights," said a 62-year-old woman, who said she was banned this month for what security guards said was disturbing the peace.
The mall's ownership, General Growth Properties, declined to make anyone available for questions Thursday. A spokesman issued a statement on behalf of the mall's general manager, Katie Essing.

"If anyone does not adhere to our rules and regulations," the statement read in part, "they are first issued a warning; and secondly, if their behavior does not improve, they are banned from the center."

Residents of the county's emergency winter shelter are typically dropped off each morning and picked up each evening at the mall's bus stop, which is the transit hub in Columbia. While some venture elsewhere in the county for the day, others opt to enter the mall, which counts among its tenants Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, the Apple Store and AMC movie theaters.

Many stores do not open until 10 a.m. on weekdays, but Starbucks opens at 6:30, and McDonald's and Panera Bread open at 8.

About a month ago, the mall's management contacted Grassroots Crisis Intervention, said Douglas Carl, the nonprofit group's manager of emergency and outreach homeless services. Grassroots was told that residents of the emergency shelter should not enter the shopping center before 10 a.m., Carl said.

The mall management, he said, expressed concerns about incidents involving people believed to be residents of the emergency shelter.

"I'm certainly not going to say that there are never any problems with people that stay in our shelter," Carl said, "but I have no way of knowing whether the individuals that they were referring to were in our shelters."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sales lessons from a place called Cozumel

This ran in Capital Business, The Washington Post's local business weekly, on Monday.

By Dan Beyers
Monday, February 21, 2011; 15 

Zig Ziglar, the motivational sales guru, likes to remind people that it's easy to miss 100 percent of the sales you never ask for.

I thought about that aphorism last week after dropping in on the offices of DLT Solutions in Herndon.
DLT is a value-added reseller, meaning the company sells other people's stuff. In this case, DLT sells products from Google, Oracle, Symantec and technology companies to big enterprises.

It's a lucrative business. The privately held company has annual revenue north of $600 million, and it is growing, even through the downturn. Which surprised me, given that the company doesn't really make anything.

It's just a middleman.

"We prefer 'intermediary,' " corrected Rick Marcotte, the chairman, president and chief executive
DLT's specialty is the Byzantine world of government procurement, having spent the past 20 years building a sales organization dedicated to identifying contract opportunities and matching up vendors.

"That's our secret sauce," Marcotte said.

Marcotte primes his machine, now 235 people strong, with incentives. Everyone, whether in sales or not, gets a free trip to somewhere warm if his or her team meets its targets. The company has even named its conference rooms after former warm-weather destinations, to keep those enticements front of mind.

We met in Cozumel.

Marcotte said there are lots of ways to build a sales team. You can invest in a few big rainmakers and hope to land a few big deals. Or you can hustle.

DLT hustles.

In 2010, Marcotte said the company counted 3.5 million times it "touched" a potential customer. Those contacts yielded 92,000 potential leads. Those leads allowed the company to make $2.3 billion worth of quotes for new business, which turned into 29,000 new orders, representing $89 million in incremental new revenue for DLT's vendor partners.

Business the vendors themselves might not have gotten, because they didn't ask.

And then it hit me.

DLT does make something after all.

It manufactures sales.

Howard Who-se?

We're catching up a bit here, and one of the things we've been very curious about is what the Rouse Co., er, General Gro, er, Howard Hughes Corp. plan to do with its Columbia holdings.

So far the newly spun off company is as reclusive as its billionaire namesake in his later life. But the company did post this Reuters story on its web site, which offers some insight as to who is running the show and what their interests might be.

The Howard Hughes Corp may bear the name of a legendary U.S. industrialist of yesteryear, but it is the names of  the people now leading the company -- primarily hedge fund manager William Ackman -- that are pushing the shares higher, said JMP Securities analyst Jim Wilson. 

"I don't think it's any more than that," he said.

Ackman, who heads Pershing Square Capital Management, is the chairman of Howard Hughes Corp, which owns a  collection of land, undeveloped malls, a master-planned community business, mixed-use projects, and even General Growth's headquarters.

Although some of its properties produce income, the bulk of the assets are land and development projects, which are risky and difficult to value. 

"It would appear to me that you have a whole series of smart investors in here, and other investors are just following  where the smart investors go," Wilson said.

Pershing's pre-bankruptcy investment in General Growth of less than $200 million is now worth more than $1 billion. Through its holdings of shares, warrants and stock, Ackman's hedge fund controls about 28 percent of Howard  Hughes.

Like Ackman, Howard Hughes' other top officers have stakes in the company -- 7-year warrants paid out of their own  pockets. CEO David Weinreb put down $15 million and President Grant Herlitz, $2 million.

....T2 Partners, part of Tilson Funds, was among those receiving Howard Hughes shares when General Growth  emerged from bankruptcy, Tilson managing partner Glenn Tongue said, declining to say whether the firm still owned  the Howard Hughes shares because it hasn't filed its disclosure statement.

Tongue said the stock's value is still unknown because management has yet to present to investors its long range  plans.

"There's lots and lots of assets, and lots of things to do with the assets. But you still need someone to articulate what that vision is before a firm like ours is going to try to estimate intrinsic value," Tongue said. 

The company's leaders are working on that, said Weinreb, who grew up with Ackman in Chappaqua, New York. The two rekindled their friendship about 13 years ago.

"We have set our sights on getting our hands around the many opportunities that exist within our dynamic portfolio and evaluating and prioritizing those opportunities," he said. 

In terms of compensation, the company appears to want its new leadership to stick around a while. Here's a press release from late last year when Weinreb was named chief executive:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Suits make this man

This column originally appeared in Capital Business, the Washington Post's new local business weekly.

By Dan Beyers
Monday, January 31, 2011; 21

I bought a new suit the other day.

Actually, I bought several.

There's something about a new suit that makes a man, at least this one. That fine wool and those pinstripes make me stand up straighter, and mumble less.

It's been a while since I spent any serious time in a men's store. I blame the 1990s tech boom and the rise of business casual. To me, business casual is just an excuse for not spending a lot of money on clothes. All you need is a pressed shirt and an ironed pair of khakis, and sometimes not even that.

My fall off the clothes wagon coincided with the demise of Britches of Georgetowne. When Britches went out in 2003 so did my guy. My guy was a sharp-dressed salesman who used to call me periodically, always at just the right time, and suggest I come in to look at a "sweeeet" new suit or tie or shirt or pair of pants. He was chatty but not pushy and he was always honest in his appraisal of how I looked when I tried something on.

I never regretted a purchase.

We stayed in touch after he moved on, but it was never quite the same. His new gig was at a store far off my beaten path, in a mall, and I don't shop in malls.

Don't get me wrong, I've met perfectly agreeable salespeople in malls, but somehow I have never developed a satisfying relationship. I often get the feeling that the person helping me is looking over my shoulder for the next customer. I feel rushed.

Before Britches, I had my guy at Raleighs, another D.C. chain that faded into the sunset. My guy from Raleighs picked out my first tie. I used to buy one new tie a month, which always made the selection difficult. What color? Striped or paisley? I would study my options for what seemed like an eternity.

My guy was endlessly patient.

Sales help like that is almost as hard to find these days as a tie on a collar in the suburbs. I realized as I was getting fitted for my suits the other day that I can count on one hand the new neckwear I've bought over the past couple years.

I miss my sartorial expeditions. While I don't plan to go all Mad-Men-pocket-square on the world, I silently resolved to return soon to check out the merchandise.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Network, network, network

This column originally appeared in Capital Business, the Washington Post's new local business weekly.

By Dan Beyers
Monday, February 7, 2011; 21 

When building a business, it's good to get around.

If there's one thing I've learned in the nine months or so since we launched Capital Business, it is the value of networking.

There's something invigorating about mixing with other people who are trying to make a dollar. It's cathartic. I often come away with a sense we are all in this together.

Last week, I was invited to watch a Georgetown basketball game with a group of local business leaders over at the Verizon Center. Now, I happen to be a big fan of the college game, much more so than the pro version, and the contest was a promising one, against Big East rival Louisville. But I honestly didn't watch more than two minutes because I was having such a busy time gabbing in the back of our suite.

These were all successful business people, folks who didn't mind talking about a past failure or two and the lessons they learned. Many of them have been through the ups and downs of a business cycle once or twice before, and I was eager to get their take on the current economic climate.

In the main, I got the feeling people are more optimistic than they were just a few months ago. Business has stabilized.

They are exhaling a bit.

But only a bit.

More than one person told me they thought 2011 would turn out okay, but they were less sure about 2012, when the federal stimulus program would in all likelihood have run its course and potential cuts in government spending might begin to bite.

Perhaps the larger economy would pick up speed and make up for any pullback here in the nation's capital. But no one I spoke with is ready to count on that, quite yet.

Meanwhile, down on the court, a buzzer sounded as the players returned from a timeout.

The Hoyas held on to a thin lead in the game's waning moments, but could not celebrate until a final three-point try by Louisville clanged off the rim.

The margin between success and failure is often very small.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What we've been up to, starting with Wal-Mart

At least one member of the Talk team has been a little preoccupied with the Washington Post's new local business weekly Capital Business. We plan to post Dan's weekly editor's note for giggles. We'll publish a few over the next few days to show what we've been up to. Here's the most recent one:

By Dan Beyers
Monday, February 14, 2011; 21

A group of Wal-Mart representatives stopped by The Washington Post last week to answer questions about the retailer's plans to open four stores in the District of Columbia.

They talked about bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to the city's "grocery deserts," and about boosting neighborhood job rolls. They reminded us how D.C. residents already spend $41 million a year at Wal-Marts outside the nation's capital, so why not keep some of that money closer to home?

Why not indeed.

I have marveled for some time now at the retail phenomenon that is the Target store in Columbia Heights. My regular commute takes me by the neighborhood, and invariably someone will be walking along, lugging two or three bags of everyday whatnot. More than once, a bike has rolled by, its rider awkwardly schlepping a floor lamp or some other impossibly bulky household item.

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of the urban shopper, I think.

Except for a long time, that's precisely what a great number of retailers did.

Sentiment seems to be shifting, though. More people these days are moving into the city than out, and restaurateurs and shopkeepers are taking notice.

Wal-Mart's plans are clearly among the bolder attempted here, not just in the number of stores being proposed but in the forms they will take. The new downtown stores will be smaller than the sprawling supercenters folks are accustomed to in the hinterlands. One will be tucked into a multi-story mixed-use complex; another on top of a yet-to-be named big box.

Wal-Mart would like to begin construction on its initial store this fall. But first, it will have to overcome objections about its wage scale and address neighborhood development concerns.

The risks are not only political. There's also the question of whether it is reading the market right. If they build it, will the shoppers come? And if they do come, how long will Wal-Mart have the neighborhood to itself?
Rivals are almost certain to respond. One Wal-Mart executive noted that two grocery stores near his company's proposed sites have already announced plans to upgrade their establishments.


It should be a fascinating business story to watch.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ta-ta tot lot

Who needs fresh air? We guess families are too busy with their "screens" these days. Saw this on an e-mail to the folks in River Hill:

The Columbia Association (CA) has notified us that they will remove the Mellow Wine Way Tot Lot (RH9) during the week of February 21, 2011. The work is expected to take two or three days, weather permitting. CA staff will be removing the equipment and seeding the area to prevent erosion. The area will not be mowed and will gradually revert to its original wooded state.
The elimination of this tot lot is part of CA’s efforts to control costs. CA has plans to reduce the number of totlots Columbia – wide from 171 to 136 over a period of 10 years. In 2010, the River Hill Community Association undertook efforts to notify and seek input from residents regarding the elimination of tot lots in our community. As a result of this process, the Mellow Wine Way Tot Lot was identified as the first tot lot in the village to be removed. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Name that school

From HoCo schools PR:

The Cradlerock School in Columbia will return to its original configuration as an elementary school and a middle school on July 1, 2011. In accordance with Policy 6050, "Naming or Renaming of School Buildings," a committee has been formed to select names for both schools. Board of Education policy states that geographic terms will be used for school names and that duplication of geographic names for elementary, middle, high or special schools should be avoided.

Community members may suggest names for the committee's consideration. Suggestions should be submitted to Marion Miller at by Fri, Jan. 28.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

HoCo Schools Chief Takes Medical Leave

From ExploreHoward:

Sydney Cousin, superintendent of Howard County schools, is on indefinite medical leave, school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan said Wednesday night.

Faculty received an alert during the school day Wednesday that Cousin is on leave until his doctors approve his return to work, Caplan said.

The school system would not release details of Cousin’s condition at the request of his family, Caplan said.

During Cousin’s absence, Chief Academic Officer Linda Wise, Chief Financial Officer Raymond Brown and Chief Operating Officer Theresa Alban will carry out his day-to-day duties, reporting to Chief of Staff Mamie Perkins, Caplan said. The school system is currently without a deputy superintendent, who would normally assume Cousin’s responsibilities in such a situation.

Wise, Brown, Alban and Perkins will present Cousin’s proposed budget at the Board of Education meeting Thursday, which will go on as scheduled, starting at 8 p.m.

“We’re wishing Dr. Cousin a speedy recovery and we hope to see him back soon,” Caplan said.