THE HUB - Feature Article

  • George Arlotto: Stand proudly as Anne Arundel United

    Posted by George Arlotto on 9/19/2017

    Last week’s announcement by County Executive Steve Schuh launching the Anne Arundel United initiative should be hailed as welcome news by every resident of the county. Nowhere, however, should it be more loudly applauded than in the homes of parents with school-aged children.

    We were proud to stand with county leaders to launch this initiative, not because it is some feel-good program but because it offers public affirmation that waging the fierce battle to end hate and discrimination is one that belongs not just to a single person, entity or agency, but to everyone. This is a fight that must be fought on many levels and from many angles, and everyone has a role to play. Refusing to participate – or just sitting idly by – makes one an opponent of the type of progress we must make for Anne Arundel County, but particularly for our children.

    If we are to truly send a message that hate has no home in Anne Arundel, we must impart it to our children first. Only by doing that can we ensure that they will carry it throughout their lives, imparting it to those who follow them.

    The announcement and the county executive’s subsequent signing of an executive order denouncing hate and discrimination in Anne Arundel County are, of course, simply words. Our school system is confident, however that the words will be followed by impactful and lasting actions. The establishment of a community ambassador program by the county executive to foster conversation in neighborhoods, one of six tenets he unveiled last week, is, for example, a huge step forward.

    First and foremost, we simply must develop those critical relationships. Nothing works if we can’t reasonably talk about diverse points of view and do it respectfully and with compassion. That’s exactly what we aim to do with our school system’s Restorative Practices initiative with activities such as community-building circles where students can share divergent points of view in safe, supportive and respectful environments.

    It’s also one of the goals of the Community Citizenship course developed by Arundel High School as part of its Community Development and Global Citizenship Signature Program and in the wake of its racially tinged incident last year. In those classes, which all ninth-graders are required to take, students explore their strengths and values, and develop an understanding of the benefits of living in a diverse community. They also discover how culture contributes to our society, and practice communication skills that will help them express their views in constructive ways.

    Our children are not born with hate. It is something they, sadly, learn. And it is up to all of us to halt that type of learning so we can enhance all of the other types of learning we want to impart. Such an approach can cultivate respect and appreciation for diversity of all kinds – not just with regard to race and ethnicity, but with regard to other aspects such as religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and gender identity.

    That is why we joined with four other large school systems across Maryland last week to urge continued protection of the rights of students residing in Maryland under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Our obligation to educate every child who comes to our school system is one we take very seriously. To yank children who are part of the fabric of our communities from that setting for reasons that are beyond their control or comprehension would be unconscionable.

    These are issues that are about people, not politics. As County Councilman Pete Smith said so emphatically at last week’s launch of Anne Arundel United, there are issues that can be decided along political beliefs. This is not one of them. Hate has no home here.

    Our school system is committed to doing its part to make that vision a reality and we welcome the partnership of the county, the City of Annapolis and every resident in that quest.

    The writer is superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Contact him at

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    September 30 - Yom Kippur

    October 9 - Interim report cards to be sent home

    October 18 - Two hour early dismissal for students; Schools closed for P.M. Pre-K and ECI students.

    October 19-20 - Schools closed for students