Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Park is Small Oasis for Historic Minority and Low Income Community

Save Our Park, Preserve Our Community Coalition
For Immediate Release
April 18, 2011
Contact: Susan Buchanan

New Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster Middle School to
Displace Silver Spring Neighborhood Park

Park is Small Oasis for Historic Minority and Low Income Community

An emergency Town Hall has been scheduled for Thursday, April 21 at 7 pm, hosted by the surrounding neighborhood associations. Reporters are invited and encouraged to attend. Coalition members will be available for interviews before and after the meeting outside the door of the meeting room.
Location: Coffield Community Center, 2nd Floor, 2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, Md, 20910.

Silver Spring, Md. – On April 28, the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) will vote whether to approve Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Park in Silver Spring, Md., as the site of a new middle school for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster. Currently, students who matriculate into Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School attend Westland Middle School in Bethesda, Md.

At the request of Superintendent Jerry Weast, a Site Selection Advisory Committee, exclusive of representation from the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville community, worked in secrecy to evaluate 10 potential sites for the new school. Without consideration of impacts to the local community and with little analysis, the committee selected Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Park and forwarded its recommendation to the BOE for consideration. Montgomery County Public Schools released the committee's report last week, only after pressure from the community.The park is an integrated part of long-term planning for this historic minority and working-class neighborhood, once owned by Samuel Lytton, a freed slave and having been part of the Underground Railroad. Montgomery County received State funding under the Maryland Open Spaces Program in 2000 to acquire land for the park. It provides a much-needed environmental offset for the area, which is bordered by traffic congestion on East-West Highway, a large industrial park, the county bus depot and the Walter Reed Annex. The planned purple line will bring yet more development, with a maintenance depot and station directly across from the park. Amid all this development, it will be devastating to the community to lose its only green space to a middle school.

The site selection process was deeply flawed, and the final report omits key data the Board of Education would need to make an educated decision on the 28th. More thoughtful analysis shows that this site in fact meets few if any of the required criteria for a suitable school location (fact sheet shown below). The advisory committee inconsistently applied site selection criteria to produce the selection of Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Park as the recommended site. Also, the communities bordering the park were left out of the site selection process. Representatives of several towns and municipalities in Bethesda and Chevy Chase were invited to participate in the process, but no one from the town of Silver Spring was invited.
A coalition of concerned residents in the Silver Spring neighborhoods surrounding the park are calling on the BOE to reject the recommendation of the Site Selection Advisory Committee, to re-evaluate candidate sites fairly with consistent application of the stated selection criteria, to include community impact as an important criterion for site selection, and to move forward with transparency and community engagement.

Note: Because the community is divided on the issue of the middle school, with most residents on the fence pending further details from Montgomery County Public Schools, the neighborhood associations are not taking a position. The "Save Our Park, Preserve Our Community" coalition is a large and growing group of community residents advocating to build the new middle school in a more suitable location after more thorough and thoughtful analysis and discussion. 
Site Selection Report:  http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/planning/pdf/BCC_MS2_SiteSelectionFinalReport.pdf 
History of Lyttonsville as Historically Black Community (click through the links): http://silverspringspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/03/lyttonsville-living-history-hidden-in.html

 Save Our Park, Preserve Our Community Coalition


  1. Thank you for posting this. After reading the Site Selection Committee's report, I can see why they were, in the words of one member of that committee,"sworn to secrecy." Shame on them.

  2. I am an engineer and if I turned in the Site Selection Committee's report as my 'work', I would have been asked to resubmit it and include the data that supported my conclusions. This report is flawed and the process has been pushed through with haste and secrecy. Why?

    School enrollments rise and fall – as we can see by all the schools that have been given up for lease by MCPS. In the future when the enrollment drops, what will happen to this middle school? Is the answer to keep walking away from old schools and building new ones – and along the way sacrifice what small parcels of green space still exist in moderate neighborhoods? Is that good long-term planning? Is that the best way to spend taxpayers’ money? Is that RIGHT?

  3. I strongly agree with ALL the above comments. Strange and troubling that the site selection committee did not have any representatives from the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville neighborhoods.

    As someone who grew up in the Rock Creek Forest neighborhood I can personally attest to the horrible long term planning of MCPS. Back in the 70's I attended Montgomery Hills Junior High for two years, then when it was closed was sent to Leland Junior High. Within the span of 8 years all three down county Middle/Junior High schools were closed: Montgomery Hills, Leland & Kensington-what were they thinking that no more children would need Middle schools in this whole down county area?

    My daughter attends Westland and it is a far commute from our neighborhood but the ease with which MCPS is willing and eager to take away a neighborhood park rather then revisit the former Middle School/Public school sites is troubling. Why the secrecy when it comes to this area? The process needs to be transparent.

  4. Money talks. Note how the wealthy Bethesda and Chevy Chase communities, whose children would benefit by being segregated from Eastside "riff raff" until high school, were in on the conclave, while the actual community site to be adversely affected was left out...

    Doubtless MCPS will nonetheless continue gerrymandering that Kensington Parkway neighborhood outside the Beltway east of Connecticut and west of the Mormon Temple into Westland's precious catchment.

    Money, money, money, and how to refine and maintain the segregation of class.


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