ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman has filed legislation to create two permanent county commissions – the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Holiday Commission and the Commission for Transitioning Students with Disabilities. The legislation, which was introduced this week, must now be approved by the County Council.
Kittleman wants permanent status for the two commissions because of the valuable work conducted for the community. Originally created by Council Resolution in 1985, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission has been re-authorized each year by Executive Order for the past 30 years. The Transition Council for Youth with Disabilities was created by Executive Order in 2013 and re-authorized by Executive Order in 2014.
“Both of these commissions do important work for the County and requiring re-authorization every year makes no sense,” Kittleman said. “The MLK Commission has existed for three decades. It’s way past time to make it permanent. And the Transitioning Students Commission – while relatively new – performs such an important function for youth with disabilities that I believe strongly in giving it permanent status as well.”
According to the Howard County Code, boards and commissions established by Executive Order are meant to be temporary — typically not to exceed 18 months in term – and cease to exist at the expiration of the Executive Order.
“When I heard the news about legislation seeking permanent status for the Commission, the following quote from Dr. King came to mind: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,’” said Roberta Kelly, Acting Chairwoman of the MLK Commission. “As the newly elected Acting Chairman of the MLK Commission, along with the other commissioners, we applaud the County Executive’s decision to end the silence. It’s long overdue. We appreciate his support and that of our elected officials.”
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission encourages and coordinates appropriate ceremonies and activities of service throughout Howard County in observance of the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Each year, the Commission recognizes outstanding essays written by middle- and high-school students reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King. The Commission also organizes service opportunities and encourages participation in a “Day of Service” on the holiday observing Dr. King’s birthday.
Beth Benevides, who co-chairs the Commission for Transitioning Students with Disabilities with Dawson Robertson, Transition Program Head of the Howard County Public School System, said families of children with disabilities often face great uncertainty when planning for their children’s futures.
“Our families often require greater coordination to prepare children for college, employment and participation in the community,” said Benevides, a parent of a high school student with autism. “We are most grateful for Executive Kittleman’s commitment to support students with disabilities through this legislation. Establishing a County Commission elevates our efforts to bring stakeholders together to address concerns facing transitioning youth with disabilities and their families and to create a roadmap for improvements in the transition process.”
The Commission for Transitioning Students with Disabilities works to establish an effective, efficient and comprehensive delivery of services to meet the needs of county students with disabilities as they transition from high school to post-secondary education and employment.
By examining current practices and making recommendations, the Commission strives to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The Commission also helps foster greater collaboration between the business, academic, non-profit and public sectors to engage in successful initiatives like Project SEARCH, an internship program designed to immerse students with disabilities in a work environment and provide important job skills.
A public hearing during which both bills will be discussed is scheduled for Monday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive in Ellicott City. The Council is scheduled to vote on the bills on July 8.