Wednesday, 02 October 2013 12:06

School officials, local politicians and students joined together for the ribbon-cutting of the new Dundalk High-Sollers Point Technical schools on Tuesday. Dundalk High seniors Caz Jefferson, third from right, and Carl Moss, second from right, were present at the groundbreaking ceremony as freshmen three years ago. photo by Bill Gates

Ribbon-cutting ceremony marks new era for local students

by Bill Gates

Dundalk High students Carl Moss and Caz Jefferson were incoming freshmen four years ago when they took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dundalk High-Sollers Point Technical schools.
    Now seniors, Moss and Jefferson participated in the ribbon-cutting on Tuesday to formally open the new facility.
    “The time has flown by,” Jefferson said. “We saw this building rise up and the old building fall down.”
    The construction schedule always had the new schools opening for the 2013-14 school year, hence the inclusion of freshmen during the official groundbreaking.
    Still, “I honestly didn’t think they’d finish before I graduated,” Moss said. “I also didn’t think the building was going to be this big, either.”
    The ribbon-cutting took place in the lobby of the Dundalk High-Sollers Point Tech facility after an assembly in the school auditorium that included remarks from Baltimore County Board of Education president Lawrence Schmidt, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Baltimore County superintendent of schools Dr. S. Dallas Dance.
    Dundalk High principal Tom Shouldice and Sollers Point principal Mike Weglein were presented with a Governor’s Citation by a representative of Gov. Martin O’Malley.
    “We were amazed at the size of the new building rising beside us,” Shouldice said. “We watched as our former athletic field became a beehive of activity. We saw Owl Mountain rise behind our building.”
    Shouldice likened the ribbon-cutting to the feeling one gets while cutting the ribbon on a gift-wrapped present.
    “And, like a present, it is what’s inside that is most important,” he said. “Wow! We have a high-quality school.
    “The increased level of respect the students have for each other, this house, is almost palpable.”
    Shouldice also got in a plug for the planned next stage of construction: a new stadium to be built on the grounds where the old Dundalk High stood.
    He pointed out the long-term economic benefits of including a turf field (rather than a grass field) in the new stadium.
    “It will be more cost-effective over the long run,” Shouldice said. “So, if anyone has $896,232.12 to spare ....”
    County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a 1978 graduate of Dundalk High, talked about how another Owl grad (and county school board member and former Sollers Point Tech principal) Ed Parker came to him seven years ago with a videotape showing the many physical defects of the old Dundalk High building.
    Olszewski credited that moment with starting the project that led to the new school facility.
    Around that same time, then-Dundalk High principal Peggy Johnson took an Eagle reporter on a tour of the school to show how the building was practically falling apart.
    As described in a story in The Eagle in August, Johnson’s actions helped make the new school a reality yet also may have caused her to be removed as Dundalk High principal.
    “It was worth it,” Johnson said after the ribbon-cutting. “The community really deserves this.”
    Norwood-Holabird Community Association president John Ayres, also a 1978 graduate of Dundalk High, recalled some of the bumps along the road.
    “This [new school] is worth all the five-and-a-half years of fighting, scrapping and compromising to put this facility together,” he said.
    “Not everyone agreed on this, but all the fighting, all the disagreements have led to a magnificent facility.”
    Roy Moreland, a 1959 Dundalk High graduate — he predates the building this new facility replaces — said “I really believe this [new school] will be what turns this community around.”
    Councilman Olszewski described the facility as “the centerpiece of my legacy.
    “Yorkway, the community centers, they were all good accomplishments,” he said. “But this trumps them all. We took a run-down high school and now we have this beautiful, magnificent facility.
    “This is the day I’ve been waiting for. It’s not just a project that came to fruition, but something that can make a difference in the lives of students.”
    For some alumni, progress came with a cost.
    “It’s bittersweet,” said Scott Holupka (Class of 1976), referring to his emotions on the destruction of the old Dundalk High building.
    “It was sort of sad to see the old school torn down, but exciting to see the new school being built. A lot of people choose communities on the basis of the quality of education, and this new school should translate into more community develoment.”
    And pride.
    “We have bragging rights,” Jefferson said. “The first class to graduate from this building. ‘2014 Means Business.’
    “I’m proud to go to Dundalk High,” Moss added. “And proud to be an Owl.”