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Maryland House overrides Kirwan legislation veto

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland House of Delegates voted Monday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a comprehensive K-12 education measure that would boost school funding by billions of dollars over a decade’s time.

The House voted 95-37 to override the veto, clearing the 85 votes, or three-fifths, needed. The measure has been a top priority of Democrats, who control the General Assembly.

“This reform package, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, is going to benefit the entire state, every county, every student, every teacher and every family — all the way from Allegany County to Prince George’s County,” said Del. Alonzo Washington, a Prince George’s Democrat.

The Maryland Senate will still need to override the governor’s veto for the measure to become law. Senators passed the bill last year with enough support for a veto override. They could take up the measure again as soon as this week.

The legislation was based on recommendations of a state commission and more than three years of study. While it would be phased in, the measure is estimated to cost an additional $4 billion in fiscal year 2030, with local jurisdictions contributing to state funding to pay for it.

The legislature approved the bill last year. Hogan, a Republican, later vetoed the bill, citing the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican delegates joined the governor in opposing the bill, saying it was wrong to increase spending by such a magnitude in the aftermath of a pandemic.

“We know that we are in unprecedented circumstances,” said Del. Christopher Adams, an Eastern Shore Republican. “This legislature needs to act accordingly. The governor, when he vetoed this bill, did it because it was responsible policy at the time, not knowing how difficult the financial conditions were moving forward.”

To help pay for the initiative, the House also voted to override Hogan’s veto of a measure to apply the state’s 6% sales tax to digital products, such as streaming and music, on a vote of 90-42.

The education plan focuses on five policy areas, which include expanding early childhood education such as pre-K and increasing teacher salaries. College and career readiness, aid for struggling schools and accountability in implementation also are among the main policy areas.

Cheryl Bost, a Baltimore County elementary school teacher and president of the Maryland State Education Association, praised Monday’s vote for the legislation, which the teacher’s union has supported as a major step toward increasing equity in education and raising academic achievement.

“Through their action today, legislators are seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that every student in every neighborhood will have a great public school,” Bost said.

A state commission, known as the Kirwan Commission after former University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan, recommended the legislation after studying how to make Maryland schools competitive with the world’s best.

Maryland worked with a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the National Center on Education and the Economy, to compare Maryland’s public education policies with high-performing systems in Finland, Singapore, Canada and China, as well as Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Hampshire in the United States.

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Cecil County Arts Council celebrates love with opening of “Stupid Cupid” exhibit

ELKTON — Hearts covered the ceiling of the Cecil County Arts Council Friday to commemorate the opening of the “Stupid Cupid” Valentine’s Day exhibit. 60 different pieces demonstrated how each artist took a different approach toward love, some sentimental, some humorous, showcasing the many ways someone can interpret a prick from Cupid’s arrow.

Maggie Creshkoff finds her inspiration on the side of the road, taking broken windows, crutches, and other objects to create freewheeling, irreverent works. Her piece “Peeping Tom,” blurs the line between love and obsession with three scrap metal faces staring through a window at the viewer.

“I’ve always been interested in things in their original and elemental form,” said Creshkoff. “I’m a bit of a collector, and my late husband was a bit of a collector. It’s more interesting, I think, to find coherence in very disparate objects.”

“Love me Love my Dog” features two dogs made out of bed frames, with white piano keys for teeth barking at each other.

“Sometimes I’ll be driving along, and I’ll have to circle back and pick up a piece of metal that catches my eye,” said Creshkoff. “I don’t steal anything. I pick up things. I figure if they’re throwing it away, I assume they don’t want it anymore.”

Colleen Tiefenthal works with mixed media to express a more traditional view of love rather than a humorous commentary, one piece has the words “believe there is good in the word” written on a plank of wood with repurposed paper mache on top. Reading the secondary colors gives the piece a new meaning, as it reads, “be the good.”

“It makes you look at things a different way,” said Tiefenthal on using recycled materials. “There’s no trash; everything can be made into something new, given a second life.”

Irene Stoss likewise works with an unconventional material that gives her work a greater sense of texture than painting alone. Stoss uses felt that she creates by hand from wool to create different shapes and designs. Stoss said the technique, called wet felting, enables her to create large pieces, like sweaters, out of felt, compared to needlework. She made dozens of small hearts inside of a giant felt bowl. Above the bowl hung an array of hand sized hearts, with hollowed-out centers containing a letter just large enough for a love poem or Valentine’s Day note.

“I love the hearts, they’re so much fun to make, and everyone needs a heart to hold,” said Stoss.

Instead of using commercial paints, Stoss uses household objects to create homemade dyes. She uses onion skins for vibrant yellows and greens, and a rusted washer turns a felt flower into a deep bronze color.

“All my friends know I want onion skins, so they save them for me,” said Stoss. “I go to grocery stores and clean out their bins for them.”

Though the first Friday events have continued throughout the pandemic, the scales have decreased massively, going from 200 to at times only 30 pieces in any given exhibition. Usually, the February exhibit features art from Cecil County Public School students, according to Arts Council Vice President Gaby Coutz. The school lockdown made that impossible, so this year’s exhibit featured work by community artists, including 30 pieces from a class led by Lorraine Haggard, an adjunct instructor at Cecil College.

“Some artists said that they don’t inspire themselves. They need a place to go,” said Executive Director Annmarie Hamilton. “We open the gallery up twice a week for artists to come, bring their supplies, and hang out together. “

Hamilton added that the artists are kept 10 feet apart from each other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has closed many avenues artists use to sell their art, making events like Friday’s exhibition even more critical. Ray Briscoe, who left his job at Terumo to become a full-time artist, said when street festivals, like the Brandywine Festival of the Arts in Wilmington, closed, he began showing his wood carvings at the Arts Council. His work is whimsical, featuring smiling hearts with wings and small animal figures.

Cecil County Arts Council Board of Directors President Gene Daley said the pandemic forced them to become more creative. Along with events, the Council gave out $80,000 of grants to help struggling artists.

“Painting for me is one of the great mysteries of life,’ said Daley. “I don’t know how people can take paint and a brush and create an outstanding picture. I wish I had the skill and imagination that these artists have.”

“Stupid Cupid” will run at the Cecil County Arts Council from February 5th until February 28th. The exhibit is part of the city-wide “Stupid Cupid” contest; if someone finds five arrows at participating local businesses before February 12th, they are entered to win a romantic dinner for two.

Drug Free Cecil members attending a virtual work session at CADCA.

Peggy Smith, Jean Kutcher and Peggy Dillner — all members of local chapters of Dining for Women — sit at a table on Dillner’s back porch Wednesday.

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Two women arrested, charged in Elkton home invasion case

ELKTON — Two women are facing home invasion and assault charges after they allegedly barged into a neighboring Elkton apartment over the weekend, amid a purported noise dispute, and attacked one of the residents — beating her with a guitar at one point, according to Cecil County District Court records.

Elkton Police Department Ofc. G. Brown, lead investigator, and at least two of his fellow officers responded to the unit block of Elk Chase Drive at approximately 10 a.m. on Sunday, after receiving a complaint concerning a home invasion that had occurred there, police reported.

One of the alleged victims told investigators that someone inside an adjacent apartment started banging on a shared wall between the two units and that, in response, her daughter started banging back on that same wall, police said.

After hearing a loud noise at the front door moments later, police added, the mother saw her neighbor and another woman coming up the steps toward the second floor.

“(The mother) then stated that her neighbor and (the other woman) began to punch her and pushed past her in order to get to (her daughter). (The mother) stated that someone began beating on the bathroom door with a guitar, leaving multiple holes in it,” according to charging documents.

When the mother tried to make the two intruders leave her apartment, one of the suspects began striking her in the left arm with the guitar, court records allege.

Then a man — later identified as a friend of the suspects — entered the residence and escorted the two women out of the apartment, police reported.

Investigators documented damage at the apartment, court records show.

“While speaking with (the mother), I did notice that the bathroom door had multiple holes in it, and there was a guitar laying right outside of it. There (were) also footprints on the front door and minor damage to the frame of the door,” Brown outlines in his written statement of probable cause.

Investigators then went next door and spoke with the neighbor, whom Brown identifies in charging documents as Keyara Sheffler, 23, also of the unit block of Elk Chase Drive, police reported.

Sheffler told investigators that she and her friend, Britney Goudeaux, 26, of the unit block of Norman Allen Street in the Holly Hall neighborhood in Elkton, had gone to the adjacent apartment that morning and knocked on the front door because the alleged victim’s daughter was being too loud, police said.

Police added that, according to Sheffler’s account, she and Goudeaux confronted the daughter about the noise after she answered the front door.

“(Sheffler) advised me that she has been having a problem with (the daughter) for a long time about being loud . . . (Sheffler) stated that when (the daughter) came to the door, they argued but that was it,” according to charging documents, which further indicate that Sheffler denied that she and Goudeaux entered her neighbor’s apartment.

Officers arrested Sheffler and Goudeaux inside Sheffler’s apartment, police said. Goudeaux was on the second floor when Brown was interviewing Sheffler on the first floor of that apartment, police added.

In addition, officers detained a 26-year-man who also was inside Sheffler’s apartment, but they released him moments later after confirming that he had no involvement in the incident, police reported.

“He advised Ofc. J Brown and I that he had only gone into the (the alleged victims’) apartment to get (Sheffler and Goudeaux) out of there and back into (Sheffler’s) apartment,” court records show.

Sheffler and Goudeaux are facing the same five charges, including home invasion and third-degree burglary, both of which are felonies, and second-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to court records.

Goudeaux remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond late Monday afternoon, after her bail review hearing earlier that day, court records show. Sheffer, meanwhile, remained there, too, in lieu of $10,000 bond after her bail review hearing, according to court records.

Members of Bobbie Ann's Dance Troupe perform a number from the musical "Hairspray."