Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class

Extracted from the Brookings article:

Policy aimed at promoting economic opportunity for poor children must be framed within three stark realities. First, many poor children come from families that do not give them the kind of support that middle-class children get from their families. Second, as a result, these children enter kindergarten far behind their more advantaged peers and, on average, never catch up and even fall further behind. Third, in addition to the education deficit, poor children are more likely to make bad decisions that lead them to drop out of school, become teen parents, join gangs and break the law.

In addition to the thousands of local and national programs that aim to help young people avoid these life-altering problems, we should figure out more ways to convince young people that their decisions will greatly influence whether they avoid poverty and enter the middle class. Let politicians, schoolteachers and administrators, community leaders, ministers and parents drill into children the message that in a free society, they enter adulthood with three major responsibilities:

  1. at least finish high school,

  2. get a full-time job and

  3. wait until age 21 to get married and have children.

I am sharing my observation from my classmates along the years. For my elementary, middle school classmates, none of them have achieved the same degree of  success as my high school classmates. Majority of high school classmates went to college and have much better success.

I have some elementary and middle school classmates who dropped out and now look like 50-year old because of tough family and economical situation along the years. They usually have children much older than mine. Some of their children did not go to college either. When I was young, their family conditions were better than mine. They lost interest in school and their parents just let them drop out.  Since China’s economy is steering toward knowledge-based, it is very difficult for them to find a great job to support  the family.

My college classmates are all over the world. One of my college roommates bought a farm and is raising cows in South Africa now. Sure, my undergraduate college is one of the best in China and all of my college classmates are working really hard to find their own success.  They value every opportunity and work hard to achieve their dream.


River Hill Tot Lot Upgrade

The River Hill Community Association’s Board of Directors remains committed to improving children’s play spaces in River Hill. Based on feedback obtained from residents in September, the Association in October formally requested that the Columbia Association (CA) include capital funds in the FY19/20 budget to upgrade two tot lots in the village with more modern play equipment. The goal is to update one tot lot in each neighborhood—Pheasant Ridge and Pointers Run.

While awaiting approval on project timing, CA recommends that the River Hill community proceed with determining which two tot lots to upgrade, which should be slightly larger in size, centrally located, and have the highest utilization.

We welcome your thoughts and suggestions on the tot lot upgrades and on possible locations. Please e-mail feedback to Dalia Shlash, River Hill Board Member and Open Space Liaison, to with your suggestions on potential locations no later than January 1, 2018. A community meeting to discuss site selection and upgrade timing will be held on January 18, from 6–7 p.m., in the Board Room at Claret Hall.

In my opinion, one candidate of the tot lots for upgrade is between Indian Summer Drive, Summer Sky Path and Distant Thunder Trail.  I would love the upgraded tot lot including a cover to prevent too much sunshine and rain and some benches to sit down when needed.

Please see the attached photo for location:




Pre-Submission Meeting Minutes for Erickson Senior Living at Clarksville

This is the minutes of the first pre-submission meeting for Erickson Senior Living at Clarksville. The development is called Erickson Living at Limestone Valley.

River Hill Village Board has presented our feedback to the Design Advisory Panel too.

I am attaching two documents here for people of interest:

1) Erickson Meeting Minutes 11.8.2017 PSCM Minutes

2) River Hill Village Board Feedback to DAP on Erickson Development

December Community News Update (The Villager 2017-12)

December Community News Update

This article is published on the River Hill Community Association “The Villager” 2017 December issue.

Columbia Association Side

At the request from many community members, the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors recently affirmed the Paris Agreement on climate change and remains committed to clean energy. I am glad that CA has been a pioneer for environmental protection and clean energy adoption. I hope this act will encourage individuals in our community to take steps to reduce their personal carbon footprint by doing such things as walking more and maintaining reasonable room temperatures. Walk our walk, not talk our talk.

Other recent CA Board highlights:

  • Held a discussion on New Town Zoning with Howard County DPZ and Consultants;
  • Discussed and approved the new and simpler Assessment Share for the Columbia villages;
  • Discussed the village associations’ contingency fund (around half million dollars) and decided the funds will be distributed among the 10 villages (each village gets 5%) and CA (gets 50%).
  • Discussed and approved a 20% Cap on Cash Reserves for the villages.
  • Discussed major capital projects and new operating initiatives received to-date in the Proposed FY 2019 and Conditional FY 2020 Budgets

School System Side

Many community members have kept an eye on or become involved in the school redistricting process since summer. The Board of Education made the final decision on attendance areas for the 2018-2019 school year on November 16. Here is how the River Hill area is impacted:

  • Pointers Run Elementary will receive Polygon 127 from Clements Crossing Elementary.
  • Clarksville Middle School will receive from Lime Kiln Middle School Polygons 117, 118, 120, 123, 126, 127, 296, 1117, 1120, 1123, 1296.
  • High school overcrowding will be mitigated by the JumpStart Program and Direct Enrollment Program. River Hill High School will receive students from other crowded high schools.

Happy Thanksgiving! Be prepared for the cold winter and enjoy the happiness of the holidays.

Chao Wu, Ph.D.

River Hill Representative to Columbia Council and Columbia Association Board of Directors

Email: Website:

Disclaimer: This letter only represents Dr. Chao Wu’s personal opinion. It does not represent River Hill Board of Directors nor Columbia Association’s Board.

Photo: The big tree inside the Mall of Columbia.

Where does CA’s money go?

Thanks to CA board chair Andy Stack’s email, I am putting something together to show how expensive CA  is facing to maintain and fix its current facilities.  This article partially responds to the question “where does CA’s money go” I heard during this Thanksgiving holiday. Many residents see their annual charge keep increasing and the gym membership is more expensive than ever.
As a board member of Columbia Association, I want to make sure the Columbia Association is spending its money wisely. Besides our human resource cost ( we have around 270 full time employee and 700 part time employee), here are some capital project in the pipeline. Note CA has around 70 million dollars annual budget.
A 5-year capital plan was discussed in June 2016. CA board were presented with 7 facility assessments which had estimated replacement values. All replacement estimates are in 2016 dollars and do not include all costs.

Large Capital Project on the line

 Athletic Club replacement        $24 M
Ice Rink replacement                  $16.5 M
Art Center replacement             $3.3 M
Stonehouse replacement           $6.5 M
The Other Barn replacement    $4.5 M
Teen Center replacement          $3.5 M
Maintenance Facility replace   $11.5 M
The reports identified millions of dollars of improvements/upgrades/repairs which were needed for each of these buildings. CA board have only approved funds for the Ice Rink and the Athletic Club. The proposed budget finishes these and starts the work on Art Center and Stonehouse. In addition to these facilities, CA still have the Supreme Sports Club, Slayton House and Kahler Hall among other facilities which need upgrades/repairs.

Five Year Capital Spending budget

Overall in June 2016, CA estimated that the following capital budgets were needed to maintain/repair/upgrade existing facilities and other items.
FY-2018  $23.2 M
FY-2019  $19.6 M
FY-2020  $17.8 M
FY-2021  $16.5 M
FY-2022  $17.5 M
And these figures did not include things like dredging of Lake Elkhorn and CA’s headquarter building as well as any new facilities. We are in need of five million dollars for pond management alone in the next ten years. Our FY-2018 capital budget was not $23.2 M as CA could not afford that sum. We are fortunate that current economic conditions allow CA to have FY-2019 and FY-2020 capital budgets of $20 M each year. It is not clear that economic conditions beyond FY-2020 will allow CA to continue to have such large capital budgets.
After the Swim Center and Athletic Club, CA will continue to have multi-million dollar capital requirements to repair/upgrade/maintain our facilities and associated items. And all these costs without any new facilities. A New facility would add millions of additional dollars to any future capital budget and many new facility may be a money loss machine due to its nature.
The CA Board has been very insistent that CA fix/upgrade/repair/maintain its existing facilities before considering any new facilities in the past.

Some considerations in the past

Of course when we are presented with the costs of fixing/repairing/upgrading a particular facility, the CA Board should look at whether a replacement would be more cost effective. When considering the Hobbits Glen Clubhouse, whether to repair/upgrade or replace, the CA Board decided that a replacement made better economic sense. And so a new clubhouse was built. Similarly, the CA Board decided that a new Indoor Tennis facility was a better choice than trying to upgrade/maintain the existing Tennis Bubble. In the situation with the existing Swim Center, the CA Board came to the opposite conclusion; it would be better to repair/upgrade the existing Swim Center than build a new Swim Center.

Poor and Rich Psychology Pendulum

There is an old saying: it is easier to live from poor to rich and it is more difficult to live from rich to poor.  Many of us may just take many great things in the community for granted since the area has been on the rise and prosperous for a long time. Now, as CA has many old facilities which are competing for the limited resources for repair or renovation, we may face tough choices if the economy changes its directions.
One very simple example now is we don’t  have the leaf collection service. I am surprised that either CA or the county government do not provide such service since we are advocating for green neighborhood. The consequence is that we have piles and piles of leaves in the fall. I spent several hours to put those leaves in 20 bags. It will be much cheaper and convenient for many residents (especially for seniors) if CA or the county government sets a date and collects those leaves.  I talked about this problem among CA board members and CA staff and one reason we did not have it: the service is too expensive.

My Interview with Columbia Flier

This was published on Nov. 16, 2017. I was email interviewed by the reporter Mr. Andrew Michaels. He asked me the top ONE priority as a new school board member and I honestly just presented one point.

Here are what I believe important to the students, parents and the community:

  1. Motivate all students to learn and achieve their dream
  2. Expand learning opportunities for all students
  3. Have accountability and transparency in HCPSS. Just check the other news that 23M deficit from school health fund.

The online version is here:

As many can see under the candidate introduction, there is the news about $23M deficit from school health fund.  I talked about this problem long time ago and it is the exact example why we need transparency and accountability in HCPSS.

Final 2018 HCPSS School Redistricting

Final 2018 HCPSS School Redistricting

After this long summer and fall with the first feasibility study version, two Area Attendance Committee versions and the superintendent version, the final 2018 HCPSS School redistricting result is out tonight. After the vote, each board member and the superintendent Dr. Martirano shared their thoughts about the process and the result.

To find your polygon number and Final Adopted School Year 2018-19 Attendance Areas (each house is assigned a number( called polygon) and the school is attached with that number) at: ttp://

The original document is here But the polygon number is not there yet and it is hard to read. I will make sure the following polygon numbers are correct. Email me if you find inconsistency.

Elementary School Changes

Sending School          Receiving School      Polygon Number

Bellows Spring            Rockburn                     83,1083

Clements Crossing     Pointers Run               127

Deep Run                     ES #42                           30,1030,2030

Ducketts Lane             ES #42                          33,35,1035,1036,2035,4035

Rockburn ES               ES #42                          32,1032

Manor Woods            Triadelphia                   1171

Manor Woods            Waverly                        304

Manor Woods            West Friendship          171, 178, 179, 1178, 1179

Middle School Changes

Sending School             Receiving School           Polygon Number

Burleigh Manor             Mount View                       171

Harpers Choice             Wilde Lake                          66, 134, 1066, 1134, 2134

Lime Kiln                       Clarksville Middle              117, 118, 120, 123, 126, 127, 296, 1117, 1120, 1123, 1296

Mayfield Woods           Elkridge Landing                83,1083

Thomas Viaduct           Mayfield Woods                  82,2082

High School Changes:

The school uses Jump Start and  Direct Open Enrollment to alleviate the overcrowding schools.

Other Policy Changes:

  1. Allow students at Howard High School, Centennial High School, and Long Reach High School to enroll in the JumpStart Program at Oakland Mills High School or River Hill High School, and to also allow trailing siblings, who will share at least one year in the high school together to enroll at the school of their older sibling in the Jump Start Program. HCPSS will provide transportation through collector sites for the duration of the JumpStart program.
  2. Move that, as capacity allows at Oakland Mills High School or River Hill High School and after students and their siblings are enrolled in the JumpStart Program that students from Centennial High School, Howard High School, and Long Reach High School may apply for directed open enrollment to Oakland Mills High School or River Hill High School. HCPSS will provide transportation through collector sites for the duration of the JumpStart program.
  3. Move to direct the Superintendent to propose revisions to Policy 9000 to support the JumpStart Program, enrollment of siblings of students enrolled in the JumpStart Program, and directed open enrollment, for review on December 7, 2017.
  4. Move that parent(s) may request that their rising eighth grade student remain at their 2017/2018 middle school with transportation provided by parent(s). The parent(s) must apply using the Student Reassignment process as outlined in Policy 9000 Implementation Procedures, Section IV. Student Reassignment Initiated by Parents. Deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced.
  5. Move that parent(s) may request for their student with an Individualized Education Plan or Section 504 plan to remain at their current school until completion of that school level with transportation provided by parents. If transportation is included in the IEP or 504 plan transportation would continue to be provided by HCPSS. The parent must apply using the Student Reassignment process as outlined in Policy 9000 Implementation Procedures, Section IV. Student Reassignment Initiated by Parents. Deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced.
  6. Move that parent(s) who, as defined by Policy 9000, is/are currently active duty military personnel, may request for their student(s) to remain at their current school until completion of the school level, with transportation provided by parents. The parent(s) must apply using the Student Reassignment process as outlined in Policy 9000 Implementation Procedures, Section IV. Student Reassignment Initiated by Parents. Deadlines to request reassignment are to be announced.
  7. The board will continue discussion on the school redistricting if further changes are needed.