McDermott urges elected school board action

As do I…

On March 15th, 2012, the House Ways and Means Committee heard HB 966 – Wicomico County – Board of Education – Selection of Members – Straw Ballot. This bill, sponsored by Delegate Michael A. McDermott (Worcester and Wicomico Counties), would simply allow the people of Wicomico County to voice their opinions about the selection method of the members on the Wicomico County Board of Education. It proposes a non-binding referendum that would ask whether voters favor changing the selection method of school board members from being appointed by the Governor to a direct election by county voters.

What has happened since the hearing on March 15th? Absolutely nothing. In response to this, Delegate McDermott is asking the citizens of Wicomico County to urge the Ways and Means Committee Members to vote on this bill. In particular, please contact the Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman:

Delegate Sheila E. Hixson

Phone Number: 410-841-3469 or 301-858-3469 or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3469

Address: Room 131, House Office Building, Annapolis, MD 21401-1912

E-mail: sheila.hixson.annapolis@house.state.md.us

Fax: (410) 841-3777, (301) 858-3777

Delegate McDermott is also asking the citizens of Wicomico County to contact the members of the Wicomico County Delegation who did not support this bill:

Delegate Norman Conway

Phone Number: 410-841-3407 or 301-858-3407 or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3407

Address: Room 121, House Office Building, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

E-mail: norman.conway@house.state.md.us

Fax: (410) 841-3416, (301) 858-3416

Delegate Rudolph Cane

Phone Number: 410- 841-3427 or 301-858-3427 or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3427

Address: Room 364, House Office Building, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

E-mail: rudolph.cane@house.state.md.us

Fax: (410) 841-3780 or (301) 858-3780

If the people of Wicomico County want the right to simply ask a question at the ballot box, they must act now!

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a very successful year for those in the four counties who are still saddled with appointed school boards to make headway on the problem. While some of these bills are looking for more than a straw ballot, neither the one bill regarding the Baltimore City Schools nor a plethora of seven bills which would affect the composition of the Anne Arundel County board have gained anymore traction than the Wicomico County effort. In fact, two of the Senate bills for Anne Arundel County were killed in committee.¬†Moreover, it’s also worth pointing out that the latest successes have been only to secure a partially-appointed, partially-elected “hybrid” board, which means the state still has their fingers in the local pie in those counties.

But there is one bill which has cleared the House, a bill which would change Baltimore County’s school board from a 12-person board appointed by the Governor to a 10-person board elected by district. So it can be done.

There are key differences between the Baltimore County effort and ours, though. One key distinction is that the sponsorship is bipartisan, under the Baltimore County delegation. This is why the lack of local Democratic support this year is hurting us – bear in mind all of our delegation was on board last year, but Rudy Cane and Norm Conway instead decided to listen to a tiny minority who was worried their outsized power would be eroded. (Interestingly, Cane was for the Baltimore County bill while Conway did not vote in a 124-8 tally.)

In essence, there are three (perhaps four) people holding up the opportunity to allow our voices to be heard. One is County Executive Rick Pollitt, who insists on ridiculous demands that we pony up thousands of signatures to express our support when it could be done much more easily through a straw ballot.

The second pair are Delegates Cane and Conway, who refused to get behind this bill and perhaps are convincing the fourth (Delegate Sheila Hixson) to not pull it out of her desk drawer so her committee can vote on it. Most likely it would pass the committee (and for that matter, the General Assembly) without a problem.

We have talked about this issue for at least a decade, and it’s time to get it resolved. And it may be worthwhile to impress on our local recalcitrant delegation that this could appear now, when they are not on the ballot, or it can appear on the ballot on 2014 when they’re presumably running for re-election. It’s their call, because we won’t forget who is holding up this process.

One thought on “McDermott urges elected school board action”

  1. Next time all four counties should work together.

    In Baltimore County it was Keven Kamenetz, County Executive, who spiked the hybrid school board bill. (We wanted 100% elected board but had to settle for “half a loaf” to get House approval. Kamenetz and Shelia Hixon, Chairperson of Ways & Means Committee, Democrat, Montgomery County, are on our “Do Not Reelect list”.

    Interestingly, we now have a support group of Montgomery County school activists. I only learned about them late in the session when they reached out to us and joined our efforts to ask Hixon to allow a committee vote. Harford County, which switched from appointed to elected board only last year (I may be wrong. However, it was recently.) also tried to help us. Interestingly, Senator J B Jennings, (R) representing a district which straddles the Harford-Baltimore County line was one of our staunchest supporters, along with bill sponsor Senator Bobby Zirkin (D). I don’t know who supported us from Anne Arundel County, Wicomico County and Baltimore City. However, I’m sure they did.

    I was late to the effort this year. Next year I will try to pull us all together. (I’m not an administrator. Someone else should be our leader and each county should have a sub group with their own leader. Coordinating our efforts can’t hurt.
    It was another revolutionary (Benjamin Franklin) who wrote, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”-In the Continental Congress just before signing the Declaration of Independence, 1776. Best to us all.

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