With the resignation of Michelle Wright from the Wicomico County Board of Education effective June 30, it became incumbent upon us as a Central Committee to select her replacement. Fortunately, we had six well-qualified candidates who stepped up to the plate and turned in their applications to replace her.
Now I can’t speak for the committee as a whole, but among the things I was personally looking for was someone who would be a fiscal watchdog and who didn’t take kindly to those who say things have to be done a certain way “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Luckily, we submitted the names of a trio who I believe will fit that bill and I’m pleased to say the overwhelming majority of the rest of the group felt the same way about all three.
We selected the following three applicants, listed in alphabetical order:
Cathy Keim would bring a unique perspective to the role because she knows how to educate children as a homeschooling parent. And you really can’t argue with the success she’s had, since four out of five of her children have at least a bachelor’s degree and the other is currently pursuing one. Three have master’s degrees and one has obtained his doctorate. She’s proof that providing a quality education is not just about money, and that’s a viewpoint this board sorely needs now.
Marc Kilmer is a Senior Fellow with The Maryland Public Policy Institute, which is a reform-minded group when it comes to education. He’s also involved in local government as a member of the Charter Review Committee and, more importantly, a parent to a young child who will soon be of school age. With a background in shaping policy through questioning what works with current rules and – more importantly – what doesn’t, we believed Kilmer would be an excellent addition to the Board of Education because he could better advocate for needed change at higher levels from the inside if selected.
While our other two nominees come from outside the world of education, Ann Suthowski was a teacher for over thirty years and has been active in the Salisbury community for decades. Having worked with her on the Central Committee for a couple years now, I can guarantee you she won’t be shy about making her opinions known. More importantly, she knows enough people in the local educational community that she shouldn’t have a learning curve if selected.
In short, we sent three who we believed were well-qualified applicants in special and unique ways to the governor’s office. Whether any of them will be selected is anyone’s guess.
Obviously this once again brings up the question of an elected school board. We had the privilege of sitting and listening to a total of six applicants who brought their own ideas and experiences to the table in an effort to obtain a seat that none of them may get. All the eight of us who voted on the matter (Suthowski did not participate in the balloting) did was, in a sense, a primary election. Even more frightening is that there’s really one vote on the final ballot, and that’s the governor through his Secretary of Appointments – the same woman who gave us our state’s gerrymandering.
And while it’s true we actually got our wish in the last go-round, the circumstances were much different because Michelle Wright was seeking reappointment and who could say no to Carolyn Elmore, the widow of the late Delegate? Moreover, it’s my understanding that the Democrats have vacancies on their side as well. But who says their nominees will be as qualified as ours are? For all we know they could be absolute political hacks, but it won’t be up to the people to make that decision – instead, it will be a small group of insiders in both Salisbury and Annapolis who decides the composition of a body which controls nearly $170 million when all sources are considered. That, my friends, is just wrong.
While I enjoy serving on the Central Committee, I would not mind having my load lightened by taking the decision of who to nominate for these open positions taken out of my hands (and more importantly the hands of the governor, regardless of which party he or she represents) and placed among the people where it rightfully belongs. We believe we got the choices right, but I’d also put my faith in the people of this county to make a wise choice as well and create a position where accountability is both possible and required.