Restating the case for an elected Wicomico Board of Education

As you may or may not be aware, our illustrious Secretary of Appointments went off the board once again and chose a Republican member of the Wicomico County Board of Education, one whom we didn’t screen. After sending up the names of three people who we deemed qualified to lead the WCBOE in a proper direction, they chose someone who will be a “yes person” instead.

On Thursday the Wicomico County GOP put out a somewhat lengthy press release, signed by all nine members:

The Wicomico County Republican Central Committee is deeply concerned that the State of Maryland is increasingly seizing control of Wicomico County Schools and ignoring the wishes of Wicomico citizens. Let’s look at a few recent developments.

During the recent General Assembly Session the State decided it can now dictate how much Wicomico County will spend on its schools, regardless of how much our elected Wicomico County Council believes we can afford. If the Council disagrees with the State, the State will simply bypass the county’s General Fund and send money directly to the Wicomico Board of Education.

The members of the Board of Education are appointed by Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley. As a consequence, approximately half of the County budget is controlled by individuals who are not directly accountable to the citizens of the County.

For decades Republican and Democratic applicants for the Board of Education submitted applications to their respective County Central Committees.  The Central Committees interviewed their applicants, and submitted their recommendations to the Governor. Yet this tradition has been circumvented by Governor O’Malley, who has regularly ignored recommendations from the Republican Central Committee. Worse, last year we learned the Democratic Central Committee was interviewing and recommending Republican applicants!

Earlier this year the Republican Central Committee vetted six individuals for a school board opening and recommended three well-qualified individuals to the Governor.  Kim Hudson wasn’t among our choices, nor did she even submit her name to us for consideration. Instead, Martin O’Malley completely ignored the local input he received. Unbelievably, two people from the governor’s appointments office, who may or may not have ever set foot in our county, conducted telephone interviews with the applicants – and that was the extent of the evaluation process.

It is this complete lack of local input that showcases the absolute imperative for a locally elected school board. The Wicomico County School Board should be directly accountable to the citizens of the county, not to the Governor! Will Annapolis attempt next to decide who should be our Sheriff, our State’s Attorney, or even the members of County Council?

We do not believe the Governor should be making these educational decisions, nor should the political parties’ Central Committees. We believe the citizens of Wicomico County deserve an opportunity to vote in a referendum to determine whether we want to remain one of the few Maryland counties with a Board of Education appointed by the Governor, or if we want to have a Board of Education with elected members. Our Virginia neighbors in Northampton County will have their referendum on this very issue on November 6, but the citizens of Wicomico County will not. Why?

As it stands now, Norm Conway, Rudy Cane, and Rick Pollitt believe our Governor and faceless interviewers can make better decisions than Wicomico citizens regarding the education of Wicomico County’s children. For the past two Legislative Sessions, these individuals and the Maryland Democratic Party have deliberately prevented Wicomico County from conducting such a referendum.

It’s long past time for the people of Wicomico County to rise up and condemn this misuse of political power. The people of Wicomico County need to tell these politicians to stand aside and let the people discuss, debate, and then decide the best course of action for our county.

A referendum to determine what the citizens desire is but the first step in the process. Each of us should ask why the Democrats are opposed to the citizens of our county making such a choice.

(Signed by all nine members of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.)

So that’s the “official” response, to which I’m going to add my two cents. First of all, as a press release, this was way too long – it should have been one page. But the points made are still valid.

Of all the Republicans who could have been selected to the Wicomico County Board of Education, practically the last one we needed was the co-founder of that collective group of spoiled brats who bill themselves “Parents in Action.” It’s like handing the WCBOE a blank check and saying, “here you go…we really don’t care what the results of the spending are because all that is wrong with the county’s schools can be magically solved with new, vastly expensive buildings.” If you protest otherwise, you’re branded as being anti-child; they screech “but we can’t draw business without a great quality of life and school system!”

Okay, I’ll bite. Which building will you let fall apart next? Let another one go to pot and the state will help us build a replacement, right? If I’m wrong, prove it by creating a leaner school system and a plan to get the most use out of our educational infrastructure. I’m aware the state won’t pay for renovations but state dollars are still money out of our collective pockets.

But enough about Hudson, what’s done is done. I’m sure she was set hip to the mindset of the Republican Central Committee, which was looking for more of a leader and watchdog on the WCBOE. So she – and apparently a number of others – went on their own through the process, eschewing the established tradition. Obviously for her it paid off; meanwhile the Democrats went ahead and reappointed their previous nominees. Except for the two recently reappointed, the other five are eligible for a second term once their time is up.

We may go through the process next year on our end because the next member whose term expires is Larry Dodd, a Republican appointed in 2008. (I don’t recall if he was one of our choices; John Bartkovich ran the party differently back then.) And it’s more than likely Dodd would be reappointed even if we sent other names to the governor for consideration. If you didn’t like the job he did, well, that’s just too bad. The same goes for the other five on the school board whose terms expire between now and 2016. Just as the rest of the Central Committee, I would rather see the people decide.

Yes, we may have gotten a Kim Hudson because she has a free bully pulpit in the Daily Times. But perhaps our three nominees would have joined her on the WCBOE to push it in a more proper direction. We won’t know, though, until the state gives us the chance to find out. Three people stand in the way of thousands.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

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