A tale of due diligence (with a lack of cooperation)
By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz
I have never met Ann Miller in person, but I have exchanged emails with her and I have read her columns in the Baltimore County Republican Examiner. She has always been cordial when I have requested information from her about educational issues.
Ann is a parent who has given a huge amount of time and effort to fighting Common Core and PARCC. Even with that being known, Governor Hogan appointed her to the Baltimore County Board of Education and she was sworn in last month for a three-year term. Before she could even be sworn in, there were complaints that she was too narrow minded to be on the school board and appeals to Governor Hogan to reconsider Miller’s appointment. While Miller has one child remaining in public schools, she also has one in a private school and homeschools a third.
It is to Governor Hogan’s credit that he did not rescind his appointment under pressure. Anyone who is a fan of board members actually doing due diligence in fulfilling their duties will be impressed with Ann. Although she did not become an official member until this past December, she has been requesting information about the budget and the inner workings of the Baltimore County schools for months since her appointment. (Miller was appointed several months before her term actually began.)
A key issue she faces right away is that Dr. Dallas Dance, the superintendent of the Baltimore County Public Schools, is up for a four-year contract renewal. Miller wanted to review his term carefully before agreeing Dance should serve for another four years, so she compiled a list of performance-related items for her review and requested them from the Baltimore County Public Schools. And her wait began.
Since BCPS has not responded to her requests for information, she has now asked for the information under the Maryland Public Information Act. Here is the link to see her letter and what information she is requesting. The Sun has also placed its spin on it, noting that Miller would not agree to an interview unless they published her full letter – the Sun refused.
This battle is of interest to every taxpayer and parent in Maryland. Should the school system be accountable to its board and its taxpayers by allowing oversight of the huge sums of money that are spent annually? Where is the transparency that our politicians speak of so glowingly? More importantly: why is a board member, who is appointed to a position of public trust and accountability, having to file a Maryland Public Information Act request to gain access to the budget and information pertaining to the superintendent’s performance?
Would that more of our school board members would rock the boat and demand information rather than just renewing contracts and letting the machine roll along.
You will want to keep an eye on Ann Miller and the BCPS because I suspect that we will be seeing more articles in the Baltimore Sun about her. She is angering all the right people.
Michael’s observations: I have met Ann Miller years ago, and besides our common background as Examiners, I have come to realize she is very passionate about her children and their education. It seems to me that many of these same sort of complaints were levied when John Palmer, who is a stickler for fiscal accountability, was appointed to Wicomico County’s Board of Education. Ironically, our county finds itself in a similar position except we will be appointing a new superintendent as Dr. John Fredericksen is stepping down.
It may look like an exhaustive list that Miller is requesting; however, the district has been aware of it for several months so there really is no excuse. What are they trying to hide?