Critical of the process?

Don’t look now, but the critics are out again.

I was looking through social media and my friend Jackie Wellfonder linked to this Daily Times article from writer Phil Davis. While he correctly notes that the Wicomico County Republican Party appointed two new members to the board, there was less emphasis on the third member added back to the body as Democrat Donald Fitzgerald was reappointed. The GOP didn’t have that option because one of the three vacant seats was that of Larry Dodd, who was elected to County Council and resigned his post mid-term, another was ceded by the Democrats upon the election of Larry Hogan, and the third turned out to be a reappointment of Fitzgerald.

But some forgot that elections do matter. “Tea Party Governor appoints Tea Party person that was hand picked by Tea Party County Executive. I think that about sums it up,” said local Democratic activist Chuck Cook.

“Democrats don’t appoint Tea Party people who want to destroy education,” he added later.

Naturally I had to respond:

You say TEA Party like it’s a bad thing. The Central Committee was looking for people who would bring accountability and discipline to the board.

I suppose not giving the teachers everything they want and then some is considered to be hating kids. How about “money follows the child” and call it a day?

As I have noted on numerous occasions, though, my preference would be for actual voters to determine who sits on the school board. That was an angle another observer had when she learned who was appointed:

I would like to thank our local Republicans for convincing me that maybe an elected School Board is the way to go. The latest appointment has me thinking they obviously aren’t up to the task.

We’ll take ’em by hook or by crook.

Since Joe Ollinger is a known quantity who ran for County Executive in 2010, I’m going out on a limb and guessing the objections center around John Palmer, who has been a longtime advocate for fiscal accountability in the county.

But seriously, if you consider the problem to be the people who want to make the Wicomico County Board of Education become leaner and more accountable for the $190 million of our tax dollars (federal, state, and local) that they will spend in FY 2016 – well, I’m glad we send our child to a Christian school. Too bad I still have to pay some of the other freight, though.

And I have some news for the critics: guess who gets to make the next two appointments? Why, it’s the Wicomico County Republican Party you know and love!

Now. they will have the option of re-appointing the two Republicans already on the board (Carolyn Elmore and Kim Hudson) but something tells me a lot of the sentiment toward granting them another term will come from seeing just how well they work and play with the two new Republicans on the WCBOE. Remember, there’s nothing that says that once appointed a member is automatically re-appointed, and it bears noting that the local Republicans played a much smaller role in the process when Elmore and Hudson were appointed – in fact, I seem to recall that the local Democrats wanted the Republican aspirants to interview with them because they controlled the process at the time. Imagine the caterwauling the GOP would have received in the local media if we played that card with the Democrats’ seat, with Chuck Cook screaming the loudest.

I don’t know if either Elmore or Hudson went to speak with the Democrats, but the WCRCC did not interview Kim Hudson. She submitted her name separately when the vacancy she filled came up – Hudson is finishing an unexpired term brought about by the 2012 resignation of Michelle Wright.

(This is the great thing about being the WCRCC secretary – I have the minutes of the meetings. We interviewed six great people for the Wright opening and Hudson was not one of them.)

So there will be some interesting times over the next year insofar as the Wicomico County Board of Education goes. I am very sure the most recent appointees will be the subject of some testimony whenever the county gets around to scheduling its hearings regarding an elected school board, which was on their agenda Tuesday. Just remember: the ones who are complaining about the “TEA Party” choices are among those who thwarted the idea of an elected school board for the better part of a decade.

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.

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