Longtime readers of monoblogue may recall that, for years, one of the goals my cohorts and I on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee had was to change our county’s school board from all-appointed to all-elected. (Over the years I had a lot to say about the subject, such as this appeal to the public and this one to opponents.) And there were extremely good reasons for this.
At the time, Wicomico County was one of just a few counties in Maryland still relying on the appointment system, which was a convoluted process for us on those occasions where we had some input: because it was dictated that the party in the governor’s office would have four of the seven WCBOE seats and since turnover was so slow (as members served five-year terms) there were just a few years where we had the task while our friends on the Democrat Central Committee had the other years.
In order to facilitate the process when it was a Republican’s turn, the WCRCC would first find out if the board member could be re-appointed (since they were eligible to serve two terms, and often did – which was one reason turnover was slow.) I think there was only one time where we sought to appoint a non-incumbent in place of someone who could have been re-appointed, but assuming a new person was needed we would screen several applicants and send a name or two to the Secretary of Appointments – who would generally laugh and select the person our local elected officials in the General Assembly preferred (a person who didn’t necessarily go through our process.) It got to the point where the Democrats were demanding they get to interview “our” appointments because they were the ones who made the selection (at the time, Maryland was saddled with Martin O’Malley and his hand-picked Secretary of Appointments.) For all we know they did since it often wasn’t the person we chose who got appointed.
Of course, being in charge for many years meant the Democrats liked the process so they were the ones who resisted the change since it needed enabling legislation in the General Assembly. We had three giant roadblocks for the first eight years I was on the CC: Rick Pollitt (who was County Executive), and Delegates Rudy Cane and Norm Conway. Once all three of them were eliminated in the 2014 election, the process to finally getting an elected school board went very quickly and, despite a last-ditch effort by local Democrats to install a “hybrid” board of five elected and two appointees, the majority of voters in 2016 demanded an all-elected school board. (To his credit, our then-State Senator, Democrat Jim Mathias, was generally – if not necessarily completely – supportive to our efforts.)
Now I’m not going to lie to you and say the school board elections have turned out as I would have hoped, but the accountability is there and the system seems to work well – it was tested early with the sad passing of David Goslee, Sr., who was one of the loudest proponents of an elected school board (as a fellow member of the WCRCC) and barely (as in by ONE vote out of over 6,000 cast) won his seat in the first election – only to die in office shortly afterward. Interestingly enough, including Goslee, three of my former mates on the WCRCC were elected in the first school board balloting in 2018.
All that is a 500-plus word prologue to my main point: here in Delaware, they have long won the fight we waged for a decade or more in Wicomico, electing school boards for years. With that in mind, this May my district in Laurel has one of just two elections in the state where four participants are chasing one (open, since the incumbent chose not to seek re-election) seat. (The other one is in the Brandywine school district, which is much larger population-wise being on the northern outskirts of Wilmington hard by the PA line but has sub-districts. Ours is an at-large seat.) Out of 15 districts in Delaware having elections (a total of 20 elections, including sub-districts) there are just the two elections with four candidates, three with three, eight with two, and seven where just one person filed.
The one thing that I don’t like about Delaware’s system, though, is that it’s rather activist-proof: our five-member board only turns over one person at a time, so it would take three years for a correctly-minded majority to hold sway. Moreover, to make the most rapid reform, you have to win three elections in a row, which eliminates the element of surprise to opponents such as the teachers’ union. A gang election like Wicomico’s can be ambushed rather easily, but this can’t.
Since I voted over the summer in the 2020 rendition (which had three candidates, including the incumbent who lost) I also know this is a non-partisan election like Wicomico County’s school board election is.
My insider friend gave me the skinny on some of these candidates, and I’ve gleaned a little more from briefly scoping out social media.
The first to file was David B. Nichols. And I said to myself, “that name sounds familiar.” Reason being: a D. Brent Nichols ran last year and was the sole incumbent in the entire state to lose. After two terms, apparently voters had had enough but it seems he doesn’t agree – so he’s going to try and fool the voters into voting for new blood? (Honestly, I thought maybe this was his son or something.)
Next in line was Diane M. Snow, who my insider posited was a “come here” based on the phone number provided. It was another name that sounded vaguely familiar, and what stuck out at me in looking her up was her strong support for U.S. Senate candidate Lauren Witzke (presuming it’s the same person, of course.) If so, that is intriguing: I wonder how that translates into school-related issues?
Third is Ivy Bonk, who I was told was a former principal at a local Christian school, so that lends interest, too. I looked her up on LinkedIn and indeed, there is an Ivy Bonk fitting that description so I guess that’s her.
Last is Joseph Deiter, who my source didn’t know well enough to comment on. But a person with that name is on social media and it looks like he’s active as a youth coach.
I think what I’m looking for is a person who will carry a discussion of what public schools really should be. They should be strongly in favor of school choice and money following the child, even if it hurts the local school district in the short-term until they improve enough to compete with private schools and homeschooling. It wouldn’t bother me in the least if they were on the losing end of a lot of 4-1 votes this year so long as they are on the winning end of 3-2 votes two years hence – in other words, they have to be the tip of the spear.
And if that wasn’t enough, the town of Laurel has its own elections on March 25. (I don’t live within town limits, though, so I’m just an observer.) One interesting quirk about its election is that they have a separate registration, which is something they plan on addressing going forward. (In the meantime, anyone who lives in Laurel has until this Thursday to be registered.) Initially four positions were up for grabs, but since two of them only had one filing those lucky souls (both incumbents, by the way) win by acclamation. There is one Council seat (which appears to be an open seat with no incumbent) and the Mayor’s office, where the incumbent mayor has a challenger, still in contention so the whole town gets to vote. Let’s hope they do.