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January 10, 2007

The Same Old Fabrications

Maude Franceschina

Why am I no longer writing for The Frederick News Post? I'd tell you, but the new executive editor terminated my contract without the courtesy of a reason.

I guess I should have seen that coming when the editors sent one of my "opinion" pieces to a Baltimore lawyer to be rewritten. He missed my deadline; the column never ran.

I simply disappeared; just another conservative casualty of the liberal mainstream media.

The Frederick News Post is obviously taking a new direction, as evidenced by the front page article on Kwanzaa, which ran on December 26. The picture was, of course, staged since Kwanzaa actually began on the 26th. There are easily many more Christians of varying ethnic backgrounds in Frederick County than those celebrating the artificial holiday, "Kwanzaa."

Come to think of it, there was no "Happy New Year" to the subscribers either. Maybe in the future only made up, divisive holidays will receive recognition by our local paper. Doesn't a newspaper typically report the news of what happened the previous day? Do you think the News Post could have run a Christmas photo on the 26th, maybe visited a nursing home and taken a picture of a resident with a tree? Christmas 2006 was skipped on the front page of our local daily newspaper.

That is not part of the "new direction" for the News Post, I guess. Neither is spell check for the front page headlines, but I digress.

During my time there, the only criticism I ever received from the editors was that "it seems personal" when I wrote about issues of ethics or actions involving Frederick County Public Schools and/or the Board of Education.

You betcha' it's personal; it should be personal to every resident of Frederick County whether they have children in the school system or not.

As a parent, I have been very pleased with the school-level teachers and administrators with whom I have had contact. In my ideal plan, they would be in charge and direct the administration. I have great reservations, however, about the central administration of Frederick County Public Schools, a working example of the "Peter Principle."

Consider the following:

While our superintendent, Linda Burgee, claims our county system has one of the lowest administrative costs in the entire state, the facts say otherwise.

According to the recent publication by The Maryland Public Policy Institute, "Maryland, A Guide to the Issues," Frederick County ranks as one of the five highest administrative growth spending districts.

The publication compared instructional versus administrative spending increases comparing the periods 1996-97 and 2003-2004. The change in real instructional spending per pupil was an increase of 19.4%. However, the increase in real administrative spending in Frederick County for the same period was more than double that at 41.3%.

How can Ms. Burgee then claim that Frederick County is one of the lowest administrative cost counties in Maryland? It's simple; it's a numbers game. Select the total administrative cost you would like to reach, and then include in the comparison only those central office salaries that will stay within the selected range. For instance, Daniel Cunningham, the deputy superintendent, in not included in the "administrative salaries" number used by Ms. Burgee's office when reporting figures to the public.

Is she allowed to do this? Yes! Is it right? I'll let you be the judge of that.

FCPS, through our Board of Education, is currently spending over half a billion dollars a year. Most voters elect members to the Board of Education without really understanding the job. Currently the job is to suck up all of the county tax dollars they can get without regard to the real impact on our communities. They spend money like water, which is also not an unlimited resource in this area.

At the last joint meeting of the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education, which took place on December 12, Mike Schaden, then president of the Board of Education, said the board "does not negotiate with developers." Later in the same meeting it was revealed that the board would be holding a closed session the following day (December 13) to discuss the "draft agreement" with Land Stewards.

Okay, here is the fine detail that Mr. Schaden bases his statement on: the school board actually meets with the lawyers, who then meet with the developer and report back. This process has been going on according to the News Post article by Sarah Breitenbach (December 13) "for the last several months in closed sessions." In my world, that's negotiation.

Since the meetings involve "counsel," to whom the board is looking for advice, they can be closed to the public. How about inviting counsel to every meeting and taking advice on what to order for lunch? Just close them all! I'd better be careful here; I might just give them ideas.

Land Stewards would like to get the go ahead to build thousands of homes in the New Market area. Unfortunately for them, the schools are already severely overcrowded. Fortunately for them, few of the Board of Education members even fully understand the problem.

What I ask for is simple: open and fiscally responsible government, plus accurate reporting of information to the public. With Frederick County Public Schools, which has The Frederick News Post in its pocket, we have neither; but we should demand both.

I am honored to join, Frederick County's first choice for commentary on the news of the day, where one is still free to express an opinion that is their own.

Contact Ms. Franceschina at

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