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As Long as We Remember...

August 27, 2009

School Board’s Myriad Problems

Joan Marie Aquilino

We are a few shows into the Board of Educations’ ‘Board Chat’ program. It's already been nicknamed “Bored Chat.” Why, isn't that rather mean, you might ask?


Well, to me it's not the topics; it's not the people. The fact that it's structured in one direction, and one direction only, makes for a boring show. There are no-fire-in-the-belly discussions ever going to happen under this format. They are all playing parts.


To only show the school board in a good and righteous light is a disservice. The taxpaying public is not a classroom and we don’t get detention if we dare to challenge. Stop already with call-in rules. Honestly, how out of control do they really think a caller could get? Hang up if it gets testy.


Board of Education, you claim the reason behind not televising all planning sessions is cost. Yet you redecorate the board hearing room on Church Street knowing full well you'd be leaving it for brand spanking new digs in a couple years? Spending one single cent on that room at that time was a blatant waste of taxpayer’s money. You can’t keep up on needed repairs until it’s too late, according to you, but you can pretty up your board room with all that it requires?


You purchase and then auction off unopened boxes of chairs and God only knows how many other supplies. Do you justify your budget by saying they are needed and then sell them off to spend that money elsewhere?


You talk about how wonderful it will be to have padded chairs in the new "Board Room," as if that is somehow going to improve the education of our children.


You are in control of a system that has how many auditoriums, cafeterias, theaters, etc., but you need another 150-plus seat room to hold meetings – in a downtown area where most attending will have to pay for parking. This logic completely escapes me. Goes along with the one where this building won't affect the children because it's taken out of a different account.


The perception is given that if the ‘worker bees’ (the school board’s term) are happy and comfortable, then it will make your child more educated. If I worked in a school building I’d be left wondering if teachers were the ‘worker bees.’ Without students, teachers aren’t needed and without teachers those ‘worker bees’ aren’t needed. So once again, who are the workers?


Gil House, the only caller to the latest show, put up factual resistance when the subject of parking decks was broached by a school board member. Seems the Board of Education thinks the City of Frederick owes them something for placing their Taj Mahal downtown. It seems they are expecting or ‘assuming’ some sort of break on parking fees. Mr. House noted that no one else downtown got breaks, so what would make the school board any different.


I couldn't believe it when I heard a school board member say that radio show hosts Bob Miller, Blaine Young and that awful WFMD were the problem. Last time, it was 'certain' columnists were the problem. Who’s next? They also don’t like their new building being called a Taj Mahal, or a castle. According to the school board spokesperson, the Taj Mahal is a tomb. All I can say to that is: Your point would be?


There would be nothing to point out if there weren't unanswered questions and questionable practices going on. The fault falls directly at the feet of the Board of Education. The buck stops with the elected members and makes their 'norms' even more damning. Each and every member needs the freedom to speak their own mind. Once again, I'll bring your attention to the Board of County Commissioners. Can you imagine if they were forced to be lock step with each other? Disagreements are not the same as being disagreeable. We need each and every school board member to have their own voice and use it – so the public can hear.


The Board of Education keeps reminding us that only 1/2 of their budget comes from the county. Exactly who do they think pays the other 1/2? Two pots, same taxpayers.


Moving on to redistricting. By the time you read this the Board of Education 'might' have made a final – never to be changed – decision. This constant flux isn’t good for anyone. And don’t tell me this new way isn’t pitting parent against parent, community against community.


I will put it right up front. I don't envy anyone doing redistricting. I've done or been part of more than my share in chairing, facilitating, and being a member under the old system. I also think Ray Barnes, et al, have done their level best to accommodate all the school board’s never ending wishes.


It sucks to have your child in one school one year and in another the next; but it could happen. It is the school board’s responsibility to make sure all who register in this system are aware of its rules. I, more than most, understand the logistics of a redistricting, but this one is out of control. With this many students being affected, this should have been the time for a countywide redistricting. Get your priorities straight and get this thing done. Use some common sense and logic. Sending children from a school within walking distance to another one miles away is using neither. Can't even believe that was ever on the table and now the school board is a hero for recognizing it ……finally. Get Real!


Last, but not least, we were just notified that the state will be taking another $10-plus million from Frederick County and who knows when or if this will be the end. Please think about this. When everyone is making cuts, layoffs and furloughs, how is it the Board of Education escapes the cutting room floor? Their enrollment went down; their budget went up! If anyone has an answer that justifies their actions, please fill the rest of us in on the secret. Over inflating and then cutting back from there is not an answer.


Never stop questioning.


…’til next time . . . Keep those Letters to The Editor coming


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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