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April 29, 2011

Mr. Young Begs to Differ

Norman M. Covert

(Editor’s Note: Mr. Covert provides this as follow-up to the commentary, “Getting What We Ask For,” published here April 20. It quotes from the personal Facebook™ message to the author, who was given permission to share its contents.)


Brad W. Young says selection of Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendant-designate Dr. Theresa R. Alban is fulfillment of the campaign promises of Board of Education newbies, who were certain the education budget had met its match in their election.


“And yes,” Mr. Young wrote, “we held to election promises on (Dr. Alban’s contract) cutting out a bonus, reducing paid leave, reducing the annuity amount and not allowing cash-out of leave during employment. Her contract is $90,000 less than… (Dr. Linda Burgee’s) with benefits not a wash,” Mr. Young said.


We are not convinced.


Dr. Alban has impressive credentials, as we wrote, and comes to Frederick charged with fixing the FCPS budget. She was dollars-and-cents guru for Howard County Public Schools (HCPS). She may indeed be the right person for the job at this particular time.


Dr. Burgee’s strength is education. She was FCPS assistant superintendent, managing our 36 elementary schools, when Dr. Jack Dale resigned to accept the job he still holds in Fairfax County, VA. A nationwide search was suspended when the school board determined it would be in good hands with Dr. Burgee.


The question remains about the imperative of this Board of Education: can it maintain our impressive education program with the realities of bare bones budgeting?


“As far as Dr. Alban, I am not hoping,” Mr. Young asserted, “I know she will do a great job.”


He cited her “depth and breadth of experience…she is the most qualified superintendent we have had with starting experience.”


Mr. Young said 27 applicants “from many great school districts” were considered for the job, adding the consultant claimed BOE [Board of Education] and the process “was one of the best…they had ever done.”


We were hopeful that Dr. Alban, as protégé of Mr. Young, will enjoy a cooperative work environment. The situation is dependent on the vagaries of professional relationships between her policy makers and “reviewers.”


The school board was fully within its charter to virtually relieve Dr. Burgee in December and assume management of FCPS.


The FCPS website says: “The Board hires and reviews the work of the Superintendent, monitors implementation of the school system’s master plan and gives final approval to curriculum matters and materials, staff appointments, equipment purchases, land acquisitions, and school construction, renovations and repairs.


The school board took a black eye when it ignored safety considerations, forcing Dr. Burgee to drive a marked FCPS vehicle. The intent may not have been to embarrass Dr. Burgee, but it was a power play making her vulnerable to threats of bodily harm.


Mr. Young wrote: “She has no decal on her car because we changed her to car allowance.”


No doubt, Dr. Burgee took the initiative, turning in her FCPS vehicle. It was a wise choice to drive her private vehicle and bill FCPS for mileage and expenses.


The national economic disaster has hit FCPS hard. Federal and state dollar income remains unpredictable for now and the immediate future.


“You say the budget is no better off,” Mr. Young wrote, “and that is far from the truth. Our budget was balanced for the earliest time in 35 years and the first in the state.


“With it being balanced many wastes were cut…over ($)14 million was put into OPEB (retiree health care fund), which previous boards neglected to do. We closed the print shop and made many tough choices and many more will be made.


“We also included for the first time money for technology, which the previous board budgeted zero.”


Technology dollars were cut two years ago attempting to find solutions for the budget crunch they knew was coming.


“Previous boards have left us in bad financial shape,” he said, “and we are working hard to correct that. But with no funding authority we are at the mercy of the state and county for our building funds.”


Mr. Young was virtual standard bearer for the Board of Education candidates of “change,” a visibility that grew from his public embarrassment at being disciplined by Dr. Burgee. He maintains the experience did motivate his candidacy, but no personal malice was involved.


His comments “only voiced my displeasure about how poorly my situation was handled.”


Mr. Young was initially fired as coach of the Walkersville High School girls’ softball team over an incident in which alcoholic beverages were brought to Mr. Young’s home. He was hosting an informal team family cookout, after which another parent complained. Dr. Burgee essentially commuted the firing to a three-game suspension, but many complained the process took too long.


He agreed that Dr. Burgee “has been treated badly…unfortunately so will (Dr. Alban) when she starts (July 1). Today it’s the nature of the beast in that position, that’s why they usually last 5-7 years.”


Mr. Young is respected throughout Frederick. He earned that honorific because of strong community involvement, acumen as a financial advisor, fellow Rotarian and former president of the Frederick Community College (FCC) board. The selection of Dr. Carol Eaton as FCC president is a feather in his recruiting cap.


“Times have changed on the board for the better,” he said. “Its amazing the older board members that now see things in a new light voted 7-0 for every major thing that I wanted to get passed this spring.


“There is a ton to like about FCPS,” Mr. Young advised, “but articles like yours certainly do not help or spotlight that.”


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