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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


Advertise on the Tentacle

December 19, 2011

More fiddlers amidst the fire

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

So, the Frederick County Board of Education cannot decide who should serve a one year term as President. Big deal.


It's amazing the stuff we bother ourselves with; even more amazing why we do it. For the next month, the Board of Education members, news reporters and call-in radio programs will be fretting over the identity of the person chosen to serve a term on a board that really doesn't alter the course of human history.


What does the president of the school board really do that's any different than a regular member? Nothing.


Other than acquiescing to the will of the superintendent when it comes to setting the school board agenda and running public meetings (sort of), the president of the school board gets to call himself/herself president. That's about it.


You'd think a school board would have plenty of meat on the plate. Issues like spiraling costs, dilapidated buildings, complex labor negotiations, a new superintendent and long-standing allegations of a bloated bureaucracy.


Instead, we're worrying about who will preside at meetings.


So, how did we get here? As usual, it all depends on whom you ask.


Political gadfly and all-too-frequent guest on WFMD/am 930 radio programs, Bill Ashton, Frederick's self-appointed watchdog, has the answer. Don't believe it? Just ask him.


Mr. Ashton fulfilled his civic duty to the Board of Education by standing up during their public meeting to suggest that Brad Young should not serve a second one-year term in this relatively meaningless job. Bill tells us that Mr. Young had made a political promise to fellow board member Donna Crook that he was only interested in one term, and then she could have a turn.


The first temptation is to insert a Roscoe Bartlett term-limit promise joke.


At Roscoe's rate, Brad will serve as school board president until the second coming.


The second temptation is to make a crack about politicians not keeping their promises. Brad Young won't be the first – or last – political type to change their mind and renege on a political commitment.


Next, isn't it a little disconcerting that our elected school board members are secretly negotiating behind the scenes to resolve the future leadership question?


What happened to the good old secret ballot thing, anyway?


Finally, do we really need Bill Ashton to be the conscience of the Board of Ed? Really?


Bill's a good guy with a big heart. Maybe a little too interested in the details of governance; but, as he'd point out, somebody has to be. I've had my own entanglements with him, but I got more tired of him than he did of me, and Brunswick is – thankfully – outside his sphere of influence.


Mrs. Crook has a problem in that half the board wouldn't support her under any circumstance. She was the thorn in the side of the last board, which also included Jean Smith, Katie Groth and Angie Fish. Jean, Katie and Angie wouldn't vote for Donna on a dare, and Donna knows it.


So, maybe Bill is right. Maybe Brad and Donna had cooked a third-world style political succession plan for this relatively meaningless position. Maybe Brad did pull the rug out from under Donna and surprise her with the decision.


Donna's problem is that no one nominated her either. Had another board member, any one of them, offered her name in nomination for the position, then this would be a big time story. As it is, the story fizzles out because the only consequence is a betrayed political promise.


Sure, some will claim that this act calls into questions Brad Young's honor and integrity. Unfortunately, we know Brad Young. The same guy who, as the coach of the Walkersville girls' softball team, was targeted by the last school administration for allowing parents to consume alcohol at an end-of-season party.


Brad Young pursued a remedy that involved the whole Walkersville community; in fact, people all over Frederick County rushed to his aid. His election wasn't a victory; it was a landslide.


Next to his younger brother and current Board of County Commissioners President Blaine, Brad Young is arguably one of the most popular elected officials in Frederick County.


This isn't even about his leadership. Mr. Young has apparently been an effective member of the school board and seems to conduct the board meetings with a professional and productive demeanor.


This is really a behind-the-curtain, bare knuckles political fight and is as much about bad history as it is anything else.


The former Board of Education members still serving don't like Donna Crook. In fact, Jean Smith and Katie Groth have bad history with Donna going back a decade. Both Jean and Katie come from the perspective of school system and union advocacy, where Donna ran and serves as a populist. During the last term, Donna was almost always the odd man out in controversial votes.


Ms. Fish, while not having been around as long as Donna, was on the board long enough to build up resentment over Donna's outsider perspective on big issues.


April Miller and Jimmy Reeder were swept into office alongside Brad Young, part of a reform movement that really caught hold in the last election. The two of them owe Brad a debt of allegiance, and it appears that they intend to repay it in full.


So, now, Katie Groth holds the cards. She missed the vote, but it doesn't take Nostradamus to predict the final tally. She will join the pro-Angie movement, so with Angie, Jean and Donna, it looks as though Ms. Fish will be the next school board president.


She promises to only serve one year, as she doesn't plan to run for re-election next year.


Maybe she'll change her mind.


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The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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