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The Tentacle


May 16, 2012

Mend The Fences First

Norman M. Covert

Past school board president Brad Young and I have disagreed in the past, but I don't believe it affected our collegial relationship. However, he was miffed at what he described as my “poorly written article” about Frederick County Public Schools which appeared here last Wednesday.

 

I’m sorry for his chagrin.

 

My column describing backroom personnel changes in the school system got his hackles up. He objected to my allegation of a heavy hand used by new superintendent, Dr. Theresa Alban, in putting her stamp on the administration. She has the authority to rearrange the deck chairs.

 

Mr. Young groused on Facebook® that if “Norm would get his feelings out of the way and look at facts, he might write a more meaningful article....”

 

I’m sorry that I use experience, instinct, ears and lying eyes to form my position on issues. His was the minority opinion on the article with others offering “A’s” and one “A-minus” for content and presentation. Mr. Young used a qualifier in his objection asserting Dr. Alban did not dismiss any of former Superintendent Linda Burgee’s “SENIOR staff (emphasis added).”

 

I am guilty of using a “generalization” about internal changes which he could and did nitpick. However, protecting names of affected employees was an editorial decision. My comment on Facebook was brief, admitting he and I “disagree again” and that my opinion was “business, not personal.”

 

Mr. Young may not have been aware that Dr. Alban was said to have followed her termination order of one employee by saying she knew this would cause public humiliation, but she would try to prevent it. The employee was reportedly non-plussed.

 

He cited one personnel change, giving kudos to Dr. Alban for promoting Steve Lockard to deputy superintendent. Mr. Young may not have been aware that other changes were about to be announced; he apparently wasn’t on the coordination list for the press release.

 

The weekly Gazette’s Thursday edition carried that warm and supportive account of Dr. Alban’s reorganization at Frederick County Public Schools, exceeding Mr. Young’s explanation. It was like a White House Friday news drop, hoping no one would really notice. If the Daily Blather had the story, I missed it.

 

Mr. Young also wrote in his comment that “the policies of former administrations and state regulations have led us here, not Dr. Alban or this board!”

 

Many people tell me they have never seen such a divisive atmosphere within the school board, within the school system and now with the candidates vying for votes in the November election of three board positions.

 

Cindy Stickline-Rose, an unsuccessful school board candidate in the April primary, (and fellow columnist for TheTentacle.com) started a Facebook group to provide a give-and-take discussion opportunity for school system issues. It also provides candidates a public forum to go on the record.

 

I’m probably going into the “Valley of the shadow…” to even talk about it, but on-line discussion among these well meaning candidates and their supporters has become a name calling, hair pulling, war of words; a cat fight, as it were.

 

Only the most curious of county voters and political gadflies are privy to this shrieking social media round table. Attempting to maintain meaningful dialogue is Ms. Rose’s challenge.

 

Several other local Facebook sites are filled with less than erudite commentary about schools; the promising county charter; natural gas transfer station in Myersville; proposed waste-to-energy plant; proposed $100 county tax rebate; support to non-profits; and advertising on Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young’s radio call-in show.

 

When did it become socially acceptable to use what amounts to the “Yo’ mamma smack down,” technique of daily comics character Big Nate? This creation of cartoonist Lincoln Peirce is champion of school hallway duels when not serving detention. Last week Nate laughed, telling his nemesis Gina, “Yo mamma is so hairy she braids her elbows!”

 

That level of debate, one could opine, is the equivalent of the caliber of political discourse here.

 

Here’s hoping for a return to cordiality and professionalism among our county overseers, educators and school board candidates. We need to mend some fences before we can embrace Mr. Young’s and Dr. Alban’s vision for county schools.

 



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