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July 26, 2012

Complete Abrogation of Its Responsibilities

Blaine R. Young

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to tour the outside of the newly renovated Lincoln Elementary – on my own. Most everyone knows this school, once known as South Frederick Elementary, is located just south of downtown Frederick. As one of our older schools, Lincoln was badly in need of renovation.


So, thanks to $30 million of taxpayer money, we have a brand spanking new Lincoln of which we can be proud. In my mind, this was money well spent. The attitude of the current Board of County Commissioners in allocating scarce tax dollars to renovating old, rundown schools and constructing new schools has been evident since the day it took office and is demonstrated by its commitment to accelerate funding for the upgrade of Oakdale Elementary and the replacement of North Frederick Elementary.


But – what I was shocked to learn is that when this beautiful, renovated school opens in August, it will do so at 73% capacity. That’s right, after spending $30 million to renovate a school, the majority of our Frederick County Board of Education is too scared to hold redistricting hearings which would be necessary to ensure that the taxpayers get the full benefit of this very expensive facility. The timeframe and opening of Lincoln Elementary has not been a secret.


I cannot, for the life of me, understand how any member of the Board of Education can, in good conscience, continue to lobby for more state and county tax dollars while at the same time refusing to take a simple step to make sure that we are fully utilizing the resources we already have.


I found it very interesting that recently the president of the Board of Education went on the record whining and complaining about future development plans in Frederick County, when the school board under her leadership (or lack thereof, as I see it) will not make a single tough decision to redistrict students so that our facilities are properly utilized.


It is absolutely criminal that it can continue to add portables to Urbana Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary at the same time they will allow Lincoln Elementary to open at 73% capacity according to the state formula.


It is even more appalling when you realize that the district boundaries for these elementary schools either adjoin or are right next to Lincoln Elementary’s, thereby minimizing the impact on parents and students of a redistricting designed to spread out the capacity over all three facilities.


Our elementary schools are the ones that have the most challenges from a capacity standpoint; and, therefore, the school board should be especially diligent in seeing that we utilize all of our elementary facilities in such a way to minimize the inconvenience to students and parents.


It is one thing for an elected body, like the Board of Education, to make a wrong decision. At least then they can say they were trying. But it is a complete abrogation of their duty and responsibility to the taxpayers and to the public when some sit back and do nothing except complain about what the commissioners are doing, while portables are being added to schools adjacent or close to a school that is 27% under-utilized.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you are going to have an elected school board, you need to have accountability. If the Board of Education actually had to answer to the taxpayers directly, we might see some more rational and courageous decisions out of them.


But under the current scenario, and particularly under the current school board leadership, my guess is that things will not change. Instead of action, we will get complaining and continued finger pointing. And instead of sound policy, we will get more “kicking the can down the road.”


Speaking only for myself, and not for anyone else, I will tell you that I will not be bashful about telling the school board exactly what I think about their atrocious, slipshod and seemingly disinterested approach to some of their positions.


If they didn’t want to make tough decisions, they shouldn’t have run for office. They did. They’re here. Taxpayers have a right to expect better. I’m sure I will get some type of typical response to this column. It will be the same answers of why they could not and how they are being prudent and efficient.


At this time we have only three members of the school board who are fiscally conservative and willing to make the tough decisions (April Miller, Brad Young , and Jimmy Reeder), but we need four votes to have the majority.


If you want the Board of Education to make the tough decisions when it comes to spending your tax dollars, in November … Vote the C's for school board … Vote for Anthony "Tony" Chmelik and Colleen Cusimano. This will give us the fourth and possibly the fifth vote that are needed.


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