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March 18, 2013

Do Your Duty: Get It Right The First Time

Cindy A. Rose

“The right structure does not guarantee results, but the wrong structure aborts results and smothers even the best-directed efforts.” So says Peter Drucker.


This “wrong structure” approach is how, I believe, Frederick County Public Schools landed in its current predicament. What predicament? The one in which the Board of Education continues to rubber stamp the requests of the school administration and fails to do its due diligence. The predicament of handing their hands out for more without first doing their best to see what has fallen between the cracks, or what is hidden in the numbers.


If this school board has its way the education budget will grow, the students will get less and the system will expand once again. Even though we have less students now than in the past several years, wages, salaries and benefits continue to rise.


When certain long time board members from the dais refuse to question and prefer to say “I’ll leave that to the experts” as she points to administration staff, you should be concerned. Comments like that are an indication of a person who isn’t doing their homework and/or has no idea what their job description is.


I have seen long time board members ask questions of staff as if this is their first year on the job. Why do they not know these things? How can they not know how many employees Frederick County Public Schools has? How do they know how much to spend when they don’t know how many it is going to be spent on?


I can’t speak for all our past boards because I’ve only been paying attention since the summer of 2010. That’s when I learned money was not being spent on air conditioned buses for special education but was being spent on Frederick County Public Schools staff and administration.


However, in my brief awakening I have seen the majority of board members most concerned with spending for the “system” as opposed to spending for the “children” and their education.


The purpose of the Board of Education is to ensure our children have an efficient, well rounded education, and it should be done effectively and with vigilance. Our board should be the watchdogs, not just the school treasure chest. They should view their duties as a sacred, moral and ethical obligations. They are charged with protecting our most beloved treasure – our children. We elect them first and foremost to protect the integrity of our schools and the well-being of our children.


Part of this board’s duties is monitoring “system’s management for continuous improvement.” Yet I have personally witnessed programs being continued when they are documented failures that cost the taxpayer money and waste not only staff time, but the student’s time as well. It’s a disservice to the student to let them continue in a program that will have no lasting, positive effect on them or their education. That is a dereliction of duty of the highest sort. It should be implementing what works, not continuing what doesn’t – because board members don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.


“No” is an appropriate response to “may I have some more, please.”


I’ve watched for several years now the ferocity at which some of our board members, as well as school administration, are willing to throw our children and their needs under the bus for the wants of growing the debt of the school and feeding the bureaucracy. They simply refuse to say “no” because – well I’m not sure why. Maybe they want to be liked? It certainly isn’t because it’s what is best for the students.


Another extremely important duty is “authorizing curriculum development and revision.” Race to the Top came to Frederick County and former superintendent Dr. Linda Burgee had the foresight to say “no” we don’t want to participate; we want to be in charge of our own educational destiny. Sadly, that’s where the fight to save our children’s education ended.


Common Core came in like a thief in the night and Frederick County Public Schools made nary a peep.


Worse, the elected officials we voted into office to look out for us didn’t think to look beyond the talking points and trusted the very individuals and programs they were supposed to be overseeing. There is nothing wrong with trust, but it shouldn’t be blind.


We elect Board of Education members not to cause friction between them and the county commissioners, but to look out for the structure, honor, integrity and complexity of our children’s education.


We vote them in to office to be our eyes and ears.


Lest I make it seem like the school system and the school board shoulder all the responsibility for allowing our current education system to be overhauled without our knowledge or input, I have to point out that the Parent-Teachers Association did their part as well.


On the national level the PTA took $1,000,000 to promote the Common Core State Standards and this left our local PTA gagged and unable to sound any alarm.


Parents, it’s up to us. Those organizations we’ve joined and those individuals we’ve elected have forgotten that their mission is to look out for what is best for our children’s education.


It’s time for us to be a little more vigilant. Ask more questions even if it makes members of the board or school administration uncomfortable. We don’t have years for them to “get it right.” Our children only have one time to get 4th or 6th or 11th – or any grade right.


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