March 2, 2008
The Honorable Sheila Hixson
and Members of the House Ways and Means Committee
The State House
Dear Delegate Hixson and Members of the Ways and Means Committee:
I am writing in support of HB 779 which would provide for an elected Board of Education in Harford County. I retired from the Harford County Public School system in December 2006 after more than 33 years as a teacher and administrator. I have served as the principal of Bel Air High School, the principal of C. Milton Wright High School, and as the Director of Secondary Education. I am the immediate past president of the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals. I continue to pay close attention to the operation of the public schools in Harford County and to public education in Maryland.
For the past two decades I have observed and worked with the various people who have been appointed to the Board of Education of Harford County. They have been almost unfailingly dedicated, sincere, hard-working individuals. They have given much time and energy to their responsibilities as Board members.
The greatest variation among Board members, however, has been in their independence from the Superintendent and, concurrently, in their willingness to fairly and objectively consider what is best for students. Over the past two decades, the trend has been for Board members to rely more on the information and proposals provided by the Superintendent and her staff and less on the views and interests of the students and their parents.
This change has resulted in part because Harford County has a long-serving and increasingly influential and powerful Superintendent. While Dr. Jacqueline Haas, the Superintendent of the Harford County Public Schools, is one of the most ethical and dedicated people I know, I believe that she has made decisions in recent years that are not in the best interests of students and staff. More important, that belief is shared by many citizens in Harford County.
The Board of Education no longer serves as a necessary check to the decisions of the Superintendent and her staff. I believe that is due in large part to the lack of accountability for members of the Board to the citizens of Harford County. If Board members are elected, this missing and increasingly needed accountability to the students and parents will be established.
If Harford County’s Board of Education is elected, the citizens of Harford County will no longer rely on the Governor to appoint people to the Board and wonder if these people will listen to their concerns and their recommendations. They will not continue to be subjected to decisions of the Superintendent that are simply “rubber-stamped” by the Board. They will have a mechanism for holding Board members accountable for their decisions. They will be able to elect people to the Board of Education who reflect what they, themselves, want for their children.
The following is from the Board’s policy manual: “The Board is a separate legal entity created under the laws of the State of Maryland. The Board has full authority and jurisdiction over all educational matters within Harford County.” Unfortunately the Board has chosen not to exert its authority and jurisdiction over all educational matters, and there is no guarantee that this situation will be corrected under the current system of appointing Board members. The time has come for an elected Board of Education in Harford County.
William M. Ekey
Very seldom do you hear any motion at a Board meeting other than “to support the recommendation of the Superintendent” when a vote is required of the BOE.
A fair amount of discussion, debate, and even disagreement, can be a healthy way to communicate and explore options, regardless of the topic before the Board.
You speak the truth and your motives can not be questioned. You gave thirty plus years to HCPS and left in good standing as one of the most well respected educators the system has ever known. You observed a lot during your extensive career and you have no axe to grind. Still, your comments will be “explained away” as something which is way off base AND the current BOE will willingly accept the explanation given to them by the superintendent. It’s time they stopping “drinking the cool aid” and start asking themselves if the status quo needs an extreme make over. I hope they ask themselves, since they never ask school system administrators anything of substance. Striking up a dialogue in the mirror could serve as great practice for developing a backbone on Monday nights.
Thank you for your powerful and truthful words. It was so refreshing to hear someone with such credibility come out and say what we peon parents have being stating for a couple of years now. What a perfect candidate you would be for our Board of Education.
Bill, I thought you would like to know that your courageous letter was referred to by Del. Susan McComas in her opening remarks at the hearing yesterday on HB 779 (Elected School Board). I also counted no less than 3 references to the phrase “rubber stamp” in other testimony. I sense a theme emerging!
Much of the testimony centered around the overwhelming public support for elections. But the bill still may not pass out of committee because of resistance, whether behind the scenes or in carefully crafted public statements, from Mary Dulany James and Dan Riley. No one at the hearing testified in opposition.
Mr. Ekey, Thank you so much for speaking/writing publically in support of an elected school board. You served our county schools in a fair and caring way. Your public endorsement on this issue is respected and appreciated. How can we get you on the current school board, either appointed or elected? You are more than qualified and would be supported by many in this community. Thank you.
Fi Fi says
As a Department of Defense employee, I work for the soldier every day. I work with men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line fighting for our country and the democracy that we hold so dear. Not only does the freedom that we take for granted allow us to discuss topics on The Dagger, it also gives us the right to vote. Not only is it our right, it is our duty. When I exercise my right to vote, I feel like I am honoring the soldiers who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis.
My children know that there are ‘non-negotiables’ in our family. In some families, it is church on Sundays; in others, it’s dinnertime; in our house, it’s voting in every election that we can.
Not only am I in favor of an elected school board, I’m in favor of an elected just about anything. It is a small thing that I can do to show my support for the men and women who fight for our country. I find no better way to honor the American soldier than to exercise my right to vote.
Dave Yensan says
Cindy mentions Dan Riley in #4 as one who has opposed the elected school board. I’m sure I can find fault with Mr. Riley on many issues but it is my impression that he worked in favor of the elected board. Is my memory flawed? Ms. James deserves all the credit for the inaction and opposition from last year. I know that Dan reads and responds here, how about a clarification please?
HB 779 created a fully elected school board, which Delegate Riley opposed at the time. A blended school board bill (HB 730 ) was crafted later in the session and Del. Riley did support that bill, as did every other member of the Harford County Delegation (and the full Senate for that matter) except for Mary-Dulany James, who was absent from the delegation vote.
Isn’t that right Delegate Riley?
I dont reccomend opening the link in the post #11 from gennick.