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