School board member Mark Wolkow has led the charge to ensure Harford County Board of Education members are appointed by the Governor, rather than elected by the voters. Now we know why.
In the following letter to The Dagger, Edgewood Community Council President Jansen Robinson shares an e-mail Wolkow sent to leaders in the Edgewood community, warning them of the dangers of elections and drumming up support for a dressed-up version of the broken-down Permanent Nominating Caucus.
Along the way, Wolkow makes plenty of strange and erroneous arguments. But one in particular stands out.
Wolkow explains his fierce opposition to elections and sounds the alarm with the following sentence: “The Board of Education has long reflected the diversity (sex, race, religion, origin) in our County only because it has been appointed.”
Voters of Harford County, what say you?
On Nov 1, 2008, I convened a meeting between elected officials and member of the faith-based community serving Edgewood. The purpose for this meeting was to egin building a relationship between elected officials and faith-based leaders in the Edgewood community and to serve as a forum to share some of the more pressing issues facing our community. To that end this first meeting was a success.
One of the invited government officials was Mr. Mark Wolkow, the Edgewood representative to the Board of Education. He shared with me his thoughts on the issue of elected vs appointed school board, and I suggested that he share those thoughts with the faith-based leaders and provided him with their contact information. Below you will find information that has ben sent to many (but not all) of the faith-based leaders who are active in the Edgewood Community.
My role as the ECC Chair is to provide as much information to my community as is available on the wide range of issues facing us so that we may then make informed decisions. To that end, i am forwarding you this information in hopes of receiving as much information as is available regarding the other side of this very important issue. Let me state that while I am a supportter of Elected School Board members, I want Edgewood residents to have ALL of the information for and against.
And here is Wolkow’s letter to the Edgewood area pastors:
It was great meeting with you last Saturday. We have made great strides in the Edgewood area – particularly in education – where test scores are rising and behavior issues are falling. I just wanted to follow up on the note that Jansen forwarded to you concerning the appointed vs. elected Board issue.
I’ll keep it short, since you’ve already received the “long version” – which I’ve included below for ease of reference.
The simple message is that I believe passionately about our public schools – particularly those in the Edgewood area – and I believe that we will have a continuing need for individuals who serve on the Board of Ed to have that passion. We have a better chance of achieving that passion with an appointed Board of Ed – a volunteer Board where people want to improve education, not look at it as a stepping stone to higher office. For example, few if any of the current Board (myself included) would ever have campaigned for the Board of Ed position we currently hold.
I have been working with a group that is seeking (and getting) support from leaders throughout the County – Parent leaders, Educational leaders, Community leaders, Business leaders, Faith leaders – to tell our elected officials we want to keep an appointed BOE. We believe that a diverse, Harford-county based commission (similar to a judicial nominating commission) that submits names to the Governor, where the Governor cannot go outside those names for appointees, is the method that will best serve our students and citizens of Harford County.
And lastly, I have only 3 1/2 years left on my term representing the Edgewood area. Through my work with the Edgewood Community Council, I believe we have several highly qualifed individuals who would serve our community well by serving on the Board of Ed. Some of these individuals, like myself, would never consider running in a political campaign, but might very well seek and accept an appointment.
I would greatly appreciate if you would join us in this mission, and offer that if you have any questions whatsoever about the details, to contact me (410-xxx-xxxxh; 410-xxx-xxxxc; 443-xxx-xxxxw) pretty much any time, day or evening, any day of the week.
You have great influence in the community, and our Delegation understands that. I hope to hear from you soon.
Here is the original cover note and letter – if you have enough information and believe in this effort, I’d appreciate if you would sign below and return this note to me via email. Your are also welcome to share this with your colleagues in the clergy and/or other leaders in the County to gain their support as well.
I know you are busy. But please, take a moment to read this note if you care at all about the future of public education in Harford County. Unless we take action in the next 8 weeks, Harford’s public education system may go to an elected Board of Education, which could have significant negative impacts on the students and taxpayers in our County.
We know that an appointed Board of Education has served Harford County – its students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers – extremely well over the past 40 years. We know this from experience – we have seen the excellent results and continuous improvement of our students. More specifically, we have seen no good reason to change the system. We know that education and politics often do not mix well.
Nevertheless, a small group of individuals have lobbied our legislators very hard to change to an elected Board of Education. We know they don’t represent a majority, or even a significant minority, of the people in Harford County – especially of those who are involved in or with public education. But if the people of good will in Harford County remain silent, this small group will, in all likelihood, succeed in getting a bill passed in the next General Assembly forcing an elected Board of Education.
A group of dedicated Harford County citizens has been working for over a year to develop legislation that will best serve the needs of our County. We have taken the best aspects of the Permanent Nominating Caucus (our previous method for recommending nominees), a recent bill that preserved an appointed Board in Anne Arundel County, and input from a wide variety of stakeholders – parents, students, teachers, elected officials, business people, and community members. We have even tracked the comments of those seeking an elected Board, and made modifications to address their key issues as well.
This is a non-partisan issue for the vast majority of people, although some in the the pro-elected Board contingent has tried to make it one. Our working group has had virtually a 50-50 representation from both major parties, and has reached a strong consensus on a way ahead. We have even included groups in our discussions that have not taken a formal position on the issue, including the Harford County Education Association, the Harford County Council of PTAs, the Chamber of Commerce, the HCC Board of Trustees, and a representative of the Presidents of local Parks and Recreation Councils. All of this is in the spirit of building consensus, transparency, and working toward the best solution possible. Even groups that have not taken an official position on the issue have all declared their intent to serve on a Nominating Commission if one is put into place to preserve an appointed Board.
To that end, we ask that you add your name to the Harford County leaders and concerned citizens who support an appointed Board of Education. Please read the following brief statement that will be delivered to our State Representatives. I urge you to sign and return it to me as soon as possible. If you know of other Harford County leaders and concerned citizens, please share this with them. Time is of the essence.
To: The Senators and Delegates representing Harford County
Cc: The County Council of Harford County; the County Executive of Harford County, etc.
From: Harford County Leaders and Concerned Citizens (see attached signature page)
We support an appointed Board of Education in Harford County. We believe that the Board of Education should be appointed by the Governor; be based strictly on the recommendations of a Nominating Commission comprised of County-wide organizations; and that the nomination process provide for broad citizen input. This will best serve the students and citizens of Harford County. Here’s why:
– Build on our Success!
o Harford County students consistently rank near the top in every performance measure, both academic and non-academic, despite funding levels at or near the lowest of any jurisdiction in the State.
o According to the National School Board Association, whose membership is comprised of mostly elected school boards, no research or data demonstrates Elected Boards attain better results that appointed Boards.
– Keep politics out of Education!
o Harford County has enjoyed great stability in the Superintendent’s position – only 7 have served over the past century – primarily due to the lack of politics, which is often present when a Board is elected.
o Boards appointed by a Governor, subject to the names submitted by a non-partisan local commission, are far less political than elected Boards.
o Appointed Board members are typically interested in education; are less likely to be influenced by special-interest groups (that may have supported the individual in an election); and, are less likely to use the Board as a stepping stone for higher office.
– The Board of Education should be accountable to all stakeholders!
o The appointed Board is accountable to all of the students in the County rather than a single geographical area.
o As taxpayers, we do not see the value of expending upwards of $100,000 of our money every year for an elected Board.
– Our Board of Education should reflect our community!
o The Board of Education has long reflected the diversity (sex, race, religion, origin) in our County only because it has been appointed.
– Harford County Leaders support an appointed Board of Education!
o Leaders from the business community, parent organizations, school employee associations, school administrators, community non-profits, and virtually every current and past member of the Board of Education have expressed a strong preference for an appointed Board and concern with moving to an elected Board of Education.
I support the above position in favor of an appointed Board of Education.
Name: _____________________________ (electronic version acceptable)