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)
How insulting! Mr. Wolkow would obviously like to tell the people of Harford County that their votes don’t count. Does he assume that there is no one in the route 40 corridor that would like to sit on the board and could very well run a successful campaign? We need only look at our increased frustration with the board over the past few decades to realize why an elected Bd of Ed is the way to be heard. If the cart’s broken – fix it. The citizens of Harford County can fix it, if we are given the chance to prove it.
just asking says
He says that he would not have run a campaign, but he’s running the equivalent of a political campaign right now, only the majority of the county doesn’t get to be involved in its outcome. Who are the people working on this with him? Who are the community members involved? In a political campaign, most of those working with him would be in the sunshine, but there’s no light on the shadow campaign. And I find it insulting that he feels like he needs to advise the people of Edgewood on what’s best for them. It’s so condescending.
I find it ironic that Mr. Wolkow made the following statement, “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” During a committee hearing in Annapolis this past spring, Mr. Wolkow testified against an elected school board. But he made the comment that if the people of Harford County were given the choice, he was sure they would vote in favor of an elected board.
Why is Mark so afraid of the citizens of Harford County making such an important decision as to who sits on the Harford County Board of Education? Does he feel that we are not capable? I still can’t get over the hypocracy that there is a delegate from Harford County who opposes an elected board, but feels that it is O.K. for her position to be elected.
From The Aegis 2/22/08
“School board member Mark
Wolkow, who opposes an elected
board, said he also is opposed to
placing the question on the 2008
general election ballot, saying
most of the county would vote
in favor of an elected board.”
“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”
I don’t understand?
That sentence that was highlighted about diversity is quite stunning indeed…
First, Barak Obama was overwhelmingly the candidate of choice in the Edgewood district. Even though the county vote went to John McCain, that particular area voted for Obama. The first opportunity to vote for an African-American brought many new voters and voters who have been disenfranchised by elections over the years. What that tells me that when a viable candidate is on the slate, people will come out and vote for the person who they feel really represents them. Consequently, if an African-American was in a position to be elected for a school board position and they were considered qualified, they would have as much of a chance (if not more) as anyone else to be elected.
Additionally, Edgewood seems to have no issue with voting for women: Susan Hesselton served on the County Council for several terms, Mary Dulaney-James currently in House of Delegates, Nancy Jacobs in House Senate. They are also of different political affiliations
Conversely on the appointment side, the Edgewood seat has been occupied by a white male for almost the past 20 years. Who made that decision? Did the voters? When Mr. Wolkow was up for reappointment there was no vetting of his candidacy and no opportunity for the community to discuss the issues that most concern them.
The discrimination takes place in an appointment process wherein the only people who get appointed are the ones that have aceess to the governor. Apparently no one of “diversity” has had that advantage in Edgewood which is why the community needs to be responsible for who they elect.
Sue Luecke-Schnuck says
It constantly amazes me how people like Mr. Wolkow demean and diminish people’s ability to make decisions for themselves. How he can so casually assume that we are incapable of making good decisions regarding OUR children. How can he say that a system we use in our great country, one in which we, the voters, go to the polls to elect governors, representatives, senators, and yes, even the first African-American president of the United States, is not a fair and valid system to use to decide who to put on our local school board?
In one of his many flawed arguments against elected positions, he states that he, himself, would not have ever considered running for this position but served because he was appointed, well thanks but no thanks. That tells me that you probably were never interested enough to deserve to represent my child. How many people do you think want to serve (and would serve well) but will never get an opportunity because they are unable to run for an elected position and will never be appointed because of a lack of political connection? Contrary to his desire to keep politics out of the Board, they are there because it is the party in power (in Annapolis) that makes the final decision, not the parents of the children affected.
Second, if we could never achieve diversity through elections how does he explain Angela Eaves, who won the Republican AND Democratic primary and was able to run unopposed and was subsequently elected by the voters of Harford County?
Third, why not let this decision be put to the voters themselves? If Representative Mary-Dulany James hadn’t killed this issue in a back door hatchet job the voters would have overwhelmingly passed this and we would be practicing democracy and having accountability here on the local level.
I want people to stop deciding things that are in our own local best interests and let us decide for ourselves. People appointed to the Board should not have a horse in this race as they are directly affected by the decision. They are in a position of power and have a conflict of interest. The Board is there to serve the children of Harford County, who better than the citizens of the county should decide who that should be?
I don’t get why Wolkow and MDJames are so dead set against an elected board. Does it mess up some quid pro quo she had planned? Like she had the next crop of appointees all picked out for O’Malley to approve, and an elected board would mess that up? Can grown ups really expect other grown ups to believe that the board is “nicer” because it’s appointed? In fact, if the board was elected, we’d be likely to see more open, honest, public debate form the board members.
Knowing that you have contributed to The Dagger in the past, I am hoping you will be reading here. I think you have every right to advocate for what you think is best, but I think you need to be more honest about it. Saying that it would cost “upwards of $100,000” is simply not true. There are plenty of school systems that do not spend anywhere near that much for an elected school board. The biggest problem with the appointed board is the secrecy. How about explaining to us exactly how someone would go about being appointed? No one will share this information. Ms. Krchnavy has said she went out and got the support of all or most of our elected officials in order to be appointed. What could be more political than that? Appointed boards are just as political, if not more so, than elected boards. The difference is that the process is transparent in elections and the citizens of Harford County decide. I don’t need any special interest groups telling me what is best for my children!
Debbie Sosna says
Others before me have all made excellent points. In addition I would like to add some potential benefits of an elected board.
An election process established a direct relationship between the voter and the board member.
Board members are accountable to the public because voters can replace them. (By contrast, appointed school board members view themselves as obliged to the “system”.)
An election generates public debate about education issues.
When board members are appointed, the public has no knowledge of their qualifications, or their philosophical or educational opinions.
Locally elected school boards reflect the will of the people and not that of the bureaucracy.
In this country we cherish the opportunity to choose our leaders. An appointed board denies us that opportunity.
Opponents of an elected school board argue that an election politicizes education. Nothing is more “political” than an appointed board in which members are obligated and accountable to those who appointed them. By contrast, the only politics in an elected board is within the context of campaigning when candidates publicly discuss and debate their philosophies and qualification.
If we look at this issue in the light of what is happening nationally, we see that government and the people it has appointed to office do not always represent the wishes of their constituents. Look at the “block schedule” issue that we had thrust upon us in Harford County. The school board decided to institute this policy and we have no recourse as parents. We can voice our concerns, but there are no consequences for bad decisions. We cannot vote anyone out. Our children seem to be guinea pigs. If we had an elected shcool board the wishes and wisdom of parents (taxpaying parents that fund the schools), would have some input and effect on the dogmas and decrees made by the school board. Hopefully, there would be more interaction and a better representation of the ideals of the community of Harford County. Government in general feels that they can better educate out children than we can. It is a partnership that should work together for the good of our children. It should not be an adversarial relationship. Instead of having a process where it is who you know or who knows you, we would like to have a chance to get to know someone who we would like to choose to represent us and the interests of our children.
Dave Yensan says
Obviously Mr. Wolkow has identified the core of our political process’ problem. The people are just too stupid to elect good representatives. Don’t forget that half of us are below average.
The arrogance of this guy just infuriates me. He needs to go, now!
vietnam vet says
Shhh Dave it’s getting to close to Home.
HC parent says
I am stunned by the tactics being used by Mr. Wolkow to frighten Edgewood citizens into thinking that a small evil group of residents want ot ruin the fine education currently received by Edgewood area students! ALL county residents should be concerned that none of the current members of the BOE would have publicly campaigned for their seats. What do they have to hide that an open election could uncover? The current appointment process keeps the power in the hands of a very small group of people—-not a very democratic process and much more elitist, don’t you think? To call people on his side “people of good will”, implying that those on the side of having an elected school board are not people of good will, should be a red to flag to anyone considering this issue. I would never call someone who did not share my opinion a person without good will. Don’t say you didn’t say that, Mr. Wolkow, because you can find it in your letter above in black and white.
Mr. Wolkow, what evidence do you have to support your assertion that the “only” reason why the BOE is diverse is because it’s appointed? You….a white male representing Edgewood? The way you are handling this is condescending and manipulative.
I, too, am confused as to why Mr. Wolkow is so opposed to an elected school board.
Parents have the right to have a voice in the selection of the individuals who are given the responsibility of making the educational decisions which will either negatively or positively impact their child’s education and their future. Board members need be held accountable for their decisions.
Mr. Wolkow indicates that we have a continuing need for individuals who serve on the Board of Ed to believe passionately about our public schools. I completely agree with this statement.; however, I disagree that only appointed members would possess that passion and expertise.
Are we really sure that “an appointed Board of Education has served Harford County well for the past 40 years?” I am not sure that many parents are in agreement with that statement.
I discuss this issue with many in Harford County as well as with others in other areas of our country. It was quite interesting when describing the current campaign for an elected school board and the arguments of each side with my father his response:
My father simply stated without hesitation….”don’t you see, it is not that they are trying to ensure minority representation,it is that they are truly trying to ensure that there is not more minority representation.”
My mind had never even gone there….and I hope this is not true, but I felt it a good point for discussion and felt the need to share his thoughts with the Harford County citizens that may read dagger.
All the comments before mine say it clearly….the citizens of Harford County deserve the right to say who serves on the Board!
The best comment Mr. WolKow made was that politics are not involved at the Board of Education!!! You have got to be kidding……it is running rampant!!!!!
Thank you Mr. Wolkow for amusing me!
just asking says
Shamrock, I believe your father hit it just right. There is a book that’s been out for some time about how schools are more segregated in some places now than they were in the ’50s. Certainly Edgewood schools would fit into that category. The school board benefits by maintaining the status quo on that school. There is no real teeth to No Child Left Behind, it’s not a Title 1 school so parents cannot receive vouchers to go to another school. They don’t have to fix it because they’ve created their cheering section where if you speak badly about Edgewood you’re speaking against the children. A political tactic we’ve seen a lot of lately. I believe HCPS is afraid that someone will be elected who will say we are not going to stand to have a second class education compared to the the other schools in the county any longer. And then they’ll actually have to do something to fix it instead of saying, really, it’s not that bad!
As most of the previous writers have stole my thunder, I thought about not posting my comments. However, I will because I want the “powers that be” who read The Dagger to clearly understand that there are more than just a few rabble rousers out there who support an elected school board. MANY MORE!
Here once again, a member of the BOE has opened their mouth and demonstrated exactly why we need an elected board. While I have no doubt Mr. Wilkow is passionate about his support for our public schools and he is to be commended for his service, his arguments for the status quo…which we all know are shared by other board members….are laughable!
Lets review. First he says an elected board will lead to members who are not passionate and are only looking to a seat on the BOE as a stepping stone to higher office. While that certainly is possible, I would submit that would be the exception. I for one do not see a correlation between service on the BOE and legislative politics. I doubt very seriously that many representatives in state and local government around the state and/or country got their start on a school board. In my view, it is a very different calling and one that would absolutely require a passion regardless of how one gets put there.
Next, he brings up the diversity issue. Last time I checked, Harford County has elected an African American woman to the bench. We have had in the past and have today many women elected to public office. Most recently, the Edgewood area voted overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land. To say that the best way to maintain diversity on the BOE is through an appointment process is an insult to the voters of Harford County.
Lastly, he states that an elected board would bring politics into play. What could be more political than a political appointment!!! By virtue of the letter he sent Mr. Wolkow is himself campaigning!!! Furthermore, one of our newest members of the BOE, Allison Krchnavy, stated publicly that she proactively sought the support of legislators for her appointment. Is that not campaigning?
Lets go people. The 2009 legislative session is right around the corner. I for one am tired of watching the current board make bad decisions and serve as a rubber stamp for HCPS. We need a BOE that will and must answer to the people they serve. We need an elected board.
I’m concerned that Mr wolkow has a personal political agenda for his soapbox approach to manipulate us the citizens of harford county to accept his fears and desires of whats best for BOE. Furthermore his tactic is insulting our intelligents,
such as the fact that we the voter or candidate are not capible to make a difference in our community. I find that to be a self-centered position as well as being ignorant to the concerns of the community.
BOE Member says
As a BOE member in another county that is appointed I can say there is nothing more political and corrupt that the current appointment process in place in Maryland. No process is perfect but the majority of school boards in Maryland and across the Country are elected and it only makes sense that the remaining 5 counties in the state get the same oppurtunity and respect to chose their Board members.
Kathleen King says
You want to talk politic ??? How long are we going to allow others to speak for the taxpayers of Harford County? I am tired of the scare tatics that Mr Wolkow and his “cronies” use to deny us the right to help determine the directions our schools will take in the future.
When will we stop allowing the BOE and Dr. Haas to use our children and their education as a social guinea pig. Magnet Schools, Block Schedules, Ramped Up to Algebra, and other famous FAILED experiments on our children.
I reject his assumption that the electorate doesn’t understand the issues and isn’t working in the best interest of our children. It reminds me of the pundits who stated that an African American could never win the White House. I think you undersestimate the will of the people to do the right thing. I believe the right thing for Harford County is an elected representative Board of Education
-Appointed school board of HCPS=White male dominant
-Appointed school board of HCPS=White male representing a large minority population.
-White male representative of large minority= argues vehemently to keep status quo.
This is an insult to every person with a brain, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc. Why not let all these constituents vote for someone who they feel will best serve their children. Mr. Wolkow testified on the record in Annapolis that if the people of Harford County were given a referendum, they would overwhelmingly choose an elected BOE. How can he say a small minority is in favor of it?
This is an insult to all Harford County citizens, but especially minorities. The appointed BOE has always lacked minority representation! Now a white male is going to tell minorities that they can’t make decisions on their own. Wow! I think people should really look at what is being said by a person who has been on the BOE for a while and sees the behind the scenes actions. He is protesting very hard to keep the status quo which should also bring to light his motives.
Barack Obama was lucky he was appointed President…oh.. that’s right he was elected by a country which is predominantly white. What a shame Mr. Wolkow doesn’t have faith in people. Thank God he is here to tell them what to think and what is best since they mustn’t be able to think for themselves. Maybe Sen. Obama’s election raised Mr. Wolkow’s sense of urgency to keep minority representation off the BOE?
Dave Yensan says
I can understand the “good ol’ boys” wanting the status quo and all that. I see why the Bel Air/Fallston elite want to keep control away from us the Rout 40 corridor rabble. What I do not understand is the NAACP support for the appointed board. The Harford NAACP has had persons to testify and pull every card and political favor possible, to keep the rabble from taking control of their schools. I believe that Mary Dulaney James has done and will do what she can to thwart the will of the people, strictly because of this one organization. If there are any NAACP members, particularly executive committee members out there, I would love to see a response to this.
I know Im not supposd to say such things as Im not a lawer or professional politician but here goes……doesnt the Maryland Constitution recognize the corrupting affect of serving an office too long? I beleive Ive seen that specificly mentioned !
( im always told…”are you a lawer…if not dont say matters of law”. To this I say…”I DONT NEED TO BE AN MIT OR CALTECH EDUCATED MATHIMITICIAN TO KNOW 2 AND 2 IS 4″ )
Go Dagger !
Mr. Wolkow says that HCPS has “continuous improvement”, we’re “ranked near the top”, and there’s “No good reason to change the system.” If you look at the presentation on the CSSRP you’ll see that over the last 5 years our SAT scores are about the same, and the percentage of students that pass AP tests in going down. “Ranked near the top?” I don’t think so. HCPS is barely above average. If you want your eyes opened, look at Howard County. Called “a teacher’s nirvana” by several teacher friends I have. Their SAT’s are a good 50 points above ours. Oh yeah, they have an elected school board.
I have had the privilege of living in 3 other school districts with elected school boards. 2 of those 3 districts were some of the best districts in their states. The school board elections were non-partisan. Usually no party affiliation was listed on the ballot, or a candidate would be listed both parties. My guess is that most of the people who are opposed to an elected school board have never lived in a district that has one.
I can’t help but wonder why the current Board and administration thinks everything is so wonderful. Mr. Wolkow thinks “there no good reason to change the system. “ If that’s the case, then let’s get rid of block scheduling, University of Chicago math, and LICW. Let’s add back, foreign language for 8th graders, biology for 9th graders, and AP foreign language at BAHS.
I think the current board should stay out of this decision and let the taxpayers and parents decide!
Have you ever met anyone who didn’t think he or she was doing a great job? Of course the BOE thinks it is doing a great job for the children of Harford County. And if you talk to many people who have children in HCPS, they also will tell you that the schools are great (and a few really believe that they are). They primarily do this for two reasons: one, they don’t have anything to compare it to, or two, they can’t do anything about it and want to feel like they have done the right thing for their children.
I have always been a huge public school advocate, but the HC board has made so many poor decisions. Have you been out on the roads at 6:30 a.m. when high school students are getting on the buses? I know how I feel at that time of day and I wouldn’t want to have to try to understand calculus. But this board made the decision to start school earlier for our high school students (even though all research indicates that teenagers perform better later in the day).
The block schedule was touted as a way for students to attain higher levels in math and foreign languages (by doubling up in a year), and yet this year, AP foreign languages were eliminated from Bel Air High School after students took years three and four as juniors. So, Mr. Wolkow may think that everything is great and improving, but people in the schools know the truth. Personally, I cannot wait until the folks from New Jersey get here and find out first hand about the schools. It will be fun to watch.
Where do Mary-Dulany James’ children attend school? Public or private? does anybody know?
vietnam vet says
I don’t know where they attend school…. but she could see edgewood neighbor hoods declineing and moved out of that area. I would’nt be surprised to find them in a private school.
Dave Yensan says
Her kids go to the Tome School!
I believe Mary Dulaney James also represents Cecil County …Elected Board! ??
Could somebody explain to me how Cecil County was able to change to an elected board? (Or at least it is in the process of converting) I believe it went to referendum, but even that has to be “approved” by the state legislature. How did they get MDJ to agree to that and not practice her back door politics to slam it? Why didn’t Sheila Hixon refuse to allow the committee to vote on Cecil County’s bill is she did Harford County’s? Are the voters in Harford County that less capable of making good decisions???
I have several other concerns about Mr. Wolkow’s arguments but I will bring up a few.
First, I can’t understand how he, as a Board member, is going around promoting this knowing there is a large (according to him small but he is just saying that now) group of Harford County voters who support an elected school board. Many people have talked about issues on here concerning the school system. We’ve had several reports/surveys on CSSRP with little or no follow up from the BOE. Mr. Wolkow himself said years ago when they passed CSSRP, that if it didn’t work “that we can just change it back but we have to do something.” I would say to him that same principle applies here to the elected board. If doesn’t work, we can just change it back. Several problems with CSSRP totally ignored but he has time to fight this bill and lobby for it. Wouldn’t his time be better spent dealing with the problems in the school system that they are aware of? Maybe that is one of the reasons people are so fed up with the status quo…
Second, considering that 94% of the school systems in the county are elected says something about the process now doesn’t it? Is he trying to say that elected boards are more corrupt and more political than appointed ones? If I was a board member who was elected (or an elected official of any kind), I would be very insulted. How is that so many school systems just in Maryland are doing very well with the elected process?
Third, all of the appointed board members are interested in education? Many of them over the years have come in with NO background and/or knowledge of the system and it has taken them months to figure out what is going on. What that does is make them rely on the school administration for information instead of the public because they don’t know what they don’t know! Then we had a middle school principal for consideration for an appointment and she was shunned by the Governor’s office. So much for that argument…
Lastly, one of Mr. Wolkow’s arguments about an appointed Board has to do with continuity of superintendents. I would like an explanation on what that exactly means. It isn’t always a good thing to have someone in the same position for a long time especially when there is an appointed board who seemingly supports all of her recommendations. Why is that anyway? Does it have anything to do with them determining the terms of her contract? I don’t know but I do know that in other counties with appointed boards they have had several superintendents over the years. Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City just to name a few so what is the connection?
I do appreciate that the BOE President has instituted a new policy about getting back to parents when you make an inquiry, and that they are stating their goals publicly. I think those are both good steps in reaching out to the community and a signal that they really are working to improve the service they provide. Improving communication is a much better and appropriate use of their time and effort.
BAMS Parent says
Harford County deserves an elected school board. Who better to choose the members than the citizens of Harford County. We would like the opportunity to have input on who the decision makers are when it comes to our children’s education.
Bill Ekey says
Elections – as was demonstrated a few days ago – tend to provide corrections to the imbalances that can occur in government. The people have a remarkable tendency to fix what is broken. The same would certainly occur if the Board of Education of Harford County was elected.
Mr. Wolkow believes that only a small minority of people in Harford County want an elected board. There is, of course, nothing to back up that belief. But then, that’s not really a relevant issue.
I don’t believe that the essential question here is whether an elected board will be more effective than an appointed board. It is whether the people who are directly affected by the education of the children in Harford County should have a voice in determining who will be responsible for that education. Currently our citizens have no voice in that determination. That seems to be in direct contradiction to the principles on which our country was founded.
During the 33 years I worked for the school system, the people I worked with and the people I worked for were sincere, hard-working, and dedicated. That remains true today for the board members, the superintendent, and the members of her staff (with an exception or two). But sincerity, hard work, and dedication do not guarantee that our children are getting the best education we could provide.
Having been retired from the school system for nearly two years, and having some additional experience with our high school graduates since I retired, I believe that many children are not being served well by our school system. The fault for this lies directly with our board and with our superintendent.
There is no guarantee that an elected board would be more effective than an appointed board. But if a majority of voting citizens determined that the board in place was not providing their children with the education those children deserved, then those citizens could make their voices heard at the ballot box.
Mr. Wolkow’s arguments for an appointed board ring hollow.
Jansen Robinson says
My purpose for sending Mr. Wolkow’s message to faith-based leaders in Edgewood was not to castigate Mr. Wolkow, but to obtain information. I was and am still seeking a en explanation of every point made by Mr. Wolkow.
Why-because I know that there is a nexus between crime and education. And I also know that we need to engage in a wider discussion about other educational opportunities such as Vocational Education for those students who either are not college material, or who don’t want to go to college.
A review of the education status of every inmate in the Harford County Detention Center will reveal that at least 70% have not completed high school-why. A review of all of the data that ever been collected would reveal that there are far fewer people who have completed high school than not who involved in criminal activity than the reverse.
For some the elected school board discussion is a matter of principle. For my community education has far greater implications-as the past decade has demonstrated.
All we want and need are the facts. Not Mr. Wolkows facts or someone else’s facts but the unadulterated facts so that we mak make informed decisions.
Jansen – What facts, in particular, are you looking for?
About Mr. Wolkow’s “small minority of citizens” who support an elected school board…I would challenge people to ask around to their friends and family and ask whether they think HC has an elected school board because I think that most people who are not in the middle of this debate think that we already have an elected school board. People who are from other places cannot fathom the idea that a BOE would not be elected.
A few year’s ago, an acquaintance of mine insisted to me that the HC school board was elected and then stated: “I was on the committee that elected it.” I don’t make this stuff up! And Harford County is so spread out that it is difficult to get any kind of information out county wide.
We need to keep beating the elected school board drum. More and more of the good kids will be seeking alternative education options. It will eventually reflect on the schools and the young people who are left.
Phil Dirt says
To Jansen Robinson – are you sure that the fine residents of our esteemed correctional facilities are selfish, immoral, lawbreaking deviants because they did not receive an education? Perhaps they did not receive an education because they are selfish, immoral, lawbreaking deviants.
Your chicken is my egg.
Paula Mullis says
It isn’t only the Edgewood Community that has been insulted I live in Joppa and I can tell you the voters in Joppa are very much in favor of an elected school board.
So I guess we are to assume that as voters we don’t have enough intellect to vote in the best people for the school board. It seems to me that perhaps the Governor is not selecting the best people but those that he feels are politically correct or is that connected. It it extremely apparent that Mary Dulaney James is certainly not listening to her constituents hopefully they will see that she hears them on election day 2010.
Is Mark afraid that if the voters have their say he might not be their pick?????
This is real simple…we don’t CORONATE KINGS…!!!!
ELECTED SCHOOL BOARDS !
Go Dagger !
Janet Jensen says
I am in favor of an elected school board. I have worked as a parent volunteer for the past 11 years via the PNC (1 year), PTSA (11 years), parent volunteer working in the school as much as the school system permitted me over the past 11 years. We need a better representation in our education system.
I wish I could vote for anybody that runs against Mary-Dulany James.
Mr. Wolkow stated that “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.” Oh really? I served on the Permanent Nominating Caucus until its demise. The last meeting was a massive call-to-arms: letters were sent to every PTA, letters were submitted to the Aegis, emails were sent. All were told that if there weren’t a significant number of people in attendance at that meeting, the citizens of Harford County would lose their last opportunity to have any say in who serves them on the BOE. There were less than 20 people in that room and the PNC died.
In the years leading up to that, attendance by all groups invited to participate was dismal at best. The PNC was forced to submit the name of the individual(s) that received the highest number of votes to the Governor for appointment. The “winners” had less than 20 votes. It is difficult for anyone to suppose that those few votes represented the will of the majority of Harford County citizens. But Mr. Wolkow and Mary Dulany-James believe that a new form of the Nominating Commission will suddenly inspire overwhelming participation? Seems to me that’s more an example of the definition of insanity.
Here’s my favorite quote of his piece: “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 of Ed where people want to improve education, not look at it as a stepping stone for higher office.” I fail to see how someone who is appointed to the Board is more passionate in serving the best interests of our children than someone who puts their name on a ballot for the position. Personally, I want someone that is willing to put him/herself out there, willing to share his or her positions on the issues at stake, willing to engage the public in meaningful debate. In my opinion, a candidate who is willing to campaign and debate the issues shows far more passion than someone who is handed a position. It is remarkably telling when Mr. Wolkow states that he would not have ever campaigned for the Board of Ed position that he currently holds. I’m not feeling the “passion” there . . .
And if a BOE member wants to be re-elected or [horrors!] aspires to a higher office in the future, that person will need to show results. If not, I know I won’t be voting for that person again, regardless of the office sought. That’s called direct accountability to the taxpayers, something that is lacking in our current BOE selection process. And let’s just suppose that Board of Ed member serves us well and then chooses to take that experience, leadership, and passion for education and seek a higher office. That would be a credible candidate that I would be willing to at least listen to, and would certainly be a candidate that is able to address the concerns of many Harford County citizens with first-hand knowledge and involvement. Given that Harford County Public Schools is funded by at least half of the county’s entire budget, I would say that experience is a premium and a benefit to all.
I have been told that 95% of the public school districts in the U.S. have elected school boards. Elected by those they serve. The citizens of Harford County deserve nothing less.
One final note: Mr. Wolkow said that the “excellent results and continuous improvement” of our students has been because of the service of the appointed Board of Ed over the past 40 years. Regardless of how the BOE has been selected, I believe the true credit for any success achieved goes to the incredible teachers, administrators and involved parents. They are the ones that show passion every day, and they are the ones that deserve the real credit.
Yr right, Julia. Since when had the board of ed not been a stepping stone to higher office for some people? Most recently, former board president Bob Thomas, although his ovations to higher office have been unsuccessful. Chuck Boutin served on the board of ed before moving up the political ladder. And why would an elected board mean it’s no longer a volunteer position? The board members now get a certain amount of money to cover travel costs and other expenses. When the board is elected, does that mean we’ll suddenly be paying its members more money?
Phil Dirt says
I’m surprised that Mr. Wolkow didn’t pull a muscle patting himself on the back. Whether he was appointed or elected, he sure sounds like a politician to me.
If someone does a great job as a BOE member, I have no problem with them seeking a partisan political office. It may be beneficial to have someone with that kind of experience in county governement.
And why can’t BOE be an elected position with the same financial benefits as the present board receives? It doesn’t have to become a career just because it’s an elected position (see “Bel Air Town Commissioners”).
Thanks Matt. And you bring up a good question regarding board member compensation. I believe that right now the BOE members are only reimbursed for expenses. And regardless of how we may feel about the job they are doing, it is a volunteer position that requires a great deal of time.
And yes, many politicians have begun their careers at the local level like school board. That has given them an opportunity to become intimately involved in something that is of great concern to most taxpayers/voters. IMO, that adds credibility to their ability to speak on the issue.
that’s right matt, who will be Harford’s Sarah Palin?
There’s no reason Board members have to be paid simply because they’re elected . Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there is also no law preventing appointed school board members from being paid. It ‘s up to the local delegation to introduce the legislation in either case.
For the record, none of the elected school board bills introduced in the last 2 years included salaries for school board members.
Well said Julia-ever consider running for BOE?? I have said it before and will say it again…let Mr. Wolkow keep talking…it only helps reinforce the benefits of an elected school board.
Besides the concern for using a position on the board as a stepping stone…what other perceived “negatives” are there for an elected school board?? I can’t think of any…perhaps the folks running will need to campaign, but apparently that happens now! And continues even while serving on the board…hence the above letter.
I know these are hard working board members, but I find the current process discriminatory.
One of the other things that is so bothersome about Mr. Wolkow and his letter, has to do with the fact that he is pitting the Board of Education against parents, teachers and students who support an elected school board. Just think how frustrated he must be with the people who oppose him on this and who is to say he won’t take out his frustration on the same people he is supposed to be serving.
The Board has no business having this in their legislative platform and it really does put them in a very awkward position where there is potential to question their fiduciary responsiblities as Board members.
One of the main reasons that Mark Wolkow is so insistent to have the Board of Education’s opinion on an elected/appointed school board written in their Legislative Platform lies with Sheila Hixon. State Delegate Hixon is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Last year, after all Harford County delegates, with two abstaining, voted in favor of the Elected School Board Bill, Del. Hixon would still not release the bill for a committee vote without the approval of the Harford County Board of Education. Can you believe it??? Asking permission from the group that is being addressed??? Knowing Delegate Hixon’s requirement, of course Mr. Wolkow is anxious to have the BOE’s position included in their Legislative Platform
Another Larry says
Great point about the HCPS Legislative Platform being a new weapon for Hixon to use to kill the Elected School Board Bill in 2009. They always need a new reason every year.
I wonder what new angle they are working on to kill the Bill in 2010?
The whole elected school board issue does seem to interest a smaller group of individuals than one would imagine, and I would still argue that that is because many people don’t realize that we don’t have an elected board. I am sure there are a number of reasons for this, but I wonder what percentage of Harford County residents have children in public school, for they are the group with the vested interest.
If all of our delegates–with the exception of MDJ–are in favor of an elected school board, what angles can we work to get this issue passed? What would change MDJ’s mind? It seems as though it was mighty close last time.
I would also argue that while Mr. Wolkow thinks the schools are getting better and better, he does not have children in the schools (for that matter, I have pulled both of mine out as well). The schools are also using different measurements (both the MSA and HSA are fairly new tests, so you can’t compare long-term results).
Asking the criminal if its ok to put him on trial? …Mrs Hixon…what are you thinking….Refusing unless the school board approves? Please don’t consider that as a factor again…its ridiculous.
Look if its so important give these people permanent jobs in roads or the landfill.
Lets get the best people to run our schools !
Just in time says
Just in time says
The Dagger seems to be all over this!
Phil Dirt says
I don’t think we need to change MDJ’s mind – we just need to change MDJ’s status to “former Delegate”.
Dave Yensan says
Phil Dirt for king!
vietnam vet says
Dave Dave bury’ the Hatchet. Mr Denu was in with the clout’ he might turn thing’s a round for the better.
Dave Yensan says
There is no hatchet. My point was only that BIC tosses out the Denu for You thing as though it is meaningful. I am sure that Rick will do a better job than the three Rs now are doing, but also know that the job is monumental and I sincerely doubt that any one guy will ever overcome the crap in this town. I also doubt that Obamma is any savior.
Dave are you referring to the Obama / Clinton coalition government? My concern is weather she will start campaigning for 012 the moment she is accepted as secretary of state. A sec of state is the presidents voice to foreign governments. Does anyone think shes capable of being a cute little lap-dog for Obama? I think that choice was terrible and he will regrett it.
Go Dagger !
Lets be clear…
We want our president to be sucessfull. His sucess wether democrat or republican is our sucecess. The campain is over.
Go Dagger !
vietnam vet says
Dave I have been advised there’s Hope for the Human race. of which I carry serious doubt. one little vote is all we get & then have to live with the result’s the goverment is totally screwed up.
And most likely will remain that way.
As I said so time ago, Dave. Your green is showing. Nobody said Rick Denu/Lone Ranger, did they? Obama? Really, Dave. Watch yourself. Temper, temper.
Rick Denu is a very smart, compassionate man whom not only lives in this city, but worked protecting all of us as well. He fully understands the problems existing in this city. He could bring some welcomed fresh change to this city.
Denu for You 2009!
Dave Yensan says
And as I said before, I don’t have any Irish blood in me. I have no qualms about Rick Denu. I agree with everything you say about him, and would probably vote for him. I don’t have any hope for Aberdeen, however.
Let’s just hope there is hope for Aberdeen. I don’t live there, but I am close to the Denu family and hear the deal. It is truly a mess and I know Elaina never gives up so let’s try to look at life through her eyes and always have hope.
BTW, I met you before while at the Denu house. You and your wife were enjoying an evening of Christmas festivities with many friends. We had quite a joyful time.
Good points made by all above about the need for an elected BOE. I have testified before the BOE on several occasions over the years in their 3 minute hear but don’t respond to the public sessions at the BOE meetings. By saying I mean they don’t respond I mean you get no response after themmetings aobu the ideas. It’s impossible to communicate wth them. They are teddy bears proped up to smile. They take no action on the recommendations, many good ones I have heard over the years frrm many concerned parents/taxpayers.
Some on the BOE are good folks donating many hours to a demanding subject. But ignoring the facilities problems the staff let go over the years has cost us money, poorly designed new schools are a major stain on the Haas legacy, as is the block schedule that does not work. The BOE has not gunption to turn to a Supt. and say do this or that when clearly she needs instruction from time to time. Most of the teachers and principals are pretty good. Central office staff has leadership voids/problems notable in the people Ms. Haas has hired and promoted.
Ms Haas clearly did not want to go to and open session before the County Council recently and have to answer state audit questions. Kudos to the Council for making it happen even though they were overly gentle, she wanted to do it in closed session. She wants to be the next State Supt of Schools, check out her state level activities. It’s fine to have higher aspirations, but don’t step all over what the county needs to do it to show you are innovative and creative. Any supt cout get acceptable to good ACT and test scores out of this county – look at the socioeconomics of the population.
I agree (above) with Jansen of Edgewood who wonders why we don’t have more vocational education opportunity in our schools for those who don’t want to go to college (yes , Ms. Haas not all shoud go on to college). The Harford Tech approach to opportunity to a career answer is no longer valid in this county. there are at least two other answers. Did the BOE explore it – no. As soon as the principal at Tech said, no preserve our school, it was over. Of course the principa whod say that. Believe me, Jansen is right on the tech ed opporunity issue. But the BOE buried it.
If Delegate Mary Duleny-James runs to be my Senator I will vote against her. I will contribute financially in 2010 to candidates who run against her. If the O’Bama and Eaves elections didn’t shoot down Mr. Wilkow once and for all than only his non-reappointment can get his attention vice what he told the good folks in Edgewood. The last BOE president (appointed) was a disappintment to those who thought he would stand up to the staff of the system. I saw system staff stare and not acknowledge his requests for on point response and follow-up work. Current president and members seem to be in the same place. Elections work and I”ll work for an elected board.
UPDATE: The Board voted unanimously to approve the election policy, with the Student Representative abstaining.
The motion was made by Mark Wolkow and seconded by John Smilko. During the discussion, Wolkow emphasized that his primary reason for supporting the change was to allow the board president to serve two consecutive terms. Wolkow said he believed the change would “improve communications with elected officials” since that job normally fell to the board president. Wolkow said he and Lee Merrell had worked on the new policy and thanked President Pat Hess for allowing them to do so.
Hess said he disagreed with the seniority system “from the day I joined the Board”. John Smilko also said he liked the idea of elections rather than a system based on seniority. Smilko, who was in line for a leadership position under the old system , said he would not be able to devote the time necessary to being president and thought the policy change was a “great idea”.
It is refreshing to hear that the board members are so in favor of the democratic process of elections.
PWH – I think that allowing the board president to serve two consecutive, one-year terms under the old seniority system would have make it nearly impossible for members to get a crack at leadership before their initial 5-year term ran out.
I say “nearly” because under the old system, the board member who was next in line for leadership could always decline it and the option would go to the next most senior member. So a leadership role would still be possible for members during their first term, just highly unlikely.
Mark Wolkow talked about the need for presidents to stay in office for more than one year at the meeting Monday night. He made it a point to say that was why he supported the change in policy. But the only way for a president or vice president to stay in office would be if the other members re-elected them. Don’t you wish you had the same right to decide who your leaders will be?
You can read Wolkow’s comments in my update to this story, which I posted here (by mistake): http://www.daggerpress.com/2008/11/13/wolkow-tells-edgewood-harford-voters-would-not-elect-diverse-board-of-ed
Now running for BOE president in 2009-2010…Mark Wolkow. Connect the dots.
Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
God will appreciate it.
Elected school board concerns come true with Jansen Robinson’s mudslinging campaign. Mr. Robinson sent out an email attacking his opponent with all sorts of lies and distortions. The fact that Mr. Robinson lost the primary to his opponent by more than a two to one margin would suggest that he is desperate and resorting to name calling. If I was thinking about voting for Robinson I certainly wouldn’t consider it now, and neither should anyone else.
Hmmm… wonder if watching = Bob Frish? I would bet money on it.