But not everyone has seen her moves as best for the school system. She has been labeled an obstructionist for her frequent questions at meetings and requests for additional documentation before often voting no or abstaining.
Her outspokenness has not only irked her colleagues, but it also has resulted in the board taking the unusual step of privately censuring her.
The board took the action during an executive session in late January.
Board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) did not respond to calls about the vote against Fellows or what the board considered to be improper conduct. Briant Coleman, a spokesman for the board, said he was unaware of the action.
The censure has not caused Fellows to back down.
“I’m going to ask questions, and it may be uncomfortable for some people,” Fellows said in a recent interview. “I don’t care if you don’t like my tone. I’m doing my due diligence for District 7.”
At least one other board member has been privately reprimanded. In 2011, board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8) was censured for visiting a high school to investigate a truancy complaint.
Although the board, which is searching for a permanent superintendent, has tried to keep the tension behind closed doors, the acrimony took center stage during last month’s board meeting.
Before the board voted on the proposed budget, Fellows read a long statement that included a series of questions that she wanted to become part of the public record.
“When you subtract what was in the proposed FY 2014 operating budget book from the comprehensive annual financial report, the difference is $354,208,419,” Fellows said. “Therefore, I raise the question for the public record: Is there hundreds of millions of dollars that will be expended in FY 2014 which will not be disclosed to the public? . . . Which will not be reviewed and approved by the county executive and the County Council?”
She ended her remarks by saying she could not vote for the budget because there was a “lack of disclosure and transparency.”
Budget officials said Fellows was comparing different accounts.
Board member Peggy Higgins (District 2) appeared annoyed.
“I take great offense to Ms. Fellows’ questions that are accusatory, spread false information and clearly communicate that you are confused, unknowledgeable and . . .” Higgins said before being interrupted by Fellows.
“I think this is very inappropriate,” Fellows said. “If I am confused, let me get clarity. It is my fiduciary responsibility. This is what I was elected to do.”