The two went on trading barbs before Higgins chastised Fellows for not attending any of the three work sessions on the budget, where she said Fellows’s questions could have been addressed.
Fellows, a former teacher in Prince George’s who has worked as a legislative director for a state delegate and a policy adviser for a County Council member, is an educational programmer for a foundation that serves foster children.
She unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the school board in 2006, then defeated incumbent Henry P. Armwood Jr. last year.
Board members privately have said that they are concerned about Fellows’s statements, which raise questions about whether the board is following proper procedures and providing the required oversight of the administration.
They question her use of a “brain trust,” people who board members say write the long statements she makes during board meetings.
Fellows said that because the board does not have the staff to go over documents and make suggestions about the budget or policies, she has sought out friends and former campaign volunteers who are lawyers and who have backgrounds in budget analysis to provide assistance.
Some members said they worry that any sign that the board is not unified — or that it is not functioning properly — could hurt the search for a superintendent or falsely lend credence to state lawmakers’ effort to create a task force to study the composition and operations of the school board. Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s), the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation is not intended to criticize the board or its work but to address residents’ concerns about academic achievement.
Fellows, who has abstained or voted against more measures than she has approved, said she has had reasons to raise objections.
She voted against the school system’s plan to partner with Junior Achievement to teach financial literacy to eighth-graders because it was unclear whether other nonprofits had been extended a chance to bid or whether any others offered similar programs.
She was the only member to vote against the board’s introduction of the proposal for the school system to take ownership of work created by students and staff members. Fellows asked whether there would be discussion on the copyright agenda item. Although the board had discussed the proposal in its policy review committee and was presenting it to the public, when there wasn’t any discussion, Fellows voted against it.
“I’m looked at like I’m an obstructionist,” Fellows said. “I’m looking at the inconsistencies. I’m not doing this in a vacuum.”