Trust Is Essential

The recent decisions I made as a member of the Howard County Board of Education have brought my trustworthiness into question. I would like to put all the facts before the public, and I am frustrated that that is not possible.

My decisions were based on the evidence presented during the appeals of the previous superintendent's actions. The sworn testimony of many witnesses did not warrant the conclusions he reached or the punishment he meted out. Those he disciplined have detractors. Also, publicly reported allegations made against them give the appearance of impropriety. Although errors were made, they did not rise to a level that supported the superintendent's actions. In good conscience, I could not subvert my responsibility to achieve other goals.

Ill-founded rumors about the appeal evidence and process have also caused misunderstanding. The following are corrections to specific misconceptions:

1. No student assignment grades were changed.

2. The evidence reviewed by the board did contain testimony from teachers.

3. No e-mail or other document exists showing an administrator requested a transcript change.

4. Disrespectful behavior to teachers by a (non-employee) parent happened. This should not have been allowed but could not be reviewed by the board because it was not an issue presented by the superintendent.

Trust and respect can only be earned when what is done is fair and just, even when it is unpopular. The outcome of these appeals is not vindication but rather a reasoned and fair conclusion based on the evidence presented. It obviously has not brought closure.

From the evidence that was before me, I cast the only just vote I could, and I stand by it. Still, many are unsure about what happened. If the confidentiality concerns of the 13 school system employees who provided testimony could be overcome and the full record released, more of what happened could be understood.

Respect is critical in any relationship. Teachers in the Howard County schools deserve our profound respect and thanks. Recent events have eroded teacher and community respect and trust of school board members.

Trust is earned, and I intend to try to regain the trust of our teachers and community members through speaking the truth, dispelling rumors, and keeping communication and dialogue open. This letter and limiting my campaign for the Board of Education are my first steps.

James O'Donnell

Howard County

Board of Education

Ellicott City