President Not the Problem
Public statements in recent weeks by the Republican minority on the Charles County Board of Commissioners that the recent criticism of commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) was not partisan are laughable. Cooper has been a recognized leader in the business and civic community of Charles County for the last two decades. The people of Charles County know Cooper as a man of strong leadership and integrity, having elected him with significant majorities twice to the Board of Education, where he served as chairman, and now to the Board of Commissioners.
The most recent grousing by Commissioner Al Smith (R-Waldorf) and newly appointed member Candice Quinn Kelly (R-La Plata) about Cooper's decision to request that the ethics panel examine the actions of the county administrator and financial director smacks of amateur political grandstanding. Why not examine their actions? What exempts these two highly paid public employees from scrutiny? The responsible course of action would be to allow the process to go forward and permit the panel to conclude its review without attempts by Smith and Kelly to interfere with the process by monotonous whining to the local media about how the complaint has hurt the feelings of the two employees.
It is Cooper who has taken the responsible course of action in this case. Let the panel do its work. If the employees have committed no violations, then they have nothing to be concerned about. What the residents of Charles County should be bothered about are not the sensitivities of two county employees, but two commissioners, Smith and Kelly, who are engaging in cheap partisan political posturing in an attempt to undermine the commissioners president. That's the problem with the board, not a lack of leadership.
Selection Should Be Public
Everywhere one goes in the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, there are posted reminders that it serves as the headquarters for the Charles County public schools. Roget's II thesaurus defines the word "public" as "not confined to the few." It would appear that four of the six members of the elected Board of Education have lost sight of the definition of "public." Rather, [Margaret] Young, [Collins A.] Bailey, [Mark J.] Crawford and [Jennifer S.] Abell would prefer to treat the board as their private club.
As most of the residents and taxpayers in Charles County are aware, [Kathy] Levanduski's resignation from the Board of Education has created a vacancy that must be filled. Since this is a public position, which has the responsibility of making policy for the public school system, reason would dictate that the process for choosing Levanduski's replacement would be conducted in public. Instead, the board members, with the exception of [Cecil] Marshall and [Donald M.] Wade, announced the board will be seeking applicants who will be selected in private. Again, I remind the board of Roget's definition of the meaning of the word "public."
In the Southern Maryland Extra of Oct. 13, Young sums up the obvious disdain the majority of the board holds for the taxpayers of Charles County when she says there is nothing in the law "that says it [filling the vacancy] has to be done in public." The elected board is a public body, why then does it hold such contempt for carrying out the moral obligation to complete this process in public?
It is important that the taxpayers of Charles County be reminded that in the past year, the four members of the board whose votes will certainly decide who will fill the vacancy have among them advocated numerous policies that clearly demonstrate their antipathy for public education. In public and private work sessions, the four members have advocated the censorship of books (Young); the use of vouchers to relieve crowding in our schools (Bailey); the distribution of Bibles by the Gideon society; release time from the regular school day for students to pursue religious study; (unnamed members) the adoption of an abstinence-only sex education curriculum that would put the Charles County public schools in defiance of state law (Crawford). Two of these members (Young and Bailey), have children who receive their education either through home schooling or in parochial schools. One of them, (Crawford) has said he does not have time to visit the schools for which he is entrusted with establishing policy. Who among us can forget the fiasco of Policy 6000 [curriculum document] that occurred just last year?
This board has a moral obligation to carry out the process of filling the vacancy in a public manner. If not through a special election, then at a bare minimum the list of applicants, along with the interview process, needs to be conducted in public. Instead the majority prefers to treat the Charles County public schools as their fiefdom in which they can further their personal, ideological and religious agendas.
In closing, I implore all the residents and taxpayers of Charles County to demand that the process of selecting Levanduski's replacement be carried out in a fair, open and public setting. Our children deserve no less.