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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

In redistricting, Carroll school board leaves out the public; Sewell Farm annex process based on fear | READER COMMENTARY

In redistricting, Carroll school board leaves out the public

It is very concerning the direction that the Carroll County Board of Education is taking. First, it decided to adjust the manner in which we the public is allowed to comment in meetings. The Board of Education believes it should be allowed to limit the number of people who may participate in public comment. The board also wants to limit public comments to only those that relate to agenda items for that meeting.

Has our Board of Education forgotten it is the public that funds them with our tax dollars? This is censorship plain and simple.

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Then our Board of Education decided to look at redistricting, but only for the southern part of the county. The proper way to redistrict would be to look at the entire county and not a single area. Shortly after starting the process, however, the board decided to hold off for several years. Could it be that public outcry from that area has corrected another misguided step taken? The Board of Education has claimed that it didn’t want to rush the process, yet it had when targeting a small area of the county.

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We were told several years ago that two board members were going to solve issues based on their campaign platforms.

Board member Donna Sivigny talked of sensible solutions and interacting with the community. This does not seem to be the case as we are to be censored in public comment now. She also spoke of a long-term plan for our schools, yet there has not been an attempt to redistrict properly.

School board President Marsha Herbert, when running for office, claimed to want an open dialogue with all of the public. She also spoke of the Board of Education holding open budget meetings similar to the county government. Yet, we have not seen this or any more transparency in how they make financial decisions in their six years.

Board member Tara Battaglia ran on the platform that we should not have targeted redistricting. She was also a huge opponent of school closings, especially her own Charles Carroll Elementary. She saw no issue with tearing down the historic East Middle school in Westminster.

This board is one that I hope sees effective change after the November election.

Mark Nelson, Westminster

Sewell Farm annex process based on fear

Based on the number of signatures deemed acceptable by Taneytown municipal officials, the petition effort concerning the Sewell Farm annexation has failed. Consequently, the citizens of Taneytown will not be allowed to vote on the issue of annexation. Instead, a handful of council members will have decided on the direction of growth and development on behalf of the Taneytown community.

In fact, any effort for citizens to have a say about annexation seemed ill-fated. Even prior to the council’s vote in favor of annexation, during the time meant for community input, it appeared that most of the council members had already made up their minds.

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Their decisions in favor of annexation seemed largely connected to some generalized fear that the municipality needed complete control of the land to prevent the county from allowing some type of unwanted development of it. Citizens attending meetings heard suggestions of slaughterhouses and airstrips and other such anathemas. It seemed like a decision based on fear, accompanied by rhetoric meant to incite more fear.

Moreover, during one public meeting, one council member went so far as to announce, “The Sewells have been waiting for years, and we have put them off and we have denied them. They have sat there and waited, and they have played the game, and they did what was asked of them.”

The brazenness of that statement left many in attendance aghast, as did its conclusion that, “the Sewells have paid their dues.”

Given this type of pre-approval rhetoric it’s no wonder that the municipality’s initial misinformation to the petition group about the number of registered voters felt like an attempt to derail the process. The petition group was simply a grassroots group, advocating that the people would have the final vote on the annexation issue. Understandably, they assumed that their own municipality would be a reliable source of information about the number of registered voters within it.

Worse, because the petitioning process revealed that many folks were surprised by the prospect of annexation in the first place, questions arose about the adequacy of public notices for the Sewell Farm annexation resolution. Maryland’s municipal codes for annexation precisely specify how such public notification occurs, and the citizens of Taneytown will hold municipality officials fully accountable to adherence to those codes throughout that process.

There’s a lot of trust to rebuild within the Taneytown community. I truly hope that can happen.

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Jim Thomas, Taneytown

Gordon asks for District 3 vote

In the General Election, voters in District 3 will determine the leadership and direction of our county. We need leadership that has knowledge, understanding, and practical real-world experience.

As a lifelong resident of Westminster, its residents and organizations have had a great impact on who I am today. Carroll County Public Schools and McDaniel College have provided me with valuable skills to make me into a small business owner exposed to a variety of socioeconomic experiences and familiar with various economic developments.

As a board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, and former member of the Carroll County Land Trust and the Historical Society, I am committed to the betterment of our community and its long-term viability. We must work to maintain a balance between community preservation and economic innovation; it is this vision and understanding which, as your commissioner, will enable me to be an advocate for District 3 and all county residents. I will see the job to completion. My door is always open.

Many times, we see government-employed insiders and typical politicians who attempt to improve their resumes and climb the political ladder. I am not employed by a state agency, and I am not beholden to the interests of these organizations. I will serve the people of Carroll County. I have experience and bring real-world knowledge to the job.

My priority issues include supporting our emergency services, our brave and heroic fire, EMS, and law enforcement who protect our community. I will advocate for small business, Main Street vitality, and a strong economic future for our county. We must continue to support agriculture, one of our top industries and look for innovative methods to improve, such as hydroponic green houses and Agritourism.

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Additionally, we must support our schools and teachers to provide a high quality of instruction to shape and educate our children and future generations.

My endorsements for commissioner show a broad support in our community including Sheriff Jim DeWees, state Sen. Justin Ready, the Carroll County Education Association, the Carroll County Professional Fire Fighters, and others.

I am ready to work for you to tackle any opportunities and challenges. We have a firm foundation in our community and by focusing on the priorities, we will continue to have a thriving economic and community-centric home.

I ask for your vote in November.

Tom Gordon, Westminster

Republican Candidate for Carroll County Commissioner District 3

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Dorsey, Scanlong and Jozkowski for Board of Ed

As our nation and community emerge from the crisis years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to acknowledge that our schools are also in a mode of recovery. Post-COVID children are not the same as before. Teaching methods are radically different from just a few years prior. Educators and staff are entering another year of challenge and uncertainty.

I propose that in the upcoming election the voters of Carroll County give these factors primary consideration in making their choices for Board of Education. We need to elect three leaders who are most qualified to deal with the real-world issues of our school system. I believe Patricia Dorsey, Tom Scanlon and Amanda Jozkowski are those leaders.

Dorsey, Scanlon and Jozkowski are centered on students and focused on their families. They understand that for the seed of education to sprout and mature, a nurturing school environment must be present. Their leadership styles will provide a calming, welcoming attitude that will filter down into each of the schools and allow teachers and students to focus on their studies.

Dorsey, Scanlon and Jozkowski are concerned for their communities. Their leadership will be responsive to all students, all families, all community concerns. Their decision making will be fair and balanced.

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Dorsey, Scanlon and Jozkowski are concerned that the education our children receive must be fact based and professionally taught. Their background in education will allow them to monitor the schools’ activities down to the classroom level if necessary. They will be committed to all students receiving the best education possible.

George Conover, Westminster

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Election conflicts, creeping outside influence in county

I met Zachary Hands, the Democrat candidate for Carroll County Commissioner District 3, at the Westminster Memorial Day Parade. We continued our campaign camaraderie throughout primary early voting at the Westminster Senior Center. I like Mr. Hands, but that does not mean that I want him in positions of power, particularly as it pertains to my children, their education, and their future.

What does the candidacy of Zachary Hands have to do with the Board of Education beyond non-voting member status and budget oversight? Since 2018, Hands has been employed full time as the assistant to the state superintendent of schools. When Michael Zimmer ran for commissioner in 2006, the Carroll County Ethics Commission ruled that he should resign from substitute teaching, a position deemed a (perceived) conflict of interest. Zimmer similarly cautioned fellow educator Dennis Frazier during his 2014 run for commissioner. Frazier did not heed this advice, but the ethics board concluded that it was not a conflict of interest for him to serve two masters, albeit as significantly more than a substitute teacher.

Presently, Carroll County struggles to exert sovereignty and maintain a distinct identity that represents the ideologies of its constituents, free from impositions of failed Annapolis cookie-cutter policies and Baltimore templates. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is such an example of the one-size-fits-all pitfall, one that Hands espouses on his campaign website. Per the Ethics Commission, there are no potential ethics violations to submit for consideration unless and until Hands is elected commissioner. At that point, an influential state Board of Education employee could potentially vertically integrate the Democratic platform and his own personal ideology at both the state and county levels. Unless, of course, Hands resigns from his lucrative state position.

Even if the Ethics Commission allows Hands to maintain his state position, does that mean that a truly ethical decision has been made? Is the Ethics Commission infallible, with a history of ignoring precedent for personal or prevailing public sentiment? More importantly, can Carroll County afford to wait until after the election to adjudicate the ethical question and to determine whether further Annapolis encroachment through a state Board of Education employee is what it wants and needs?

Scott Willens, Westminster


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