To the members of the Board of Education, this is to express my utter dismay and, quite frankly, shock about the decision made on Jan. 4 to return to hybrid learning.
I’m going to completely skip over the fact that since the decision in November to return to virtual due to rising cases, Carroll County’s COVID-19 infection numbers have gone up to 384 cases per week for the four weeks leading into Monday’s meeting and the positivity rate is hovering around 8%, both far higher than when we started virtual-only learning in September. Let’s ignore that there is a more contagious strain emerging that infects children more easily and we haven’t yet seen the impacts of the Christmas holiday on infection numbers. You’ve heard all of that and more from the health department and apparently don’t care.
What I will focus on is what the Board of Ed (outside of Patricia Dorsey, who seems to be the only one among you that has any concern for the health of the people you serve) does care about, which is the overall education quality for the kids. I concur that this is important (not as important as health, but it appears to be all the board values most right now) but I feel that this Board is being very short sighted even in this aspect.
Ultimately, the long-term success of the education of the children of our county is most heavily influenced by the educators teaching them. Carroll County has struggled to attract and retain quality educators over the years. For many years the pay scale was well below our neighboring counties and while recent increases have made the county more competitive, Carroll is still on the lower end of the spectrum. In my opinion, the decisions of this board over the pandemic will have destroyed any of the goodwill bought by increasing salaries. Between the back and forth between virtual and hybrid and the continued moving of the goalposts by the board to push the agenda of in-school teaching, why would any self respecting teacher decide to teach in Carroll when they could be supported and paid more elsewhere?
Almost every other county in Maryland has kept their schools virtual because they value teacher and student health and realize that virtual, while not ideal, is a viable safer alternative for all parties. Pushing the hybrid and other in-person teaching sends a message that teacher and student health and safety is not a priority over the short-term academic proficiency of the relatively small percentage of students who are struggling with virtual learning.
I am curious to find out how many resignations and new leave of absence requests you have received since your decision. I am also curious about how many you will lose in the coming months.
I would put my money that your attrition for teachers will be significantly higher this year than in previous ones. This is why I feel the decision is short sighted. Tenured, good, compassionate teachers that have given their all for this county and the kids in it for years will be looking to take their talents elsewhere. Those that can will do it now and others will be looking for new jobs and will then quit, now they are well aware that the board does not value their well-being like other counties. That will have a larger long-term impact than these few months of hybrid learning you have pushed in the middle of a global pandemic. Much like someone in an abusive relationship, I can only hope they remain well and strong enough to leave this county to go to one where the board cares more about if they get sick than if there can be sports played.
I hope this decision that you have made is worth the long-term costs for our children. I don’t think you are thinking about how your complete disregard for and lack of support for the ones that actually interact, teach and develop our children will impact the long-term future of our county. I also hope that we do not have any major illnesses or death from COVID-19 due to this misguided decision that ignored all credible information from health professionals. If it does, Dorsey is the only one on the Board whose hands are clean, although honestly I don’t think the other members would lose sleep either way.
Thanks for reading and, likely, disregarding this constituent’s opinion, much like you did the health experts. I look forward to 2022 and 2024 when I can actively campaign for your opponents and hopefully vote you out of office. Good day.
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Brian Smith writes from Westminster.