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Our View: For Carroll County school board, civility would be nice, listening to all viewpoints most important | COMMENTARY

The Carroll County Board of Education met for more than three hours Wednesday night, discussing important issues and making key decisions that will affect students and families. Yet the contentious final few minute are all anyone in the community is talking about and sharing on social media.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, a non-voting member of the BOE who attends and participates in meetings virtually, read from a prepared statement that began, “I want to express my disappointment and, frankly, amazement at how I have been treated by a few board members during the last few meetings.” He want on to describe being cut off while speaking and, essentially, being called a liar.

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Frazier noted that he was forwarded an email sent by board member Ken Kiler that stated, among other things, that Frazier “should not be part of our meetings with a personal agenda.” At that point, ironically, Kiler interrupted with: “And I stand by every word of that, sir. ... If we’re going to do personal attacks at a meeting then let’s have a free-for-all.” The tense few minutes also included an audible sigh from President Donna Sivigny when Frazier asked to be heard and board member Tara Battaglia telling Frazier his recollection of what he said at the last meeting was incorrect.

Wednesday may have brought to a head what has been building up since the summer as there have been more than a few moments of exasperation caught on the live stream of BOE meetings and there have been plenty of instances of people talking over each other. It would be nice if everyone could keep it civil, but far more than any perceived disrespect, the real issue is the email opining that Frazier shouldn’t be a part of the meetings.

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Clearly, Frazier has argued for a more cautious approach than the majority of the board members favor regarding in-person learning, questioning more than once why metrics he thought were previously agreed upon as necessary for moving forward were being ignored. On Friday, Frazier told us he wouldn’t be doing his job if he was just a “yes man.”

He’s right about that. We believe a little disagreement at board meetings is healthy. To be most effective and and ensure all sides are being considered, everyone must feel comfortable freely voicing opinions. “Everyone” should mean all five elected board members, the non-voting student and commissioner members, those who come in to speak during public comment, and the CCPS officials and staff members whose expertise is called upon.

A criticism of this board has been its perceived unwillingness to listen. Teachers have talked about feeling ignored when expressing their views. Not all of Superintendent Steve Lockard’s recommendations have been followed. And the biggest complaint from the public — and, on occasion, from us — has been the way County Health Officer Ed Singer explains his myriad charts and graphs and makes suggestions, only for the board to go in a different direction.

To be clear, the members of the school board were elected to make decisions. They are under no obligation to vote the way Singer or Lockard or teachers or parents on Facebook want them to.

We just hope all board members will commit to listening and giving proper weight and consideration to all that is said and all the information that is presented during meetings. Because, as the board deals with issues more critical than any of its predecessors, we completely agree with what Kiler said Friday: “Right now, the most important thing is students and families and the teachers and staff. Not bickering and petty arguments that amount to nothing.”

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