Thanksgiving Day is near, and Republicans in Carroll County have many reasons to give thanks. We have been blessed with a cornucopia of delectables to feast upon this Thursday.
We are thankful for our Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who just announced last week that Maryland added 10,700 jobs in October, contributing to the largest three-month gain since 2010. We are thankful for our side dish, an all-Republican Board of County Commissioners, who after practicing fiscal conservatism over many years, recently learned that the county government had received a AAA credit rating, the highest given, for the second year in a row. We are thankful for our Republican president, Donald Trump, who despite being under constant attack has managed to bring the national unemployment rate down to some of the lowest levels in decades.
Lastly, we are thankful for our Republican-majority Board of Education, which recently voted to start the 2020-21 public school year after Labor Day. BOE members Donna Sivigny, Marsha Herbert, Tara Battaglia and Kenny Kiler, all Republicans, made the decision after taking several months to analyze their options and review community feedback.
In September, the BOE’s School Calendar Committee announced that it had received almost 10,000 responses to its survey that went out to the public earlier this year to gather feedback on when school should start. Of those surveyed, nearly 53% said they would like to see school always start after Labor Day, about 24% said they would like to decide on a year-to-year basis depending on whether Labor Day falls before or after Sept. 5, and almost 23% said they would like classes to always begin before Labor Day. As a result, three different 2020-21 calendars were drafted and the community was asked to comment on the options over the following 60 days.
On Nov. 13, the majority of the BOE chose the calendar option that will have students start the next school year on Sept. 8, 2020, the day after Labor Day. The vice president of the BOE, Marsha Herbert, told me, “As a retired teacher, I know firsthand that interrupting instruction with a day off just as school starts defies common sense." Under this calendar, classes will let out for good on June 9, 2021, if no snow days are used, or June 16, 2021, if all five snow days are used.
“The BOE and Carroll County Public Schools went through a robust and transparent process to identify the community’s wishes regarding the school calendar,” said Sivigny, the BOE president. “I am very pleased that the board’s vote reflected the clear preference of the community to start school post-Labor Day.”
A post-Labor Day school start date became a hot-button issue in Maryland after Gov. Hogan signed an executive order at the end of the summer in 2016 that would require public schools to start classes after Labor Day beginning in 2017. Hogan’s executive order also mandated that classes end no later than June 15. For some counties, the decision increased the summer break for students by two weeks. The governor issued his order with the idea that it would give children more time to enjoy their summer, give seasonal employees more time to make some extra income and, most importantly, give Maryland’s economy a boost — especially for vacation destinations such as Ocean City.
Did a post-Labor Day school start date really do anything for Maryland’s economy? According to an analysis released this year by the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network at Salisbury University, the addition of six additional days to the summer vacation of Maryland resulted in a total economic impact of $57.5 million, and the addition of 12 extra days, depending on the year, resulted in a total economic impact of $115 million.
Despite these numbers, Maryland’s Democrat-controlled General Assembly voted in March to override the governor’s executive order and give each county the authority to decide on its own school start date. Since then, counties have been heading in different directions. Howard County went with a pre-Labor Day start date, whereas Baltimore County voted days before Carroll to also start classes after Labor Day.
As somebody who was involved in the fight to stop the BOE from making the hurried and ill-advised decision to close North Carroll High School, New Windsor Middle School, and Charles Carroll Elementary School, I can appreciate that the majority of our current BOE members did their due diligence to listen to the community and weigh their options. Herbert said, “After living through the closure of NCHS, I know that participation from the community is key.”
I have been impressed with Sivigny’s and Herbert’s tenures over the past three years. They have listened to CCPS students, parents and staff, and have made incredibly wise choices that will positively impact Carroll’s public school system for years to come. With both of them up for re-election in 2020, I hope that they both decide to seek second terms and that voters give them another four years.
Thankful as we are for the bounty of outstanding Republican leaders representing us in national, state and local offices, we need to continue to support conservative, common-sense folks at the polls to lead us. We need to be mindful that we are always just one election away from going from being served turkey with all the trimmings to looking like a bunch of turkeys.
Christopher Tomlinson, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, writes from Melrose. Email him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.