Board has brought much-needed accountability to Baltimore County Public Schools | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Mar 05, 2020 at 3:45 PM
In a democratic system, any election where the winning party receives fewer votes than the losing party warrants serious examination. On that note, I agree wholeheartedly with The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board’s (“Baltimore County’s dysfunctional school board can’t be fixed from State House,” Feb. 28) discomfort concerning the results of the Baltimore County Public School’s recent Board of Education elections for chair and vice-chair. However, no one was complaining about those rules before this election.
Initially, the editorial blames former Superintendent Dallas Dance as well as board chair Kathleen Causey and vice-chair Julie Henn for a polarized atmosphere in board meetings. Dr. Dance’s role in the division is his conviction for perjury and subsequent jail time. Ms. Causey and Ms. Henn are guilty because they are hostile to system administrators, mainly their campaign to keep interim superintendent Verletta White from getting the job permanently. This much is true.
But when The Sun gushes about Dr. Dance’s efforts to address equity issues in the county via his STAT program that gives every student a personal computer, the argument omits key facts. STAT was never backed by statistical proof that students would do better. The Johns Hopkins studies that followed STAT only ever offered tepid signs, at best, of student growth. During last year’s budget debates, administrators cast aside questions about STAT’s costs while pledging the program was working.
Now, no one defends the program. In fact, new Superintendent Darryl Williams made it incredibly clear that the system’s academic progress was unacceptable in a letter to the community this fall. One cannot simultaneously blame Ms. Causey, Ms. Henn, and Dr. Dance for the divisions on the board. Dr. Dance caused the problems facing the school system. If you are upset that the chair and vice-chair are being hostile to central office administrators who have wasted a half-billion of taxpayer dollars, you are the problem.
The Sun reflects upon previous eras “when school boards were more collaborative and differences in school policy more easily bridged.” Yes, when no one was holding the board accountable, it was easier to come together and make decisions. Now, when many board members have to face the voting public and explain their votes and decisions, it is more difficult. That’s Democracy 101.