Two seats on the board of education for Cecil County Public Schools are up for vote on Tuesday and, in this election year with a highly contentious presidential race, it’s easy to see how the a voter might think the race for board of education is inconsequential.
Any person running for the position must be interested in advocating for public education, right? Not so fast.
What part of “non-partisan” don’t they understand?
During the primary campaign I wrote two articles outlining some of the responsibilities of board of education members and the laws they take an oath to uphold. (Here are links: Maybe He Filed for the Wrong Office and Are Fringe Candidates Attempting Hostile Takeover of Cecil County Board of Education?) Also in those articles, I demonstrated that board of education candidates Kevin Emmerich and Ron Lobos, running together as the “Conservative Education Slate,” had expressed views that were in direct conflict with those responsibilities and laws.
Despite the defeat of his running mate in the primary, Mr. Emmerich, who is in a race against current board member and former Cecil County commissioner Bill Manlove, doesn’t appear to have changed his stance.
In a post on his Facebook page stating his “areas of focus” from September 29, 2016 , Mr. Emmerich writes, “I also attended the CCPS budget presentations this year and that is when I decided the Board of Ed. needed a conservative voice and felt I should run for Board of Ed. in the 1st District.” He makes no mention of any specific issues he had with the budget presentations or suggestions for how he would address those issues. He just dropped the buzzword that he believes to be his ticket to a seat on the board.
There will be homework
Holding a seat on the Cecil County Board of Education means more than attending a meeting for two or three hours every few weeks and posing for the occasional photo opportunity. Board members also spend countless hours outside the walls of the Carver Center visiting schools, reviewing documents like budgets, policies, and annual reports that will be discussed at future meetings, and meeting with county officials and education advocates.
In short, board of education members spend a lot of time doing their own homework. Mr. Emmerich might have considered doing his own homework before he wrote that post in September. Let’s talk about a few of his points:
- “More budgeted funds going to the classroom or deferred maintenance.” Another vague statement with no citations for the budget line items that he feels show funds being spent somewhere other than in the classroom or on maintenance. All the CCPS budget documents and annual reports for the last five years are posted on the CCPS website so there’s no reason not to provide facts to support his position–that is, if there are facts that support his position.
- “COMAR calls for substance abuse awareness in health class. With the amount of drug abuse in this County, I wonder if what we’re doing is enough?” If Mr. Emmerich read the documents supporting the CCPS budget request, all of which are available online, he would have seen that the school system has made adding drug education teachers and student services resource teachers a priority in the last two years. With a little more research he would seen that a presentation about the CCPS “LifeSkills” training program was made at the July 11, 2016 board of education meeting.
- “CCPS should encourage individual achievement over Government dependence.” And this point? I have no words.
- “Work with the Administration to fund the schools needs in ways that don’t cause unnecessary increases in Maintenance of Effort for the County.” I can’t wait to hear his suggestions for this point.
- “CCPS should post performance data in a comparative format. Data included would be test scores for last 3 years, total number of students and cost per student. This would allow the citizens of the county to judge the schools effectiveness.” It looks like Mr. Emmerich needs an introduction to Maryland Report Card, the Maryland State Department of Education’s public website that houses enrollment, demographic, and assessment data for every county and school in the state. The site includes all the data he’s requesting except for the cost per student and that was included in the board of education’s presentation to the county council which is available online and included below. Cecil County ranks 19 out of 24 districts for education funding per student and, at $5,281, the county’s portion of that funding is considerably lower than the state average of $6,914–$1,633 lower to be exact.
- More CCPS contracts should be available to local contractors–Again, Mr. Emmerich doesn’t provide any facts to support this point. What geographic area does he consider local? Cecil County borders on two other states and many of our county’s residents work for out of state employers. Does he consider that local? Further, CCPS is required to follow strict policies for procurement (here are just two of them Procurement Policy and Procurement Procedures) and the bid recommendations are presented, discussed, and voted on at board of education meetings and supporting documents are available in Board Docs. Additionally, it was noted at a recent board meeting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified contractors who are interested in bidding on some projects because an improving economy and construction booms in neighboring school districts have created new options for contractors.
Vote on Tuesday
Before voting on Tuesday, please do your own homework. Learn more about the candidates for board of education and make sure you vote for the two candidates who are running for the right reasons–the nearly 16,000 students in our public schools.