For Whom Does the School Board Speak?The recent unanimous...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 03, 1994

For Whom Does the School Board Speak?

The recent unanimous school board decision in favor of extension for snow days is a prime example of bureaucratic manhandling of the public and the elected boards of education at both the state and local levels.

Although recovering days lost due to inclement weather seems insignificant, what is not obvious to the casual observer is the manner in which decision-making is made at the board of ed. Forgiving the six days in question was barely touched on by our superintendent as an intolerable option because that amount of time is considered too valuable. Even though parents and students testified as to how inconvenient and troublesome the results of extension would be, compliance with the state mandate won out. It always does.

To add insult to injury, state Superintendent Nancy Grasmick threatened to withhold funds from counties not complying with the 180-day calendar. Who are the real beneficiaries of school board resolutions? As is so often the case, what benefits the children takes a back seat to administrative concerns.

Frequent attendance at monthly board meetings reveals a definite pattern of elected board members merely validating the proposals of the superintendent and the officials in the department. Apparently, the five people elected by the unsuspecting public do very little of their own research on any given issue but rely implicitly on information fed them by department heads in the form of a sales-pitch type of presentation. Bringing their high-tech overhead projectors, they launch into a full-scale public relations campaign in order to sway the board members to vote in their behalfs. The public is invited to voice its opinion. However, department heads are rarely challenged and debate is not encouraged. The result: Board members capitulate to the pitch rather than support the views of the parents whose children are affected, often adversely, by the skewed decisions.

The elected board members often face a tough dilemma. Confronted with professionalism and impressive groundwork by the superintendent and his cabinet, coupled with the state's financial headlock, how can the board side with the public or parents? Resisting this type of pressure requires intestinal fortitude and time devoted to analyzing the convincingly packaged data submitted by officials to determine its accuracy in order to reach a conclusion that supports the children and not the system. Who has the resolve to prevail against the coercion on the part of non-elected officials in favor of the families represented by the student population? Evidently, not the people currently holding public trust as school board members.

Exchanging an elected board for an appointed one is not a solution to the problem of the reversed authority that exists between elected members and hired officials. The remedy is to shed light on the reality so that the electorate can be aware and vote out the present rubber-stamp group of individuals, fine, upstanding folk though they may be. Do we want control of the school board to be in the hands of the people we choose to represent us, or do we want to be controlled by highly paid government officials acting in the best interest of a bureaucracy? The voter must give this situation serious consideration in the fall election. Definitive questions should be put to future candidates, such as, "Who works for whom?" "Does the board work for the public who put them in office?" "Do the men and women in the Carroll County public schools work for the board?" If they answer in the affirmative, then they have the right idea.

Lois Begly

Westminster

Hillary Clinton

The image of our president finding himself compelled to defend his wife's character in a public forum, before a distinguished guest, is preposterous and a painful one for all ordinary citizens to witness.

In my distress I repaired to a commentary you published by James L. Fisher, former president of Towson State University. It appeared on Jan. 5.

What needs defense is not First Lady Hillary Clinton's honesty in her pre-Washington professional days, but her current usurpation of authority not rightfully hers. In that position, she has assumed freedom from accountability, not without some arrogance, and it is that power-play, which she declines to allow others to question, that now needs defense and now threatens to jeopardize her husband's legitimate and significant status.

Today Dr. Fisher could say, "I told you so," having predicted the ultimate consequence of non-accountability in high places as a "frightening and destructive anarchy." It is my belief that the threat of this ultimate consequence is what makes Mrs. Clinton a convenient, if not a logical, target in the Whitewater matter; and that neither her honesty, which I do not question, her brilliance of mind nor her demonstrated capabilities can come to her husband's rescue.

Edith C. Rubin

Sykesville

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