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Wicomico County Board of Education Obstructs Children From Attending School

Updated: Mar 15

The Wicomico County Board of Education held a board meeting On March 9, 2021. At this meeting, absolute truths have been revealed. Superintendent Donna Hanlin makes her remarks on school attendance in the video link below.



Below is a video of board member Tonya Laird Lewis making her comment at the end of the meeting. Listen carefully.



In this video, Mrs. Laird Lewis starts out by saying:


"I am a parent of children in this county. I am an extremely emotional parent when it comes to matters that we are currently dealing with, and I am sorry there's a pandemic. I am sorry that children are struggling with virtual learning."


She then spills the beans, while demonstrating her sorrow:


"Mine struggled the 1st half of the year. We are thankful in our home, that I am able to help them the best that I can, and excited to see their grades increase as they have had the opportunity (after waiting their turn) to return to 4 days. I am thankful that they are getting the extra reading and math intervention that is definitely going to help them, so I do appreciate that. We hear what the community is saying, I understand the questions, the comments, and the concerns. I promise you that."


After hearing these words from Mrs. Laird Lewis, it's not difficult to see who she represents. Citizens should not have to wait in line at the mercy of their elected board members to receive a Free and Appropriate Education, while WCBOE implements their illusionary and privileged back-to-school recovery plan. As a result of Mrs. Laird Lewis' comments, it is clear that she is happy as long as her kid's needs are met. She mentioned that her children waited their turn in the 1st semester for their opportunity to attend for 4 days, so clearly a hierarchy of privilege exists in comparison to other parents who have requested and eagerly await their child's return. The fact is, not all students are being provided with an equal opportunity to attend school. Tonya Laird Lewis is excited to see her children's grades increase, while your child's grades decline. For me, but not for thee. This is a clear demonstration of privilege and abuse of the seat.


As an elected board member, others must always come first. Instead, she put her own personal interest ahead of the people, while trying to create an illusion that she followed a fair due process as her children were "waiting their turn." The State of Maryland has rules and regulations for such conduct while serving as an official. Additionally, the WCBOE has an ETHICS POLICY BOE-GEN-PL-020 under the Authority: General Provisions, § 5-815 – 5-820, Annotated Code of Maryland:


(f) Prestige of office.


(1) An official may not intentionally use the prestige of office or public position for the private gain of that official or the private gain of another.


(g) Gifts.


(1) An official may not solicit any gift.


Her actions are unethical, and there's a conflict of interest in her seat. She used her position to gain a personal advantage over others, and to derive benefit at the expense of others. This was a poor leadership decision, and a poor demonstration of equality and equity, for which the office is to demonstrate and uphold. Tanya Laird Lewis has abused her office and should resign.


After hearing Superintendent Hanlin's remarks from the March 9th meeting, there were an abundance of parents who have contacted their child's principal to arrange for 4 days attendance. Some were ignored, some were told that their child would be placed on a wait list, or denied attendance altogether. On the evening of March 10, 2021, Superintendent Hanlin then put out a public statement:

"Good evening, families and staff of Wicomico County Public Schools. This is Dr. Donna Hanlin, Superintendent of Schools with some important updates for both this school year and next school year. On this day a year ago we had no idea that Maryland was about to close its schools for a two-week period that would instead extend through the rest of the school year and beyond. I’m proud and amazed at how everyone has handled this once-in-a-century public health crisis. Just yesterday, Governor Hogan lifted many of the COVID-19 business restrictions amid promising signs that Maryland may be seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel, so let’s all continue taking the measures that protect us from COVID-19 and support a return to life as we knew it. It’s been great to see our buses on the road because students are returning for in-person instruction, and our athletic teams back in action, with a limited number of family fans in the stands for home games with online viewing options for others and for away games. Our ability to begin to return to some sense of normalcy certainly will benefit students both academically and in terms of mental health. Wicomico now has students engaged in hybrid learning at all grade levels in all schools, while virtual learning continues to be offered as an option. School principals are now working to expand hybrid in-person learning opportunities for students to four days a week as space allows, and parents and guardians who are interested should contact the school principal. Two school systems in the state, our neighboring counties of Worcester and Somerset, are fortunate to have the capability to return students five days a week based upon lower enrollment numbers, small class sizes and large classroom spaces. We want to have every one of our 15,000 students back in the classroom every single day, as we know that’s the best possible setting for learning for the majority of our students, but we want to make sure this is happening safely and in accordance with CDC guidelines for physical distancing, mask wearing, and cleaning and disinfecting. I’m pleased to share that in support of health and safety, starting March 15th, staff and students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been identified as a close contact of someone confirmed positive for COVID-19 will be offered a testing appointment by the nursing services staff at the school or office. Testing will be done in the parking lot of the school system’s Northgate office, by appointment, and students must be brought to testing by a parent or guardian. We’ve already had discussions about commencement, and we believe that this year it will be possible to have in-person commencement ceremonies, most likely with fewer tickets issued and livestreaming offered for those not in attendance. Details will be available soon. We are continuing to discuss the options for proms and other senior events, and will share more in the next couple of weeks.

Please note this change to the school calendar: Friday, April 9th will now be a full day of instruction, rather than an early dismissal day with afternoon professional development. That dedicated professional development time for teachers will now occur on the asynchronous day of Wednesday, April 7th. Looking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year, we are hoping for and planning for a return to more normal operations, assuming that the positive trends in COVID-19 numbers in our community continue, the percentage of people being vaccinated grows, and the CDC adjusts guidelines to allow more students and staff in the classroom."


Since this statement, parents have requested 4-day attendance from their child's principal and continued to either be ignored, told that their child would be placed on a wait list, or denied. It appears that this virtual wait list is an illusionary trick. "Stall and delay, hope you go away" is the motto of WCBOE to run out the clock to the end of the school year. Hanlin's plan is 2-days per week as hybrid for the remainder of the year, while being partial to the selection criteria of those who are allowed to return 4 days per week. This barbaric illusion is designed to deceive people by instilling false hope and opportunity. It is a complete sham, and their diversion continues to be at the expense of our children. Meanwhile, learning loss continues.


Of the school systems that are open full-time for 5 days per week, both public schools and private schools have managed to operate safe and effectively while following CDC guidelines. With the number of school buildings, student to class teacher ratio, and the reduction of those who would physically attend school, it can be done in a safe and responsible manner.


Superintendent Hanlin stated that: "Two school systems in the state, our neighboring counties of Worcester and Somerset, are fortunate to have the capability to return students five days a week based upon lower enrollment numbers, small class sizes and large classroom spaces."


This is a deceptive play on words, as Wicomico may have higher enrollment numbers than neighboring counties, but Wicomico also has more school buildings, more physical classrooms, and more teachers. In fact, the student to teacher ratio for Wicomico County falls right in between the counties that have opened their schools at a greater capacity of 4 days or more.


Student to Teacher Ratios

Worcester and Somerset Counties 12-1 OPEN - FULL TIME 5 DAYS PER WEEK

Wicomico is 13-1 HYBRID 2-DAYS PER WEEK

Carroll and Garrett Counties 14-1 OPEN - 4 DAYS PER WEEK


All counties above have unconditionally opened their doors except Wicomico. None of this "contact your principal and if space allows" nonsense. The CDC guidelines are no different for Wicomico County, but presented as if Wicomico has a special set of guidelines that no other school system has. In addition, they are guidelines, not mandates. The health department also cannot mandate. Lastly, teachers have been immunized. It seems as though whenever one excuse is eliminated, another one is created.


The picture below is a response from a principal to a parent who requested their child to attend for 4 days:



A double standard is exposed, since we know that the children of teachers, officials, and influential community members weren’t required to meet this criteria when they requested their child to attend school 4 days per week and were allowed to attend. What most parents don't know is that all students are failing. Just because your child has an "A" in their class, does not mean they have academic proficiency in the subject matter. For example, a student that received an "A" in Algebra was assessed and received a 43%. The same student received an "A" in Social Studies and was assessed and received a 34%. An article titled Wicomico County Board of Education Has Left Our Children Behind explains the failure of the WCBOE to follow their recovery plan, and their negligence that has led to the failure of your child. We recommend that you read it if you have not already.


Depending on the principal, parents receive different answers. There are no consistent standards or procedures. Principals should accommodate students any way they can, in order to get as many students in school as possible (some are more accommodating than others). They are not taking into account the social and emotional mental health of the student, the student's need for routine and stability, working parents, etc. Classrooms can be moved to libraries, and students can be moved to classes where there is more room. Gymnasiums, cafeterias, and computer labs can also be utilized. They can even setup outdoor classrooms when the weather is nice. Students can eat lunch in the classroom. There are many common-sense methods that can be utilized, and they are not even considered. If there is a will, there is a way. Superintendent Hanlin put the responsibility on principals to make the call. If there is no consistency, then how can a principal possibly manage a waitlist in a fair and equal way? They can't. The bottom line is there should be no criteria to go to school. Get them in, and utilize all possible spaces as other schools have safely and successfully demonstrated.


In conclusion, the WCBOE and the Superintendent need to open our schools and stop playing politics. This is not entirely about safety, which they try to make it out to be. A promise to take action without actual intent amounts to a trick that is no more than illusion of smoke and mirrors designed to deceive; the very tricks of a magician or politician. This kind of manipulation and obstruction by using double-standards and partiality is extremely unethical. Their criteria to prioritize who gets to go to school is discriminatory, prejudiced, violates numerous civil rights laws, and demonstrates inequity and inequality. The fact is, all students are vulnerable and precious. All students are entitled to receive an appropriate education, and that means to be physically present. Until then, Wicomico County is providing its citizens an inappropriate education that is subpar. If we are all equal, then let our children go to school.

Please contact the board members to let them know that you are tired of their political games, partiality, discrimination, hierarchy privilege, and their deception. This must end.

WCBOE Board Members

Donald Fitzgerald - dfitzger@wcboe.org

Gene Malone - gmalone@wcboe.org

Allen Brown - abrown@wcboe.org

John Palmer - jpalmer@wcboe.org

Tonya Lewis - tlewis@wcboe.org

Michael Murray - mmurray@wcboe.org

Ann Suthowski - asuthowsk@wcboe.org



Fellows & Editors

March 13, 2021 Copyright DelmarvaPTC.org


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References


1.) Video - WCBOE Board Meeting March 9, 2021 - http://go.boarddocs.com/mabe/wcboe/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BYCV3T6F438F


2.) Shrek - Dreamworks - 2010 - https://youtu.be/hiKuxfcSrEU


3.) National Center for Education Statistics


All content and references are presented under the Fair Use Act.

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