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  • Fellow Editors

Wicomico County Board of Education Searches For a New Superintendent in Bad Faith

Since the Superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools announced her future retirement date of June 30, 2022, the Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBOE) announced that they have teamed up with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) to find the next Superintendent. In doing so, the WCBOE has partnered with the union with the objective to jam a new Superintendent in place with less than 5 months between the current Superintendent's departure and the election of the new schoolboard in November.

To make it appear as though the community is involved in this selection process, the WCBOE announced that they created a survey to see what parents were looking for in a new Superintendent. The announcement was on the website, but was missing the link to the survey for four days. This was brought to the attention of the school system over a weekend, and a link was added the following Monday. The public was robbed 4 days of their window to respond. This was brought to the attention of Board member John Palmer with a request to extend the survey response window, but nothing was ever done. Despite the results of the survey, the WCBOE has a track record of ignoring the will of the people through a showcase of illusionary intent for the record.

Who should select the next Superintendent?

In order to get a consensus from the citizens, a one-question poll was created to target Wicomico parents, which read as follows:

With just 6 months between the retirement of Superintendent Donna Hanlin and the new board members being sworn in, who do you feel should pick the next Superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools?

Out of 817 responses, 22% chose the Current School Board, and 78% chose the Newly Elected School Board. After asking many BOE candidates, all of them were in favor of the new schoolboard selecting the next Superintendent for Wicomico County Public Schools.

Are the actions of the current WCBOE to select a new Superintendent ethical?

MABE publishes a Maryland School Law Book that explains the roles, responsibilities, and legal aspect of board oversight in the State of Maryland as it aligns with COMAR and the Education Article. Section 1:68 of the book reads:

Copyright (2020). MD School Law Desk Book, Sec 1:68 - Matthew Bender & Company, Inc. LexisNexis, & MABE

Knowing that 78% of the citizens desire for the new school board to select the next Superintendent and understanding the desire of most candidates, it's seen as unethical and inappropriate for the existing schoolboard to lock the school system into a long-term contract on their way out, in opposition to what a subsequent board desires to change. Ironically, the same union that developed this book (MABE) has teamed up with the WCBOE to recruit a Superintendent, while ignoring section 1:68 of their own book.

In the 2018 election, it was the first time that Wicomico went from an appointed board to an elected board. During this transition, all of the board seats were up for election at the same time. The State of Maryland’s Board of Election has a process to synchronize seats should someone vacate a seat. There is a make-up cycle which candidates can run 2 years prior to the synchronization of an election cycle. For example, if a seat is vacated one year into a 4-year term, the Wicomico County Council would appoint a BOE member to temporarily fill the seat until the next make-up election cycle. A year later, that seat will come up for reelection for a two-year term until the seats are synchronized.

The establishment wants staggered seats.

Staggered seats mean that half the board members are up for reelection every two years, while still serving a 4-year term. Some counties choose to have staggered seats, and Wicomico is not one of them. The 4-year synchronized term poses a threat to the establishment at this point in time, because of what the Maryland Law Book says above. They would rather have staggered seats, because it gives board members a window of 2-years to get things done together. They know that a house of divided board members cannot stand. In addition, they can most likely get away with locking the school system into a long-term contract on their way out if half the board is up for reelection every two years.

Knowing all of this, the existing WCBOE and its Administration have conspired with legislators at the county and state level for their support to stagger the BOE seats before the election in order to protect their political interests, which is a form of gerrymandering. Unsuccessful this time around, WCBOE incumbents John Palmer and Tonya Lewis can be seen below trying to sell this idea before legislators as school administrators nod in agreement:

The existing schoolboard would be acting in bad faith should they proceed to recruit and contract with a new Superintendent despite these facts. This is nothing short of a political attempt to undermine and hogtie the future elected board. In addition, the WCBOE would be ripping off the citizens of Wicomico County if a contract has to be settled, for which the county should have never entered to begin with. Knowing this, any potential nominee for Superintendent should be deterred to enter into a contract unless they see dollar signs to exploit the people, as the nominee will not remain employed if the WCBOE proceeds in this manner. Both the WCBOE, MABE, and any nominee is hereby put on notice.

In the end, the newly elected schoolboard needs to select the next Superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools. Current Administration can fill the void until the newly elected schoolboard selects a new Superintendent. That would be a great time for Administrators to demonstrate their qualifications and abilities should the new school board desire to keep them.

Fellows & Editors

February 12, 2022.

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