Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Road to Ellicott City (2016): Part One

For years, the McLean Bible Church has been running radio ads on WTOP with the message, “not a sermon, just a thought.”  I always found the spots disingenuous.  I think they are sermons; albeit very short ones.  Others may disagree.

With that in mind, this is not an endorsement post for the Howard County Board of Education Primary Election.  It is merely one voter’s reflections on the questions that will help structure a decision-making process. Some may think they are loaded questions, or an attempt to achieve or justify a certain outcome.  I do not believe my thumb is on the scale.

I am approaching this topic as someone who is not a parent.  I am not an educator, although the Mrs. is (in another county).  My primary concern is good, responsible governance by elected officials working alongside (although not always in concert with) other stakeholders. 

In light of the madness that seems to be overtaking large swathes of the American electorate, I am hoping that Howard County exceptionalism will manifest itself at the voting booths in both the primary and general elections this year.

First, there should be a consideration of the ideal Board of Education (as a collective entity) as well as the ideal Board of Education member.  Several key questions leap to mind.  What attributes are most important?  What do we, as citizens, have a right to expect in terms of proper behavior?  What skills are most in need?  Who is most concerned about promoting the common good? Who is sincerely committed to abiding by the stated Guiding Principles of the Howard County Public School System?  Who is truly focused on the children and their educational needs?  Who has the gravitas that the position deserves?

Employing those tests, and bearing in mind both the performance of the incumbents and promise of the challengers, it becomes easy to wish that all seven elected seats were contested this year.  In this way, there could be a true referendum on the direction the Board should take.  Alas, only three seats are up, with 11 candidates vying to be among the top six that will emerge out of the April primary.   So here we stand with three incumbents and eight challengers.

Frankly, in light of the public record and information found on such helpful resources as betterboe.com, I am inclined to believe that the present Board, as a collective body, is currently on the wrong track.  Among other issues, it is important to note that talking at people is not the same as talking with people.  With that in mind, this election provides an opportunity for course correction.  Thus, the question arises, which of the 11 choices would help bring about the reform that our Board of Education needs? 

It would be easier, from a messaging perspective, to adopt a “throw them all out” point-of-view.  It would be a simple, clean narrative.  However, reality is more complex than that.    
Personally, I believe that two incumbents up for re-election do not deserve to serve another term.  Frankly, these two do not deserve a top six finish in the primary.

Beyond that, there are multiple challengers that have not yet provided compelling rationales for their candidacies.

Adding all of the numbers up, I am left with six likely contenders, with two challengers in my top three.  I will definitely be voting for those two fine citizens.  Their identities will be revealed in the follow-up post.

I am undecided on my third choice.  For that position, I am torn between one incumbent and one of three challengers.  Note: one of the challengers that I was considering for my third choice opted to not respond to my questionnaire.  That person, at present #7 on my list, is currently not in contention for the third slot.

I will turn to my questionnaire, the illuminating responses, and my choices, in my next post.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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