Monday, September 29, 2014

The Right to Ask a Question

Long ago my father asked me if I knew what earning a bachelor's degree would qualify me for. I floundered around with the typical answers: the right to get a better job, the qualifications to apply to graduate school...
No, he said. It earns you "the right to ask a question." Apparently that is the case, if you go back to much older educational traditions. I did some cursory digging around for this blog post and I can't find anything, but my dad was pretty convincing. It has stuck with me all these years.
I raise this concept today because what is going on right now at the Board of Education is just that: will Board member Cindy Vaillancourt be permitted to retain the right to ask a question? It is pretty clear that the Board is attempting, through a pattern of behavior, to discredit her in an effort to prevent her re-election.
So, let's look at the kind of questions Mrs. Vaillancourt has asked while on the Board:
  • Why, after firing in-house attorneys, did the school system hire the same attorney who had been fired by Prince George's County Public Schools as a result of an improper payment made--an ethics violation?
  • Why was the board going to have a vote on elementary school redistricting without addressing the overcrowding at Laurel Woods?
  • Where did the money come from for the China trip, and why did some board members know nothing about it while others were already signed up to go along?
  • How could the school system make such substantial changes in curriculum in the Model Schools Initiative without allowing the Board to have open hearings and vote on it?
  • When will the board be permitted to review the legal fees report to see whether getting rid of in-house counsel has resulted in cost savings?
  • Are we fulfilling the promise of the new wellness policy if we are serving sweetened cereals in our breakfast program?
  • Why was the Board suspending the Operational Budget Review Board, and weren't they required to have a vote to do that?
There is a reason that we elect our Board of Education members. It is, quite simply, because they serve to represent us. The sampling of questions you see above come from someone who is conscientiously doing her job to serve the students, parents, and overall community. What will happen to our schools if there is no one left to ask these questions?
The right to ask a question. It is a right we should all have a stake in defending.


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