Two big stories (that aren't mold or the Harriet Tubman building) in the news this week pertaining to the Howard County School System.
- Bill proposes to elect Howard school board members by district (Amanda Yeager and Lisa Philip)*
- Howard delegate proposes legislative remedy to school system transparency complaints (Amanda Yeager)
Both stories feature elected officials, both Democrat and Republican, who are proposing to improve the workings of the elected Board of Education and the school system in response to constituent requests. Many constituent requests. This is notable for two reasons. Number one, we see elected officials being responsive to constituents, something that we need much more of from the Board of Education. Number two is rather personal to me.
In October of 2014, in "Disconnect", I wrote of attending a PTACHC meeting in which the topic "What makes a good board member?" was discussed by a variety of experts, including present and past board members.
I asked a question about how voters look at this election. I have talked to a lot of parents and community members who are concerned about responsiveness and transparency. So how can we, as voters, evaluate candidates based on these concerns?
He didn't really answer my question. He deflected it. He made light of it. But he didn't truly answer it. He suggested that when people say responsiveness, they really mean "having a board member who will solve my personal problems." He said Howard County has open meetings laws so there is no problem with transparency. End of discussion.
The fact remains--if voters, your constituents, have concerns with responsiveness, transparency, and accountability--those concerns should be your concerns. Question after question was turned back on the asker--you didn't ask the right people, you didn't go to the right meeting, you didn't do it the right way. If I didn't know better, I would assume that the slogan of the Howard County School System is: the Customer Is Always Wrong.
It seems that the concerns I expressed at that meeting truly are weighing on the minds of the citizens of Howard County. Council Member Jon Weinstein, state Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, and state Delegate Warren Miller are taking these actions in response to their constituents. That's how good government works.
Responsiveness, transparency, accountability. We ask the County Governent for that. We ask the State Government for that. It's absolutely within our rights as citizens of Howard County to ask our Board of Education and our school system for that.
*Tom Coale writes about this on HoCoRising, "Politics of Scale - a Better Board of Ed".