When you read yesterday's post, I bet you realized something was missing. I did.
Didn't read yesterday's post? Now would be a good time.
The road to today's election began with a long, pretty dry stretch where parents and teachers knew that things needed to change but they didn't have influence to change the local conversation. So they got together, and worked together, and spread the word, and reached out to local officials. And they sent information to local papers and television reporters.
But little, if anything happened.
This went on for a while. Concerned citizens spoke at the BOE Public Forum. People wrote letters to the Board of Education, and to the County Executive, and to members of the County Council. More advocacy groups formed, HCEA teamed with PATH to have a community conversation on how to build better schools. Momentum began to build. And here and there fruitful conversations started happening and news articles began to appear.
After a while, elected officials didn't merely listen to the concerns of constituents. They responded.
- Warren Miller worked with parents concerned about mold at Glenwood and other schools, and frustrated by lack of cooperation with MPIA requests.
- Warren Miller introduced legislation to improve transparency in handling MPIA requests.
- Eric Ebersole testified in support of the MPIA bill.
- Vanessa Atterbeary and Jonathan Weinstein worked on legislation that would make the BOE more accountable by electing members by disctrict.
- Warren Miller and Frank Turner hosted a Town Hall Meeting to listen to community concerns.
- Most of the Howard County Delegation attended that meeting.
- BOE members Cindy Vaillancourt and Bess Altwerger continued to ask questions and press for greater transparency in HCPSS decision-making.
- Jen Terrasa and Terri Hill requested the release of the all records from the special education audit.
- County Executive Allan Kittleman worked with the County Council to get independent mold testing in some schools.
- Calvin Ball put in place legislation to have these testing results reviewed by the Environmental Sustainability Board.
- Calvin Ball worked to get an independent audit of HCPSS budget, to establish a review committee of the HCPSS budget, pushed for full cooperation with the audit.
- Calvin Ball introduced legislation to take legal action if HCPSS did not fully cooperate with the audit.
- Council members Jen Terrasa and Calvin Ball filed a resultion asking the Maryland State Board of Education to contract for a performance audit of HCPSS.
There's a well-known story in which a BOE member, when asked for assistance, declares that "we don't have constituents."
This idea--that Board Members are not public servants in the traditional sense and that they have no obligation to be responsive, transparent, and accountable to Howard County citizens--is wrong. The long road to Election Day has shown just how wrong, as democratically elected officials have responded to constituents and shown exactly how you do this thing called public service.
The collaboration between citizens and their elected advocates is enabling our community to make important changes in how we treat teachers, students, parents, and families in Howard County. It's how good government works.
But all along the way, these elected officials have been reminding us that we, the people, possess the most powerful remedy to right the wrongs: our vote.
Get out there and vote, folks. And high-five your local electeds if you see any today. I hear some of them even like hugs.