Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Clean Living

Happy first day of Spring. How about that snow forecast, eh?

In honor of the changing of the seasons, here’s a little public health announcement: wash your hands.

No, it’s not a hocolocal story. It’s universal. Take it from an early childhood teacher: you need to start them young. Children are natural germ spreaders. You don’t really want me to go into detail.

Washing ones hands is such a basic contribution we can all make to public health. You’d be amazed at how lackadaisical many folks are about it. It’s not a very “sexy” cause in the grand scheme of things, but it should be.

Visiting a pregnant friend?
     Wash your hands.
Meeting a new baby?
     Wash your hands.
Walking in the door at the end of the day?
     Wash your hands.
Leaving your volunteer shift at the preschool?
     Wash your hands.

Why yes, I do have a sick teenager at my house right now, and I’m desperately hoping to remain well. Why do you ask?


Monday, March 19, 2018

More Than Bake Sales

Over the weekend news broke that a substitute teacher used by the Howard County Schools had been charged with child sexual abuse for an incident in Montgomery County. Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano sent out a letter to parents on Saturday covering the situation in general terms.

If you want to know specifics I suggest you follow the PTA Council of Howard County on Facebook.  PTACHC President Vicky Cutroneo was been providing the most through, up-to-date information available on this horrific situation throughout the weekend.

Some folks think that the PTA is “merely” about bake sales or booster groups, after-prom parties and teacher luncheons.   The PTA Council in Howard County addresses those issues and so much more. They maintain an informational website as a resource but have recently entered the social media world by keeping members up to date on Facebook.

Want to stay in the loop on Howard County Schools? I’d recommend adding PTACHC to your social media diet.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. It’s quiet at the Snowden Starbucks, and I pick a seat with the scenic view of the bowling alley. I have reached the point that my glasses don’t afford me a clear view of overhead order boards. I reach into my memory and come up blank. I try to appear knowingly ironic as I order a “middle-sized” caramel macchiato.

I’m slipping from middle age to late middle age. I’m wondering if all the people I saw at the Wilde Lake Starbucks used to come here on a Sunday morning. The music on the sound system leans acoustic but not too mournful. Introspective with slight hint of perkiness. Audible wallpaper. 

There will be no Village Election in Oakland Mills this year. No one is running. Well, that’s not quite true.

 Six candidates are running for seven open seats on the Oakland Mills Board.  One candidate is running for the one open Columbia Council Representative seat.  This is a *non-contested race for both the village board and Columbia Council which means that all candidates will be deemed elected and begin their one year Board term on May 1, 2018.  The Oakland Mills Board will confirm the appointment of candidates on April 24, 2018.  

The last time I went to an Oakland Mills Village Board Meeting was to speak on behalf on Jonathan Edelson as Board Chair. I remember being particularly concerned about the lack of participation in Village Elections. I challenged the board to dedicate some time and energy to involving a larger share of Oakland Mills in the election process. 

We need more people to be informed, to care, and to vote.

I know this Village Board works hard and I also know that when one is in the middle of attending to the issues one is faced with, in the moment, those long-term goals slip out of consciousness. It has been a source of relief to me that I am no longer in fear of angry people trying to “re-invent” my Village. I do feel that our current board is caring for, nurturing, paying attention to our Village. 

This piece is in no way a criticism of their work. The problem of declining participation and uncontested Elections is Columbia-wide.

Columbia is a verb. Until it isn’t. 

Perhaps Columbia was a fad, a craze, a cult that didn’t necessary “take” with the next generation. Or perhaps the focus has shifted to just getting by. Both parents working just to make it. No extra money for baby sitters and anyway, what if something went wrong? We work too hard. We worry. We wake up early, go to bed late and wonder if we are making our children’s lives better or worse.

Like I said, late middle age. Visions of mortality. The sounds of the audible wallpaper are morphing into something more decidedly mournful. The Starbucks is filling up. We’re all together, alone at our separate tables. With our electronic devices. 

I tell you what. Let’s make a date to get together this Spring. Put it on your calendar now: the annual Oakland Mills Village Plant Sale. They still have that even if there’s no election. There will still be Spring, after all.

Annual Plant Sale
We will hold our annual plant sale for plants, hanging baskets, and herbs on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.  This is a great opportunity to purchase quality plants at great prices and for a great cause - it's a fundraiser for the Oakland Mills community.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


They seem to be reaching critical mass over here...

The top ten things that bug me, in no particular order:

1. Houses with the garage placed in the front as a focal point. Howard County has a lot of these!

2. People who snicker while other folks give testimony at public hearings.

3. Chess-shaming in reference to UMBC ‘s basketball win. “I thought they only had a chess team, ha ha.”

4. Outright meanness in social media groups. See also: telling the admin what to do.

5. People who think that abortion is the protesting equivalent of school gun violence.

6. How long Spring is taking to arrive this year. How tenaciously Winter is holding on.

7. The American way of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.

8. The fake School Superintendent account on twitter. Completely self indulgent and not remotely enlightening or amusing.

9. The way the local press chews up and grinds down journalistic talent.

10. People who will support you privately but not in public.

There you have it, folks. My take and also my invitation to you to do the same. In particular, any local pet peeves?


Friday, March 16, 2018

Time Sensitive

What could you do with $5,000.00?

The folks at Stevens Forest Elementary School have plenty of ideas of how to spread that money around to support their Title 1 school community. Right now they are within striking distance of third place in the contest, which would win them $5,000.00.

Contest details are here:


Here’s the deal. Today is the last day, so just go and vote once. That’s all you need to do, and then share this post to your friends so they can vote before today’s five pm deadline.

Vote here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happiness Is...

Columbia ranks as twelfth happiest city in the U.S.


Readers of this blog know that I take most ranking announcements with a grain of salt. This one just floors me. How do you quantify happiness? Who gets to choose?

The article in the Baltimore Business Journal mentions some of the factors that were taken into account. I notice that an active arts scene didn’t make the list. Hmm.

What would be on your top ten list of what makes you happy in a community? What’s your number one?

Be serious, or be silly. But, tell me: what makes for happiness in a hometown?

Add your comments here:


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Walking Out

Whether we “allow” students to walk out or not, let’s face the fact that they have a reason to protest. Every student who walks into a school has a reason to fear gun violence within those walls. We can only say “it’s never happened here” right up until it does. We didn’t expect that horrific incident at the Columbia Mall, now did we?

It happens. It has happened. It is happening. It will happen, even here, if we don’t make a substantive change in how we deal with guns in our culture. Students know this. They have no motivation to say, “well, on the other hand” or “let’s not go overboard” or any of those mealy-mouthed, whataboutism claims.

Children lie dead in school classrooms. Classmates bleed out, ripped apart by by bullets from assault weapons. Students throughout the nation train and rehearse active shooter drills. This is not education. This is the antithesis of the learning and growth that School is supposed to represent.

Measures that turn our schools into prisons may be reassuring to some parents but students know better. Most of those same measures have already been proven ineffective in previous school shootings. Even if we turned every school into a SuperMax facility, our students could very likely meet their end at the movie theater. Or a nightclub. Or a shopping center.

It’s not the location. It’s the guns.

I believe in the right of students to protest. I believe that protest can be an effective motivator of change. I’ve seen some adults carping that kids don’t understand larger issues and merely want a reason to cut class. That just galls me. Let’s not sell our kids short. And besides, in every group are those who will understand and those who won’t. Even in groups of adults. That doesn’t mean we negate the rights of all because some won’t “get it.”

Whether or not one lives or dies or loses friends and teachers is relevant to every student. It is not an issue that belongs a to particular political party. It belongs to every child who goes to school and lives in fear. We have allowed this world to come into existence.

Our students are saying “enough”.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

An Odd Choice

I’m a bit late in getting to this srticle in the Howard County Times:

16 candidates vie for Howard County Council seats (Kate Magill)

Dated March 5th, this piece does a good job at sorting out who everybody is and what they are running for. It’s Howard County. You can’t tell the players without a score card. And in this case it’s more than merely a score card, since some candidates come with complex backstories that take three entire paragraphs to sort out. Ms Magill does an excellent job articulating Janet Siddiqui’s complicated candidacy.

But then, at the end of the article, something odd happens. Suddenly it turns into an interview with outgoing council member Greg Fox. What the heck? In a piece that is 16 paragraphs long, Mr. Fox warrants 4 of them. That’s fully 25 per cent. Whether one is a fan of Mr. Fox or not, what is the rationale for allowing him to have the last word on the council race in the article?

Is it perhaps because he is the only one of the current council members not running for anything? Does that supposedly render him impartial in the upcoming election? (Spoiler: he isn’t.) The portion of the article dedicated to Mr. Fox might best be labeled “how Republicans want to define the upcoming local races in order to hammer Democrats.” He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, and I’m sure there are others who share it.

But without such a clear label his words stand alone as some kind of an authoritative declaration on the race. There is nothing else in the article to balance his views. I find that odd.

Reporter Kate Magill has been doing an amazing job doing the work of several people. This blog post is not meant to pick on her. We need local journalists. We are lucky to have Ms. Magill. I’m just puzzled by this particular journalistic choice.

Should there be another voice in this article? Who would you choose?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Anger and Kindness

I have nothing but loathing for the time change this morning. On the other hand, I’m more grateful than ever for that first cup of coffee.

This weekend I was sad to see a valuable member of an online group state that she was leaving because of ill-treatment. Others chimed in, lamenting the toxic environment. I have to say that I don’t think this group is a hotbed of toxicity, but, like any online group, sometimes things go awry.

Why can’t we get this right? We deplore online bullying by teens. And yet we, as adults, right here in Howard County, struggle to keep a Facebook group free from negative personal comments. How can we be good examples for our children if we don’t practice online civility ourselves?

Some people fault admin/moderators for not dealing with outliers more aggressively. While I agree that the role of moderator is a valuable one in steering an online community, it isn’t their job to be everyone’s police officer. It’s rather like blaming the teacher for one’s own bad behavior. Being a moderator for an online group is hardly a paid, full-time job. People have lives. They can’t be watching every minute, ready to pounce on transgressors.

I think that most of us do a good job of policing ourselves, with the occasional slip up if the conversation gets heated. I also think that all of us could use some basic training on how to interact online. We recommend such training for kids—did we ever have any? The Howard County Library System has addressed issues like these in their Choose Civility initiative, but I suspect that the people who attend such events are the kind who already care about how they interact on social media.

How do we get beyond preaching to the choir? Is there a way to reach trolls that could get them to buy in to a different way of interacting? How do we drive home the point that, when you log on, you don’ t leave your basic human kindness behind. You bring it with you.

For every member of a group who articulates publicly why they are leaving, there are many who leave silently or simply stop engaging. Just because we don’t read about it doesn’t mean it is not happening. This particular member did the group a service by starting a conversation about problems that we all need to face. She didn’t owe us that, but I’m grateful that she did.

Board of Education Chair Cindy Vaillancourt shared this piece over the weekend. I highly recommend it. The author, Ann Bauer, closes with these words:

Be angry if you must, but be kind as well. The two are not mutually exclusive. Contribute a little joy to the world. It’s the only way I see out of this chaos we’re in.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Big Dance

Savvy HoCo residents have been following the case of a former school Superintendent in Baltimore County. Dallas Dance, who recently entered a guilty plea to perjury charges, came perilously close to being the Superintendent of our school system. In what might be the weirdest and most incestuous search process ever, HoCo and BaltCo used the same search company and came down to the same two top candidates: Dallas Dance and Renee Foose.

Some day there may be a made-for-tv movie about this, folks. It’s that weird.

Lauded columnist Dan Rodricks has written a piece about Dance. It’s good copy but it completely misses the point. In “Dallas Dance and the failure to learn” Rodricks is left scratching his head at the “smart guys in fine suits” make stupid (criminal) mistakes when there are so many famous examples that might warn them that it is sure to end badly.

First of all, why use the term “smart guys in fine suits” when you’re going to launch into the malfeasance of former Mayor of Baltimore Sheila Dixon? Surely there’s a non-gendered way to say it?

There’s nothing puzzling about the kind of powerful people who make selfish and criminal choices on the job. It’s quite simple. The kind of person who does this doesn’t think the rules apply to them. They believe they are “special”, “different”. They recognize no connection between themselves and these other examples Mr. Rodricks has documented in his article. Perhaps this sort of person could be described as a certain psychological type. I’m not qualified to say.

I do know that this behavior is often the same behavior seen in abusers. They believe they know everything. They encourage a cult of personality. They groom potential followers. They feel no connection to the concept that their actions will have consequences. They may call out others for bad behavior but anything they do is justified. They are special. They have reasons.

Perhaps what is more puzzling is that we haven’t gotten better as a society at recognizing people like this before they are hired, before they are elected to office. Maybe not, though. Someone who operates like this can be deceptively reasonable early on. They have the intelligence to do and say the right things to “make the sale” when they are selling themselves.

As we in Howard County look at the demise of Dallas Dance and learn more about undeclared payments and unethical contracts, I wonder if this story might unravel further. Could Howard County fall victim to the same kind of fancy-dressed grifter that worked his way into the Baltimore County School System?

Somehow I think that there’s more to this story, and that the rest of it will play out far closer to home.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

No Respect?

Today Elkridge is getting a brand new library. But they won’t be getting a new high school.

When the BOE voted 4-3 to choose the Mission Road site for the 13th high school in the system, a lot of hopes were dashed in Elkridge. I feel for them. Evidence suggests that Elkridge has been at the end of the line for many things in Howard County. And Elkridge residents are mighty tired of this.

I know that these decisions are complicated. I know that there are good reasons on either side. I also know that there is a long-standing feeling that Elkridge “don’t get no respect” in Howard County and that this is just one more decision among many that stings.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Believe the Women

I’ve been following the goings on in Annapolis during this years legislative session. Have you? The women’s caucus released a report detailing a culture of harassment and describing examples of outright abuse. Then, stunningly, Del. Kathleen M. Dumais released an open letter to the press, signed by the women of the legislature:

objecting to press accounts where the legislature has been portrayed as "'a frat house' and a den of iniquity. The letter says such portrayals are "unfair and inaccurate." (from Bryan Sears, Maryland Daily Record)

This letter did not go over well with members of the women’s caucus.

“I have a lot of feelings about that letter — like furious and betrayed,” said the staffer who asked not be identified for fear of retaliation.

I cannot for the life of me understand why women were not supporting women here. What on earth was Delegate Dumais thinking? It seems that she and a few others who had input into the letter were worried that press coverage of the caucus report was reflecting poorly on them and their work in Annapolis. They were worried that it made them look bad, that they wouldn’t be taken seriously. 

Well, in my opinion the people they should have been thinking of first were the women who came forward with their stories of harassment and abuse. It’s just mind boggling to me that their response to this report was, “wait—this might make me look bad.” Do we support #believethewomen only so long as it doesn’t encroach on our personal comfort zones?

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. My wish for Maryland would be women supporting women in Annapolis. Be the example you’d like to see throughout the state. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Politics and Clicks

Hey there, local candidates! What are you running for? Maybe it’s:

Columbia village board
Columbia Association Board
Board of Education
County Council
County Executive
House of Delegates
State Senate

Have you created a social media account for your campaign? Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Are you using social media in a one-way fashion, to push out information? Or will you be interacting with the public through your social media accounts?

Yes? No? Maybe? Why or why not?

Hey there, local voters! How important is a candidate’s social media presence to you? Do you prefer meet and greets? Candidate forums? Someone who knocks on your own front door? What do you expect from a candidate’s social media account? What makes it useful/not useful for you in making your voting decisions?

The rise of social media has transformed our election processes both nationally and locally. Now we have professionals who will sell you their services to create and shape your social media presence. Social media is now considered a part of a candidate’s “brand”.

But how important is it in local races? I’m watching this year’s campaigns shape up and I am interested in your opinions.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

No Delay

I hit snooze this morning because my sleepy brain was sure we would have a delay. We don’t.

In lieu of a well thought out blog post, I offer this article about a new law in Canton, Ohio. It claims to be addressing a problem. But is it? What gets addressed, and what gets left out?

Canton City Council Passes a Scaled-Back Shopping Cart Law

Confession: I read this article several times assuming it dealt with the Canton in Baltimore City. Maybe I didn’t hit snooze enough this morning.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Shaming the Devil

One of the hardest things about being committed  to transparency and responsiveness is when you have to share bad new. Really bad news.

From Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt:

We adopted a heartbreaking budget this evening.  We raised class sizes for all grades except kindergarten.  We suspended all elementary school foreign language.  We reduced the increases in special ed.  We reduced building maintenance.  We reduced our capital budget request.  

We did not include furloughs.  We restored playground monitors.  We added 66 special education staff (educators and para-educators).  We committed to funding the full 85% of the health insurance premiums.

But this is only the request.  If the county does not fully fund it, there will need to be more cuts.  

We need the community to contact the County Exec and the County Council to let them all know how they feel about fully funding education.

If we are to provide the level of service the community expects, we will need to be restored to 58% of the county budget --- not the 52% we have been reduced to over the past several years.  

Please consider attending the County Executive's budget public hearing on Thursday, March 8.

This is the truth of where we are. While on the one hand it is true that the Board is saddled with the consequences of financial mismanagement of previous leadership, on the other hand the fact is that County funding for the school system has been steadily decreasing over a number of years. We know all this because Ms. Vaillancourt is no longer prevented from seeing all the details of the school system’s financial workings, and is not prohibited from telling the public what she knows.

Remember, the watchword for the previous administration was “control the message.” Now we are seeing the unvarnished truth that those shiny new programs were designed to hide.

Well, “yay,” you think. At least then I didn’t know how bad it was. We could all pretend we had the very best, world class school system with the brightest, shiniest new programs ever.

Can we handle the truth?

Howard County voters elected a school board that would bring transparency, responsiveness, and accountability to the workings of our school system. It took a lot of grass-roots activism to get them there. Our work is not done, however. Please write to the County Executive and ask for a re-commitment for funding education at previous levels. If you can, attend the County Executive’s budget hearing on Thursday, March 8th to support full funding of the school budget.

I believe that this moment has been a long time in coming. I think that it has been known for quite some time that the County has not been funding the needs of our school system adequately. For a time, the distractions of dysfunctional leadership out on Route 108 masked the deeper problem. But now, here we are. Will we, as a community, make education the priority it needs to be in order for our children to flourish?

Send your letters here: akittleman@howardcountymd.gov

Monday, March 5, 2018

There Goes the Neighborhood

I travel Route 108 through Clarksville quite a bit these days. And I have noticed something recently that makes me wonder. Now that the Clarksville Commons project is up and running, suddenly the adjacent Wendy’s looks seedy and out of place. The colors look wrong. The size seems out of scale.

Has anyone else noticed that? Or is it just me?

Long ago an electrical fire in a old dishwasher meant my mother was in the position to choose both a new sink and dishwasher. Once they were installed, the rest of the kitchen looked dreadful. In the end that one dishwasher ended up being the cause of a compete kitchen remodel. Funny how that works.

I thought of that when I looked at the Wendy’s. It hasn’t changed. But the location around it has been transformed rather dramatically. Does it matter? Does the Wendy’s meet a community need and is it doing the kind of business that makes it financially viable? That’s probably more to the point than whether I think it looks out of place.

Surrounded by a natural food grocery, a sit-down restaurant known for its gourmet vegetarian menu, and now flanked by an artisanal pizza place and a farm-to-fork establishment, the little fast food joint feels strangely out of place. How long can it hold out against the creeping progress of healthy and upscale living? Perhaps, in the future, River Hill residents will be going through the drive-through for their take out orders of kombucha and avocado toast.

Just kidding. But, who knows?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Let’s Have Coffee

Yesterday I met up with a friend at the new Wilde Lake Starbucks. It was my first visit since they opened. The location was a convenient midpoint between our two houses and besides: I was curious.

I know that many of you can recite the list of former occupants of this space with the confidence of Sunday school scholars reeling off the books of the Bible. I can’t. My memory goes back as far as the KFC. It wasn’t a particularly large KFC, as I recall. I remember having dinner there once with my daughter after a summer camp show at Slayton House. I think we were the only customers.

I had a bit of a Doctor Who moment when I walked in to the Wilde Lake Starbucks. It’s enormous. It may be the largest Starbucks I have ever been to. It’s definitely “bigger on the inside.” The traffic flow was slightly counter-intuitive for me (you go right and move left) but the service was friendly and competent. At ten am on a Saturday morning, the place was hopping. The parking lot, shared with David’s Market, was packed. The drive-through had a line.  I think it is safe to say that if Starbucks felt it was taking a chance on this location, they are probably seeing some reassuring numbers at this point.

The Wilde Lake Village Center was full of people. It is no longer a vast wasteland of lonely parking lots. This is a good thing. I drove around a bit to try and understand how it has been reconfigured. I think I like it.

While I was chatting about the future of the local arts scene in Wilde Lake, a certain candidate for delegate was meeting up with interested citizens for a meet and greet for coffee at the Downtown Whole Foods. Another friend of mine posted from her favorite coffee place in town: Anna’s Coffee Roastery.  Oh, how we love our coffee places in this town.

And did I tell you about the time I had coffee at Caffe Bene with a candidate for the Board of Education? Wait, let’s save that story for another day.

Have you been to the new Starbucks in Wilde Lake? What did you think? Do you like the new Village Center?

And where are you having coffee this morning?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tell Me More

I confess to having an ongoing interest (obsession?) with the former Columbia Flier building on Little Patuxent Parkway. It is, to me, an iconic Columbia building and the site of much of the New American City’s history. Although I have been told that the location is worth more if the building itself is torn down, I wish this did not have to be.

Therefore, I continue to follow the ongoing saga of what will become of “The Flier Building”.

From the most recent legislative bulletin from my Council member Calvin Ball, comes this tidbit listed under Tabled Legislation:

Introduced by: The Chairperson at the request of the County Executive

A RESOLUTION pursuant to Section 4.201 of the Howard County Code, authorizing the County Executive's sale of certain real property known as the "Flier Building" owned by Howard County, Maryland, containing approximately 2.159 acres, and located at 10750 Little Patuxent Parkway, Maryland; waiving the advertising and bidding requirements of Section 4.201 of the Howard County Code; and providing that the County Executive is not bound to sell the property if he finds that it may have a further public use.

So, local political and land use geeks, tell me more. What does this mean? 

We know that Patuxent Publishing vacated the building, and is itself no more. We know the building was for sale for quite some time with no buyers. Then the County bought it (towards the end of the Ulman administration)  to be used as the headquarters of a business incubator. Then, with the change in administration, the building was deemed too expensive to renovate and I gather it was considered a bad purchase in general. 

That was in 2015. Where are we now? What progress has been made on this? I feel that there must be a more in-depth story here after three years. And, after all this time, I still have never seen the inside of this building and I fear that I never will. 

I’m still waiting for HGTV to swoop down and turn it into an Extreme Home. Although it also might make a fabulous space for something to do with Howard Community College. In the meantime I have lots of imagination and very few facts. Educate me, Columbia/HoCo friends.

What’s going on with the Flier Building?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Friday's Top Ten

I got so caught up in the “will they/won’t they”close schools drama that I temporarily forgot I had a blog post to write.


News highlights for your Friday:

  • The Howard County Library System has a new Director, Tonya Kennon.
  • Howard Hughes Corporation and the Howard County Arts Council have announced the Merriweather District Artist in Residence Program 
  • The Howard County School System will raise class sizes as a way to address budget shortfalls.
  •  The percentage of the Howard budget which is dedicated to Education has fallen from 58 per cent to 52 per cent.
  • Children’s musical group Milkshake will be performing at the Chrysalis this season.
  • Bloggers Jason Booms and Scott Ewart are having way too much fun anazlying and informing about the upcoming local elections.
  • Lupa, the Roman-inspired restaurant which replaces Petit Louis Bistro Downtown at the Lakefront, has opened.
  • The space formerly occupied by Comptoir will sell gelato!
  • Decisions on Hickory Ridge Center plan delayed for ten months...
  • My husband was a genius to take down our patio umbrella last night.

I hope your day goes well. Please take care to avoid the fate of these unlucky job applicants.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


It’s taking me a while to process the news that BOE member Cindy Vaillancourt will not be running for re-election. While I understand why she would choose not to run, the effect of losing her knowledge and ability on the board will be huge. I will very likely have more to say on this subject. In the meantime, this post from December, 2016 will serve to remind my readers how much has happened on Ms. Vaillancourt’s watch.

In the Moment (December 10, 2016)

I've been mulling over this week's Board of Education swearing-in of new members, subsequent election of new officers, and all that followed. Two moments stuck out to me. They are an indication of the the leadership style we can expect from Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt.

The first moment occurred when Superintendent Foose suggested that the Board might not be able to take a partular action in question and suggested that the first step was to consult legal counsel. Ms. Vaillancourt calmly stated that no, they wouldn't be needing to do that, and any subsequent questions could be ironed out in the next day's closed meeting.

It was such a simple moment that one might have missed it. Ms. Vaillancourt listened to the Superintendent, considered her request, and then she said no. And in that exchange, the Howard County Board of Education ceased to serve at the pleasure of the Superintendent. Of course, by statute it's always been in writing that the Superintendent is under the supervision of the Board.

That isn't what's been in practice for quite some time.

No whip-cracking, no mustache-twirling necessary. Just a simple, "no, I don't think so."

Later on, when Sandie French was expressing dismay at the course of events, the irony of her protestations set off some in the audience. There were ripples of laughter. I don't believe that anyone was laughing at Ms. French, but rather were incredulous at her arguments.

Ms. Vaillancourt leaned forward to her microphone. "Come on, guys," she addressed the room. Her tone was gentle, but authoritative. The laughter ceased.

Clearly she was not going to allow anything that smacked of disrespect for a fellow board member. When you consider how members of the board have treated Ms. Vaillancourt in the past, her determination to be civil and even-handed is remarkable. Although, for anyone who knows her, it wasn't the least bit surprising.

Monday evening showed us Ms. Vaillancourt to be prepared, articulate, determined, and someone who will take no guff. It also showed her desire to work collegially with other board members, refusing to take or wield special privileges that other board chairs have claimed before her.

I'm looking forward to a new style of leadership on the Board of Education. Monday's meeting suggests good things are on the way.