Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Groundhog Day

It's February. If you woke up this morning and discovered that Allen Dyer is running for the Board of Education, you might have been tempted to check your calendar.

To see what year it is.

Thanks to local Education reporter Sara Toth, background information on his run is here. Anything else you want to know ask Lisa B, Mrs S. She knows everything.

I'm a little concerned by the assertion that the board members should not see themselves as individuals, but rather as a part of a collective. I'm also concerned that board members have no incentive to be responsive to particular districts, because it is clear that some areas are mightily underrepresented on the board.

"Welcome to the hive mind. We represent some of the children in Howard County." *

How can we get excited about an election when it is set up in such a way that we don't feel that one person can make a difference? How can we make ourselves follow the race, turn out for candidate forums, read all the campaign materials when we know our part of the county will yet again be voiceless? County Executive Ken Ulman and his staff took a hard look at this and proposed some changes in an effort to address these very questions.

They weren't well received. The status quo remains more powerful than questions based on actual evidence.

So, about Groundhog Day. Our ancestors gathered evidence from the natural world to make decisions on when to harvest, when to plant. How woolly were the woolly worms that year? When did birds depart? How did the moon change, or light from the sun? So the origins of Groundhog Day were meaningful: planting, growing, eating, living. Modern Groundhog Day celebrations are far removed from reality. A man in a funny hat, television lights, a pre-selected groundhog--that's all we have left from a custom that was rooted in something akin to scientific observation.

And so it is with the Board of Education. We keep doing this thing over and over again, but it has wandered so far from the responsive, representational model that watching each race is not unlike watching Punxatawney Phil and his entourage. We want to believe we might gain something useful from the experience, but we don't really have faith in it.

Here are some people I think could make all the difference in the world on the Board of Education. To my knowledge, none of them are running. But they are my Dream Team, if you will. I know a lot more than four actually, but I am limiting myself to the seats available: Lisa Marini Schlossnagle, Alan Romack, Bill Santos, Ilana Bittner.

I hope that at least one of the people actually running possesses the qualities of service, cooperation, compassion, determination, and knowledge that these folks represent to me. Because you never know when that one particular person might make a difference.

Hope springs eternal.



*I want to be clear that I think that our board members work extremely hard, are trying to do what they think is best, and care a lot about their mission. However, I think it is time for a huge rethinking of what the board is responsible for, and how they respond to stakeholders.



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