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How come the Howard Board of Education felt compelled to demonstrate their arrogance by renewing the contract of the controversial Superintendent in advance of due diligence? How come they appear to devote so much time to actually plotting against the citizens and students they are charged to serve?

Everything imaginable was wrong, very wrong, about the conduct of the last Board of Education meeting. Lisa Markovitz of the People’s Voice, LLC gave a well detailed account of the very “non-public HoCo Public School Board meeting held on February 4th in her letter to the HoCo Citizen’s Association (HCCA). I strongly urge you to go to the source for this first-hand account. If you have a pulse, you will not be able to read it without a visceral reaction.

On the very day that an excellent editorial in the HC Times advised the BoE to perform their due diligence in deciding whether or not to renew Superintendent Foose’s contract the BoE circled their wagons and rushed a decision which did not have to be made for weeks. Well, I guess they showed us citizens where we could put our concerns and opinions!

As is my practice, I like to let a few days pass for reflection. This prompted me to research other Maryland School systems who have encountered similar scenarios regarding the public loss of confidence in a superintendent—and ultimately in that school system.

I was struck by the parallel between the HCPSS situation and a similar predicament to the once mighty Montgomery County schools.

It is frighteningly easy to substitute HCPSS for MCPS in the excerpt below. Try it one point at a time:

    • Despite its reputation as a high-performing school system, MCPS also struggles with the suburbanization of poverty, which has made the achievement gap among minority and low-income students more evident.
    • MCPS gets its high-flying reputation from a handful of high-performing schools in the most affluent parts of the county, even as many schools are doing much worse. This perception is one reason why the teachers’ union has such a strong influence on local politics.
    • As a result, people assume that all of MCPS is doing fine and are unwilling to challenge the school system.
    • Meanwhile, officials are reluctant to admit anything’s wrong. “The county’s progressive image has created a fierce resistance to serious analysis of rapidly changing conditions,”

      Wow! Sound familiar? Check, check, and check.

The description of attempts at public interaction with the MCPS Superintendent also sounds alarmingly similar: if community members or public officials tried to question him….. (he)… could be arrogant or dismissive. When the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight found that growing segregation in the schools is exacerbating the achievement gap, (he) shrugged it off, saying the school system was already working hard to fix the problem. ….. frustration grew with his aloof nature and unclear agenda for MCPS.

And he certainly wasn’t opposed to what amounts to political blackmail:  He threatened to remove programs that could help close the (achievememt) gap from the budget if the County Council didn’t give MCPS more money.     I’m dreading that being repeated here.

Howard County citizens pay for and expect a high achieving school system. They also expect transparency and civility. And while on one hand many seem willing to pay any price to assure the former, they would also welcome fiscal responsibility along with the latter. Our superintendent has submitted a huge budget increase for next year. Therefore next time we’ll examine HCPSS from its financial perspective: The further you get from the funding source, the easier it is to spend the money.

But back for one last look at the article about MCPS, the conclusion of which gave me chills.

This culture is a big problem for MCPS, which is used to being the preferred school system for families with the means to choose where they live. Today, many of those families are moving farther out to Howard or Frederick counties, or taking a chance on the District’s improving public schools. To keep MCPS competitive, the school system and its leadership have to acknowledge that it’s no longer solely defined by its success, but its failures as well. …To fix MCPS, recognize that it’s broken.

To fix HCPSS, recognize that it’s broken—and meet me on the high road,