This letter was sent my State Reps Speaker Busch, John Astle, and Herb McMillan on February 2, 2016.
Dear Sirs –
As a 25 year resident of Annapolis who cares very deeply about public education in Anne Arundel County, I am appalled at the manipulation of the School Board Nominating process by the current County Executive with the assistance of Governor Hogan. Last night, I, along with many members of the community, attended the second public hearing of the second go-around of the nominating process to voice my concern over the additional unqualified candidates being put forward by the SBNC.
As I understand it, the rationale behind not having an elected school board is to assure that important stakeholders like the AACCPTA, TAAAC, AACC, and the Chamber of Commerce have a voice with the intent of making sure that interest of minorities, parents, students, business leaders, and educators are represented and that the process does not become purely political at the expense of qualified candidates.
Sadly, we were informed that at the December meeting, with a by-laws change that moved from super majority to simple majority approval (that was passed during a session when one of the community group members was absent), this ideal has been gutted. Not only were the candidates put forward last night purely political and not qualified, the votes were squarely along party lines. Only Mr. Boston whom The Capital outed as having a domestic peace order violation and being a failed teacher at Bates Middle was rejected, leaving a pool of all white candidates, none of whom have shown any interest in public education in the Annapolis area for which they are supposed to represent.
While we do not know who Governor Hogan will choose out of the candidate pool, we can assume that he will not pick Solon Webb since the Governor expressly passed him over in June when he was first nominated. This is a huge loss for the Annapolis Cluster of schools and the families who depend on them for the education of our children. Mr. Webb who along with being the only person of color currently on the board and left in the candidate pool is clearly the most qualified. Mr. Webb has been an excellent public servant, very attentive to the needs of the community, winning the endorsement of the Annapolis Education Commission as well as The Capital’s editorial staff. In my years of involvement with the PTA, he was very responsive to our issues. The new choices forwarded last night are clearly inferior: James Appel has never set foot in Annapolis High School – not one PTA meeting (which is very active with monthly nighttime meetings) nor one Coffee with the Principal (at 7:30am 6 times per year) despite having a child in the school. He has no education background and has serious financial issues that according to accounts in The Capital were misrepresented by Mr. Appel. His only qualification seems to be that he is a political appointee of Governor Hogan. Under the old super majority, he would have been rejected, however, he was approved with the Chairman providing the tie-breaking vote. Ms. Sasso has been a Real Estate agent and consultant – she claims to have been a high school principal in some small town in New York over 30 years ago (1984), but her responses to the questions demonstrated a clear lack of knowledge of current educational principles in general and AACPS in particular, and made offensive comments regarding teachers and unions, thus already alienating our teachers who are already under siege.
I am writing to you, my elected representatives mostly out of frustration, but with two questions: 1) Can anything be done today to encourage Governor Hogan to appoint the most qualified candidate (Solon Webb) who is supported by the community to represent District 30 on the School Board? 2) Can anything be done to fix the process so that there is any integrity left and to honor the ideal of diverse representation on the School Board? Every parent, teacher, and community member present at that meeting last night came away sick that something as important to our children and community as the School Board has devolved to a game of political football.
The public trust in the process is broken with this process that yielded this pool of candidates. What can be done to fix it?