Category Archives: Education

Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Process

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?

Best regards,
Lisa Pline

Tax Cuts Are Devastation to Anne Arundel County Public Schools

On October 21, 2015 the Anne Arundel County Board of Education approved the negotiated contract between AACPS and TAAAC (the Teachers Union). The contract is a major hit for our schools. There are two causes for the problem. The primary is the artificial revenue shortage caused by the County Executive’s tax cut. The second is the deal that TAAAC made with the Devil, funding additional across the board pay increases at the expense for stipends for the one-third of our teachers in “challenge schools”. This is a direct assault to the passionate teachers in those schools who will receive a substantial pay cut and an affront to the concept of closing the Achievement Gap.

Below is my letter to the County Executive with copy to the County Council:

Dear County Executive Schuh,

I am writing to let you know my anger as a taxpayer and a tireless supporter of public schools in the Annapolis Cluster (PTSA leader and former AEC member) at the decisions that have led us to the completely unacceptable Teacher Contract.

The tax cut that your administration implemented in the FY16 budget has caused a self-imposed “financial difficulty” that will have a devastating impact on Anne Arundel County schools, specifically but not limited to Annapolis High School and all the other schools who work tirelessly to reduce the Achievement Gap and turn failing schools into excellent schools. The $19 million tax cut in the FY16 budget would have funded the overdue step increases plus challenge school stipends with some leftover to provide more revenue to our county public safety officers and county support personnel.

Being close to the school, I believe there will be a mass exodus of highly effective and passionate teachers from Annapolis High and other AACPS schools if we do not do something immediately to give them some expectation that they will have their pay restored. It was an absolute kick in the gut to these dedicated professionals that we thank them for their excellent work with a $2-10,000 per year pay cut! Parents are furious that the teachers we love are being treated so callously.

I understand that there is culpability on the part of TAAAC and I will direct some of my anger there as well, but I have been a small but growing voice in our community that believes if we want to compete with our neighboring counties for excellent schools and economic development, we have to provide the tax base necessary to provide those excellent services. We currently spend less than any surrounding county on our public school students and $2,000 PER STUDENT less than Howard and Montgomery Counties. The average salary in the mid-range is $12,000 less than Montgomery Co and $6,000 less than Howard. Is it a wonder that our best teachers are leaving our county?

I read your budget summary, so I am aware of your perceived political “mandate” to lower taxes. The idea that AACo is somehow over-taxed is one of those long-standing Urban Legends that we must dispel. We have the 22nd lowest income tax rate and the 19th lowest property tax rate in the state. Your argument that AACo has the 9th largest “tax burden”, only proves the point since we are the 3rd wealthiest county county in the state per capita. If we were taxed appropriately, we would have the 3rd highest tax burden. If that tax burden has been increasing, it only shows how far back our under-funding goes.

In next year’s budget, I urge you to move from being an expedient politician to being a true leader by recognizing the need to bring more revenue into the county to support needed county services, whether by income tax adjustment, tax cap adjustment or some other means of revenue. Educate citizens what their tax dollars are funding and I truly believe they will support the increase. Even the most ardent Tea Party follower believes that schools should be controlled locally and that government should provide public safety. Since that is all that County Government does, county residents should be willing to pay for it.

Best regards,

Lisa Pline
AHS PTSA Vice President