What’s happening in Wicomico today regarding an elected school board mirrors what happened years ago in Worcester. If we have learned anything in Worcester, it’s that it really doesn’t matter whether the school board is comprised of elected or appointed officials.
That’s difficult for us to admit because we supported the transition to an elected school board in 2002. We believed, and still do, that the community that’s impacted by the school board’s decisions should decide the fate of its representation.
The argument over an elected vs. appointed Board of Education is basically philosophical. The debate and the ensuing arguments for and against currently at play in Wicomico were heard in Worcester as well.
It all boils down to whether Wicomico residents want to elect their own board members or wish to continue allowing the governor to appoint officials based off local central committee recommendations.
In Worcester, a slim majority of residents decided to go the elected route, and the major surprise has been the disinterest among the citizens to file for the school board seats.
In recent elections, there have only been a few contested races for the open seats, and some incumbents have never even been challenged. In Worcester, there are at least two school board members who were appointed by a previous governor and retained their seats after the board went to an elected process and have never been challenged. There’s little interest among the public in serving on the school board.
It may be different in Wicomico, which has a much larger population and many more schools, but we suspect that it will play out the same should residents opt for the transformation.
In Worcester, as well as most school systems, the superintendent runs the show. Members of the Board of Education typically just rubber stamp what he wants because typically they are on the same page when it comes to critical education matters.
The most critical issue before any school board is the budget, which is largely created by the individual system’s superintendent, who holds much sway over the decision making. It’s understandable. The superintendent knows the ins and outs of the school system and is well paid to be the education policy leader.
History shows major decisions will not be different with an elected board because those interested in running will be pro-education diehards and largely side with the superintendent.
It’s a consideration Wicomico residents should keep in mind when and if they get the chance to express their opinion.