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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


August 24, 2005

Down The Rat Hole? - Part One

John W. Ashbury

Peter, Paul and Mary had a very popular song back in the 1960s called "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Perhaps we can get them to rewrite the lyrics and ask "where has all the money gone" supposedly spent to educate our children.

The Board of Education of Frederick County is under fire from several directions, as well it should be. Its job isn't being done to the satisfaction of parents, teachers, students, the county commissioners, and the state's Department of Education. Even the federal government is getting into this act.

The trendy notion today is to make everyone "feel good" about themselves, especially students - even those who aren't making the grade. We coddle them and pass them on to the next level with no warning to the hapless teachers who get stuck with students who don't know what they are supposed to - and don't care either.

Don't get the idea, however, that the blame lies entirely at the feet of Superintendent Linda Burgee. She's only been on the job a little more than a year, most of which was as acting superintendent.

Letters to The Editor of local newspapers recently have complained about her compensation, which could mount to more than $200,000 when salary, benefits and incentives are lumped together. But she shouldn't be chastised for signing a contract that provides her with such recompense.

The blame, dear hearts, lies in the board room where seven elected officials agreed to use taxpayers' money to pay her that much.

These people, four of whom are up for re-election or retirement from public service next year, squander tax dollars at an alarming rate, and, when questioned, always say they are doing it for the children.

Many citizens are getting fed up with being beaten about the head and shoulders with the bloody stump of that caveat. And then there is the other stand-by that is abused by educrats: "We can't afford to lose good people."

Did anyone give any thought whatsoever to the idea that perhaps - just perhaps - there are some good people out there looking for such positions who might be better at the job than those presently holding them. Of course not! We don't want to upset the apple cart and bring in someone who isn't familiar with how we operate and won't kowtow to our methods.

Since 1976 only two of the six people, who have been selected as Frederick County superintendent of schools, have come from within the system. And those two have served a total of only five years of that nearly 30-year time period. If it's good enough for the superintendent to come from outside, then it should be good enough for the educrats, especially when those in place have become toooooo comfortable in their jobs and are just marking time until retirement.

Taxpayers are also getting thoroughly upset with the huge salaries of the administrative staff on Church Street. But, once again, those salaries were approved by the Board of Education. If citizens want to complain about them they should contact the board members directly.

Who can blame the employees for getting all they can? Lump the blame where it belongs - on BOE President Bonnie Borsa, Vice President Mike Schaden, and members Katy Groth, Donna Crook, Jean Smith, Daryl Boffman and Barbara Craig. They can each be reached by sending an email to Judith Ricketts, administrative director of the Board of Education at Judith.Ricketts@fcps.org. She will distribute your comments and concerns to all the board members.

Just a few weeks ago we were told that Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) had initiated a study of its administrative and supervisory salaries to determine if they are in line with their counterparts in other school jurisdictions around the state.

Wanna bet how that study comes out?

There is no doubt that despite the fact the Superintendent Burgee's nine member cabinet will earn $1,055,302 plus approximately 30 percent more in benefits, the study will find that our poor unfortunate educrats are underpaid. That will certainly be true if they compare local compensation with that in Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

But there are 19 other jurisdictions across the state that pay administrators and supervisors too.

The problem arises when trying to compare positions. If job descriptions are not compared as well, then the study will be meaningless - even more so than it already is.

Tomorrow we'll look at some more issues facing citizens as they examine just how the Board of Education of Frederick County spends more than $300 million on "education," and how it deals with various inquiries into its activities.



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