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January 16, 2004

Where Are They Now?

Alan Imhoff

It seems like eons ago, but about five years ago, the howl and cry went up - "Frederick County needs an elected school board." Hundreds, if not thousands, took up the mantra to get away from the "old political game" of having the governor appoint individuals to the Board of Education.

Four years ago, 18 individuals came out to run for the first three seats to be elected. Many public forums were held, parents came out in force to hear what these individuals would do for our public school system.

The election was held in November 2000 and our first three elected board members took their seats. Now those seats are up for election again, only this time only three individuals bothered to file. In essence no election is needed, although it must be held.

So what have we achieved? Where are those voices for change? The county will go through the expense, granted minimal, to print these three names for the primary on both the Democratic and Republican ballots on Tuesday March 2. They automatically win.

Then in November the same three names will appear on the general election ballot once again.

During this time there is no need to campaign, no need to explain one's position, just coast along.

So what do you say?

Suppose in two years time when four seats are open (the majority of the board by the way) only four people apply. So what do you say?

Suppose the four are of the same mindset. Suppose they all have an ulterior motive to do a specific thing to the system. Suppose they are all recent high school graduates and they want to require free pizzas for lunch every day. Can't happen, you say? Oh, but it can.

All anyone has to prove is that they are a resident of the county (for at least one year, I think) and be a registered voter. Those are the only requirements. Sign some forms at the elections office and they are in.

Granted the above scenario was designed to catch your attention, but let's take this up a notch. Suppose instead of four recent graduates from high school, these individuals instead are from a clandestine splinter group.

The group saw the apathy this year and spent the next two years preparing quietly to take control of the board. Their goal totally revamp the curriculum to include their group's viewpoint.

Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Very likely not.

Those folks who convinced us years ago that an elected school would be better than an appointed board have now given us a system that is wide open to manipulation far beyond any politically appointed board. An appointed board had its shortcomings, but it did not suffer from the apathy displayed this year.

It is not just the lack of candidates; it is a process for the average voter that generates as much excitement as watching paint dry.

Review the number of votes cast in each of the two elections for those running, you will be under whelmed. Don't forget all the hype we were under to make this change. Where are all the boosters now? I do not hear so much as a peep.

With no real requirements to stand for election, we could have the under-educated selling the un-informed voter a bill of goods, assuming they decide to vote.

I find it ironic that we allow this process of electing anyone to a position that oversees and has the authority over a system that requires every teacher to not only have a masters degree to keep teaching, but must have additional college credit hours every so many years to maintain their certification.

Imagine if you will the possibility of a high school drop out or two, who run for the board at the age of 20 and win.

What is so wrong with having some minimum educational requirements for the position? Many businesses require a high school diploma or GED for employment, why not for the board of education.

But I guess in this era of bringing things down to the lowest common denominator to increase the possibilities for more individuals, we have surely demonstrated our willingness to support the concept by our ineffective use of the voting system to place the minimum into elective office.

Where are the voices of reason when you need them?

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