Facing the heat in Balto. Co.
Our view: Even in fixing flawed closing policy, board reveals deeper dysfunction
Just three weeks after approving what quickly proved to be they had been assigned his prosecutors. Skepticism is one thing, an unworkable policy regarding when to close because of but rarely will one find a chief administrator treated more rudely heat the 37 Baltimore County schools that lack air or questions posed so torturously, repetitively and pointlessly, conditioning, the school board came to its senses. By an 8-3 vote, particularly toward a superintendent whose latest contract, a the Board of Education decided that effective immediately the four-year renewal, began just two months ago. superintendent will be required to close those schools only when Ms. Miller, a right-wing blogger who has written forcefully the heat index is predicted to reach 90 degrees or more by 11 a.m. against gay marriage and transgender protections, and Ms.
The timing was fortuitous, as those schools would have been Causey, a Monkton businesswoman who was active in Hereford closed for the third day in just their second week of the year had High School’s battle against the county’s standardized eightthe board not intervened, a loss of instructional time that had.a period day, have clearly embraced their roles as gadflies in their growing number of parents tearing their hair out. The board even first year on the board rather than involving themselves in added a loophole to those who can’t stand the heat (albeit one of governance. In Tuesday night’s vote, for example, they proved dubious legal standing) — an excused absence to any child themselves easily irritated (dominating discussions about everywithheld from school because a parent or guardian believed it a thing) but ultimately irrelevant, with only the student board medical necessity on a day whenthe heat index is forecast to reach member joining them in opposition to the softening of the heat 90 degrees by 3 p.m. closure policy.
Case closed, right? Well, maybe not. For those who witnessed No doubt there are reasons for such theatrics. A majority of the the 31⁄ hour proceedings, the board made something else crystal board will be elected by voters beginning in 2018, and perhaps they clear as well: Collectively, they take a back seat to none in sheer want to make a splash with a sometimes emotion-laden issue. But governmental dysfunction. And not just because they were foolish it also appears they’ve been infected by politics — specifically, the enough to tie the hands of Superintendent Dallas Dance when it influence of Gov. Larry Hogan who appointed them, and his ally, came to when schools should be closed because of harsh weather Comptroller Peter Franchot. The two men have taken up the issue in the first place. of sweaty classrooms like a cudgel against County Executive Kevin
For those who have never watched the county school board in Kamenetz, and their political rivalry seems to hover around board action, here’s a tip: Catch the show on the BCPS website — if you meetings like Banquo’s ghost. have the stomach for lowbrow entertainment. Tuesday night’s Such interference with the education of Baltimore County’s meeting may only have attracted 30 or so parents in person (a school children only shows signs of spreading. On Wednesday in fraction of the number who came to protest the lack of Muslim Ocean City, Governor Hogan signed an executive order to force all holidays in the school calendar just one week earlier), but it was a public schools to begin the instructional year after Labor Day and hit on the Internet. Instead of the few dozen who caught the live end it by June 15 unless officials secure a waiver. Once again, the stream of board meetings in years past, an estimated 4,800 issue of un-air conditioned classrooms in the Baltimore area was watched Tuesday and were likely aghast as two board members raised (although not the failing pipes, leaking roofs, lack of treated Mr. Dance and his staff with all the respect and courtesy working drinking fountains or other needs that compete for the Spanish Inquisition gave reluctant converts. “We’re told limited school renovation dollars). The only question left is people watch for entertainment,” one staffer admits. whether state lawmakers, who have rejected such a sweeping
Fromthe acrimony with which board members AnnMiller and mandate in the past, will overturn the decision or whether a Kathleen Causey questioned the superintendent (whether about lawsuit by the teachers union will do the same by exposing its capital spending, heat closures or most any other subject), it shaky legal ground. Either way, the whole exercise looks about as appeared that surely he had been arrested for a serious crime and pointless as a typical Baltimore County Board of Education debate.