Par­ents ask state school board to in­ter­vene

Record Observer - - Front Page - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — More than a dozen Queen Anne’s County res­i­dents trav­eled to Bal­ti­more Tues­day, April 26, to speak to the Mary­land State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion about their anger and frus­tra­tion at the lo­cal school board’s de­ci­sion not to re­new Dr. Carol Wil­liamson’s con­tract as su­per­in­ten­dent of schools and the board’s sub­se­quent ac­tions.

Eight mem­bers of the group sub­mit­ted their public com­ments in writ­ing. Cur­rent Queen Anne’s school board mem­ber Bev­erly Kelley and for­mer school board mem­ber Richard Smith ac­com­pa­nied the group made up of both par­ents and school em­ploy­ees.

They asked the state board to in­ter­vene, to reap­point Wil­liamson in some fash­ion and to re­move elected Queen Anne’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­bers Jen­nifer Ge­orge, Ar­lene Tay­lor and An­nette DiMag­gio for al­leged mis­con­duct in of­fice, in­com­pe­tence and ne­glect of duty.

“They have vi­o­lated their ethics poli­cies, ne­glected their duty to the school sys­tem and com­mu­nity. They have ex­clud­ing (sic) all com­ment and dis­cus­sion from their de­ci­sions. They pub­licly praised the school lead­er­ship and then se­cretly voted not to re­new the su­per­in­ten­dent’s con­tract,” said Br yan Holocker of Cen­tre­ville. “When peo­ple came for­ward in sup­port of Dr. Wil­liamson, their re­ac­tion was to slan­der both em­ploy­ees and cit­i­zens and threaten to fire or trans­fer any­one who spoke out against their de­ci­sion.”

Roberta Leaver­ton, re­tired Queen Anne’s as­sis­tant school su­per­in­ten­dent; Dr. Emily Cham­lee-Wright, lo­cal par­ent and dean of Wash­ing­ton Col­lege; Christina Schindler of Church Hill, par­ent and dig­i­tal learn­ing fa­cil­i­ta­tor for Queen Anne’s County Schools; and par­ent L. Michelle John­son of Hen­der­son all said the school board failed to fol­low to proper process and vi­o­lated not only the board’s own poli­cies but its eth­i­cal guide­lines and code of con­duct as well.

Mat­a­peake Mid­dle School Prin­ci­pal An­gela Holocker de­scribed what she called a “hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment.” She said a board mem­ber had an­other prin­ci­pal call and warn her to stop sup­port­ing the su­per­in­ten­dent or she would be out of a job.

“This same board mem­ber would re­peat­edly make com­ments in public that I, along with other prin­ci­pals who sup­ported Dr. Wil­liamson, would ‘be gone’ on June 30th be­cause they would see to it,” she said.

Stevenville Mid­dle School Prin­ci­pal Kevin Kin­top said, “Through this en­tire process we feel that de­ci­sions are be­ing made for the ben­e­fit of in­di­vid­u­als and not for the stu­dents of Queen Anne’s County. By not seek­ing in­put, not hav­ing valid, data-driven rea­sons for mak­ing de­ci­sions and pur­pose­fully try­ing to keep par­ents from speak­ing out, there is clear ev­i­dence of mis­con­duct and in­com­pe­tence.”

Many in the group asked the state school board to of­fer Wil­liamson at least an in­terim con­tract to re­main un­til a qual­i­fied re­place­ment is hired — if not to fully re­in­state her.

Linda Austin of Stevensville told the state board she found it ironic one of the board mem­bers ac­cused her of be­ing a bully when she is a char­ter mem­ber of the county’s anti-bul­ly­ing com­mit­tee. “I as­sure mem­bers of the state board that we were not en­gag­ing in an act of bul­ly­ing. We were at­tempt­ing to hold our elected of­fi­cials to ac­count,” she said.

“The pat­tern of mis­con­duct aimed at thwar ting public in­put, the demon­strated in­com­pe­tence and will­ful

ne­glect of ba­sic re­spon­si­b­li­ties, and their im­moral and un­eth­i­cal in­tim­i­da­tion of fac­ulty and staff are le­git­i­mate grounds for the re­moval of board mem­bers Ge­orge, Tay­lor and DiMag­gio, and we ask you to act swi­fly and de­cisvely,” said Dr. Bill Schindler of Church Hill.

On a re­lated note, Wil­liamson ap­peared be­fore the Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers Tues­day night with a let­ter re­quest­ing $30,000 be trans­ferred from the school board’s op­er­a­tional fund bal­ance to con­duct a search for a new su­per­in­ten­dent of schools.

“... I think it’s out­ra­geous that you have to send a let­ter un­der your own name ask­ing to fund a search to re­place you,” said County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gregg Todd as he in­tro­duced the item.

The com­mis­sion­ers asked Wil­liamson what would hap­pen if they re­fused.

The money will go to hire Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Boards of Ed­u­ca­tion to han­dle the search, in­volv­ing all stake­hold­ers and screen­ing qual­i­fied can­di­dates, she said.

“Oth­er­wise they’re left to do it on their own, and I would feel much bet­ter if we had a very de­fined process that was be­ing used,” Wil­liamson said.

“Fram­ing an­other way, it would be to the bet­ter­ment of the Queen Anne’s County School sys­tem the com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove this?” Com­mis­sioner Steve Wil­son asked. “Yes,” Wil­liamson replied. The com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously ap­proved the re­quest.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

This group of par­ents and school em­ploy­ees asked the Mary­land State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion to re­move lo­cal school board mem­bers for al­leged mis­con­duct and neg­li­gence.

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