Parents ask state school board to intervene
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.
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.