Three-Choice School Board Referendum Supported

SALISBURY — It’s likely that the voters in Wicomico County will play a big part in determining what changes, if any, will impact the Board of Education  in the future.

The Wicomico County Council voted Tuesday to send a letter to state delegates asking to have a three-choice, non-binding referendum placed on next year’s ballot.

“We had delegates that said they would introduce it,” said Council President Joe Holloway.

The choices would be to either convert the school board to an elected board, to make it a hybrid of elected and appointed officials or to leave it as it is today, a fully appointed group by the governor, who receives recommendations from the individual party central committees.

“I think it’s important that we get these questions in front of voters in Wicomico County,” said Councilwoman Gail Bartkovich.

The debate over the structuring of the Board of Education has been heated at times, with many citizens becoming polarized either in favor of the traditional appointed board or a switch to elected and has generated extensive public comments for either side at previous council meetings.

Bartkovich acknowledged that the Board of Education issue has been hanging around the neck of Wicomico for some time. The council has bounced back and forth from asking that all three questions be put on the ballot to requesting only two choices be included, dropping the complicated hybrid option and asking voters to support only either a fully appointed or fully elected board.

However, as of Tuesday, the majority of the council felt the fairest practice would be to leave all three choices open for voter scrutiny.

“My goal is to see something on the ballot,” said Bartkovich.

The vote to include all three choices was close, with Holloway and Councilman Bob Culver in favor of sticking with the two option system and Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes abstaining from the vote. Sample-Hughes expressed frustration that the council was lingering on the issue and felt the body’s energy could be better spent on other projects.

Moving back to the three question plan passed by a 4-2 margin and Bartkovich reminded the assembly that no matter which option voters supported the referendum was only for information.

“None of this is binding,” she said. “There’s quite a bit of detail that goes into this afterwards.”