New Election Districts
Recently, unfortunate events have been happening in Worcester County school board elections. Because school board members in Worcester must be elected according to commissioner election districts, there has always been the possibility that candidates who have no involvement in the community schools within those election districts could be elected to represent them. This possibility is all the more real in the current election cycle for the seat that has traditionally been regarded as the “Snow Hill Board Member Seat”.
Presently, three of the six candidates for that seat reside outside of the Snow Hill Schools’ attendance area (two in Berlin and one in Whaleyville). While they do reside in Commissioner District 4, they currently do not reside within the Snow Hill Schools’ attendance area. These candidates are “unattached” to the Snow Hill schools and community. They have no involvement in the schools and the community, no participation in the schools’ activities and history, and no working knowledge of the schools’ successes and future needs. Most importantly, they have no record of service to the schools, teachers, and/or community. It is also important to note that as Berlin residents in District 4, they cannot seek election to or vote to elect the Board of Education member representing their community schools. This is also true of Pocomoke residents in District 4. They cannot seek election to or vote to elect the school board member representing their community schools.
It’s puzzling why someone who has no affiliation with a community and its schools would seek a political position to represent both on the school board. Since none of the three candidates showed up at the Board of Education forum in Berlin, we don’t know their motivations. Could it be simply a desire to follow in the footsteps of friends or family already serving in the Worcester County political arena? Could it be that such a candidate is driven by a “single political issue” such as curriculum or drug education? Could it be an issue with contractors? Could it be that there is really not an abiding interest in protecting the community schools and the excellence of learning experiences taken as a whole that characterizes the education of all children in the Worcester County’s schools?
The names of school board candidates appear on the ballot without political affiliations identified for a reason. The focus of the election of Board of Education members in Worcester County must be on the needs of each student in each school each day not on what candidates may gain through the election. The focus must continue to be what it has always been — to protect and grow the excellence of our community oriented school system. Increasingly, the current mechanism of electing Board of Education members ignores that focus and does not serve our students.
In redrawing election districts for self-serving purposes, have the commissioners ignored the value of our community schools and the daily and long term educational interests of the students? Have they consciously decided to deeply politicize education in Worcester County?
The election of Board of Education members in Worcester must be determined according to school attendance districts.
Richard Walker, Ph.D
(The writer is a retired Assistant Superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools.)