Showell Stalemate Needs Resolution

Showell Stalemate Needs Resolution

Dysfunctional comes to mind when observing the present relationship between the Worcester County Board of Education and County Commissioners. Disturbing, unproductive and unhealthy are a few others.

Divides between the jurisdictions’ ultimate governing body and the board charged with steering education matters have been a struggle in many other places. While it’s not unique, what’s unusual in Worcester County is the divisiveness is only growing and that’s unacceptable.

Stuck in the middle of this fractured relationship is the Showell Elementary School community, which has been struggling with capacity issues and an outdated and inappropriate learning environment for many years. A new school is desperately needed and politics at this point is slowing down this process. It was disclosed — or maybe it was threatened — this week the county is at the risk of pushing back the project another year if progress is not achieved.

At issue here this week is the commissioners voted 4-2 to inform the state it does not support changes to the Capital Improvement Plan authored by the school board. The commissioners do not accept the school system’s decision to decrease enrollment from 657 students to 616, a result of the county setting a $37 million ceiling on funding compared to the school system’s desired $54 million.

The school system says it decreased enrollment because retaining small class sizes is critical to parents. The county thinks the school board is trying to make the commissioners look bad by, “laying the marker down so two or three years from now the board of education cane come back and say, ‘see we told you,” according to Commissioner Chip Bertino.

The belief is the commissioners are micromanaging the school board, but the commissioners say they are simply unwilling to rubberstamp what the folks in Newark want when it involves millions of critical and unjustified dollars.

Perhaps Commissioner Diana Purnell had the most reasonable approach when she said, “We’re not going to micromanage you but you shouldn’t try to micromanage us either. You sit down and work together. We are adults.”

At this point, we take issue with both sides harboring a disturbing “us vs. them” mentality that has led to neither trusting the other. Mediation may be needed.

The fact here is Showell needs a new school, and the authority figures involved need to be mature, resolve their differences and strike a balance that works for the short- and long-term. The current dysfunction is preventing reasonable minds from coming to rational conclusions.