Voices From The Readers – May 5, 2023

Voices From The Readers – May 5, 2023

A Public Safety Advocate


It is with sad hearts that the Career Firefighters and Paramedics of Ocean City mourn the passing of former Councilman Doug Cymek.

As the president of our union, I had the honor of working with Councilman Cymek during his time on the Ocean City Council. Prior to my leadership, Doug worked with past IAFF President Michael Maykrantz. We both agree he was a true friend to our firefighters and paramedics, and his advocacy for public safety was unwavering.

Councilman Cymek understood the vital role that public safety plays in our community, and he always treated us with respect and kindness. He was a calm yet strong voice when it came to advocating for our needs and ensuring that we had the resources we needed to do our jobs effectively.

The Ocean City flag represents so much, including the service and dedication of Councilman Cymek to our community. Mayor Meehan order Ocean City Flags to half-staff in honor of Doug and when our firefighters see the town flag lowered in his honor, it reminds us of the tremendous loss our community has suffered.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to Councilman Cymek’s wife Vicki and their entire family. We know that his legacy will live on in the Ocean City community, and we are grateful for his service and dedication to our city.

Ryan Whittington

Ocean City

(The writer is the president of the Ocean City IAFF.)


Support For ‘Hidden Gem’


After my disappointment in the reported account of a meeting between the Board of County Commissioners and WCPS Superintendent of Schools in an earlier April article in The Coastal Dispatch, it was nice to read Ms. Sharpe’s article in the current issue (April 28). It appears as if Commissioner Bertino may be assuming a much less aggressively adversarial tone than was reported in the earlier article.

As a former teacher in WCPS, I remember all too well when the County government felt more like enemies than friends. That should never be the case. Support for public schools and public school students should be a priority throughout the state. A well-educated workforce and a well-educated citizenry is of paramount importance to all of us. Proof of support for WCPS will be evident in the Commissioners’ decision to fully fund the BOE budget or not to fund the budget as proposed by the BOE. Worcester County should not shortchange our students, staffs, or personnel.

Through the years, Worcester County educators and personnel have created a top-notch school system in a rural county on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. Dr. Nancy Grasmick, former State Superintendent of Schools, once referred to WCPS as a “hidden gem.” I know from 46 years of experience that WCPS has always worked hard to be and remain a “gem” of a school system.

Hopefully, the County Commissioners will continue to support WCPS in that mission.

Gwen Lehman

Ocean Pines


Compassion On Display


What defines a community isn’t just geographic proximity, it’s a willingness to work together for the betterment of the whole. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to witness the compassion of our community during a Stephen Decatur High School sponsored Believe in Tomorrow beach supply drive.

Our Believe in Tomorrow House By the Sea is truly a magical place where families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses can enjoy a stress-free vacation in our beautiful area. At the conclusion of our drive, we were able to fill three SUVs with beach buckets, shovels, beach toys, towels, games, cards, books, toiletries, and other goodies for our visiting families to enjoy.

I would like to especially thank the following people and organizations for their help in sponsoring this drive and for their extraordinary kindness: Mary Brown, Believe in Tomorrow Program Manager; Jude Al Hamad and family; Sonya Bounds and family; Atlantic United Methodist Church; Home Depot, Berlin location; Debbie Donahue, Ocean Pines Recreation & Parks Director; Ocean Pines Recreation Center’ Ocean Pines families and surrounding community; Walmart, Berlin location; Laurie Chetelat, Stephen Decatur High School Connections Adviser; Mandi Wells, Stephen Decatur High School Testing Coordinator; Tom Sites, Stephen Decatur High School Principal; SDHS Mu Alpha Theta; SDHS National Honor Society; and SDHS student body and staff.

Brooke Berquist


(The writer is a sophomore at Stephen Decatur High School and a Believe in Tomorrow student advocate.)


Education Details Needed


I attended the Worcester County Public Budget meeting held in Snow Hill last night. The recurring theme, as it is every year, the County Commissioners must fully fund the Board of Education budget, we must maintain and bring the best teachers here for our students. Well, Worcester County has funded the Board of Education, each year generously. Yes we have great teachers, some of the best salaried teachers in the country, and yes, I want the best teachers for our children too, but every year we direct more and more funds to the Board of Education, and long before covid hit our test scores were dropping.

Even if we are among the best of the plummeting test scores in Maryland, our kids can’t read or add nearly as proficiently as they did a decade or two ago. Obviously, money isn’t the only problem. We now care so much about equity and diversity that our core subjects are a minor concern and not the main focus of education. Our goals for the education of our children should be that they will leave our educational system with the education and skills to enter the work force or attend college or a technical school and ultimately to be productive and self sufficient.

Worcester County is comprised of many departments that make this county operate and run efficiently. Just as the Board of Education wants top salaries to attract top teachers, I want the best qualified water and wastewater employee or tech overseeing the chemicals added to our water supply, I want the best qualified 911 personnel answering my emergency call and guiding me through such an emergency until the best qualified sheriff’s deputies and or fire personnel or EMS technicians get to me or my loved ones. Last night I stated that the starting pay in 2024 for teachers will be $60,000 for a nine month school year. I also heard someone speaking on behalf of the sheriffs deputies that a deputy’s starting pay was $49,000. All the departments want the best salary package they can offer to attract the best qualified within their respective fields/departments.

With an uncertain financial forecast before us, I agree the Board of Education needs to provide a detailed line item budget, as every other county department does and I commend the Commissioners for remembering county residents/taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill.

Patricia Barbely



Transparency Call Supported


(The following comments were made during this week’s Worcester County budget public hearing and sent to this paper for publication. The writer said her opinions represented her views as a resident, not those of the Worcester County Board of Education.)

Throughout history, the power of change always starts with one person. Every period in history that involves monumental change, good or bad, has always begun with one person taking a stand.

Across the country, authority no longer seems to reside with ‘We the People’ but instead amongst unaccountable officials. I don’t say this statement lightly, as I am now an elected official for the county.

The budget should not be a partisan issue. Instead of worrying about party lines and whether we are all on Team Blue, or Team Red, we all need to start agreeing that we are on Team-America, Team-Maryland, and Team- Worcester.

When we have Commissioners who are actively trying to be accountable for the budgets of Worcester County, we should be applauding their desire for transparency, not condemning it because it’s never been asked for before.

As we all know, elections have consequences, and ‘We the People’ have elected a set of commissioners who are no longer satisfied with the status quo of categories and summaries without a breakdown of each line item for the Board of Education Budget. I myself, am not satisfied with the lack of transparency within the Board of Education budget either.

Many people of power want us all to forget that free speech and citizen participation in government is what this country was built on. Thank God our founding fathers were loud, passionate men who called out our British leaders with free speech. Thank God they didn’t cower in the corner and beg to know the truth. They demanded it.

It’s ok for our commissioners to demand to know how many vehicles are in the BOE fleet and who they are assigned to and whether or not they are taken home. It’s ok to Demand all central office and school-based staff salaries for the last 5 years. It’s ok to Demand how much funding per school, per year is spent on Technology. Bottom Line: It’s ok to demand a Detailed Budget from the Board of Education, just like every other department in the County.

Change will not happen without movement, and when we’ve been comfortable for a very long time, movement is uncomfortable. As a taxpayer of this county, I applaud the commissioners for demanding transparency and urge them to stay the course of moving forward.

Katie Addis