Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – May 12, 2023

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – May 12, 2023

It’s been interesting during the public school budget process to monitor the level of engagement online among teachers. When the story about this week’s decision by the County Commissioners to reduce the school system’s budget allocation by $6 million was posted to the newspaper’s Facebook page, several teachers expressed themselves clearly. It was refreshing to see the educators express their concerns because typically there is a fear of speaking out against school and county officials. There may still be some hesitancy among many teachers but there were a few who got some opinions off their chest. I applaud them for speaking out and here are a couple from veteran teachers to illustrate the point.

Berlin Intermediate School current teacher of the year David Wells said, “There is a direct correlation between the success of students and high quality teachers. The 4 commissioners who voted against this must be incapable of understanding how important maintaining low class sizes and high quality teachers are to to the educational process. They are so concerned about where the money is allocated, yet in 20 years I have never seen a commissioner in my school to observe the taxpayers money at work. They may not understand now, but they will soon.”

Stephen Decatur High School teacher and coach Jamie Greenwood took exception to a comment made by new Commissioner Caryn Abbott, who said teachers are leaving the profession because of safety concerns and not pay as was maintained by fellow Commissioner Diana Purnell. In response, Greenwood posted, Caryn Abbott, you are wrong. Teachers in our area are leaving over money and student behavior not safety concerns. Our School Resource Officers do an outstanding job protecting our school.

I do agree that the BOE should be transparent. Their lack of transparency has cost us a pay raise. With an inflation rate of 8% last year, it makes it harder to stick with teaching. Insurance, groceries, gas, utilities, etc are on the rise and our pay stays the same. I scratch my head. Those at the top are not the ones struggling to make ends meet. I doubt any of them work a 2nd or 3rd job to provide for their families, if they have them. Hopefully next year the BOE and the executive team with get things together and provide the requested information in the appropriate time and help out those that make Worcester County Public Schools the great school system that it is. Those of us in the trenches every day would like a bone thrown our way occasionally.”

Last June everyone walking into the student “rise up” ceremony at Berlin Intermediate School wondered why there was a huge police presence outside and inside the building. It was unclear why law enforcement was all over the place until Trenton Hilliard’s name was called. Two days earlier, Trenton’s father, Glenn, was killed in the line of duty while responding to call with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office. Hilliard was a Berlin police officer for five years before becoming a deputy in Wicomico.

When the child’s name was called and he was recognized as a sixth grader for specific academic honors, the room immediately rose to give Trenton and his family a standing ovation. It was certainly fitting for all of us to put aside the request to hold all applause until the end of the ceremony. It was impossible to not be moved by this show of support. I will never forget this moment, one full of raw emotion, sincerity and humanity as well as tremendous strength by this young man. His father had been killed just 48 hours before the ceremony, but he showed tremendous fortitude in being present for the event and handling himself with remarkable composure.

It was impossible to not remember that day this week when a Wicomico County jury found Austin Davidson guilty of all charges including first degree murder, second degree murder, first degree assault, second degree assault, reckless endangerment, firearm use/felony-violent crime and more. During the trial, the jury viewed body cam footage showing Davidson shooting Hilliard three times. It took the jury just three hours to find him guilty and a pre-sentence investigation has been ordered.

Amid concerns over a lifeguard shortage this summer, the Ocean City Mayor and Council unanimously voted to increase the Ocean City Beach Patrol’s signing bonus from $250 to $500 and add $1 an hour to the overtime premium. No change was made to the hourly pay for the lifeguards. It was a point that bothered Councilman Tony DeLuca, who said, “I still think and recommend that Ocean City’s beach patrol should have the highest starting average hourly rate in the state of Maryland and Delaware.”

Similar sorts of compensation changes for positions appear to be happening within other governments as well as the private sector, as labor continues to be the dominate factor facing employers of all shapes and sizes. In this case in Ocean City, officials think the adjustments to the signing bonus and the overtime pay will be enough to keep the resort’s beaches safely covered. An hourly pay change will likely be needed at some point, but there are complexities to that with other positions within city government. For this summer, the key point is, according to Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald, “This is going to be a challenge operationally, but no beaches will be closed and the public will be guarded appropriately.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.