Will Wicomico EVER Get An Elected Board of Education?

Not Unless County Council Gets Off the Dime

As long as Wicomico County voters aren’t allowed to have a say in who runs their public schools they will continue to see a school system that grows in bureaucracy and borrows to build new schools rather than adequately maintain existing buildings.  All anecdotal evidence indicates that a majority of voters favor a school board elected in the same manner as the county council – five members by district and two members at large.  The only way to receive objective evidence is a vote at the polls; something that certain special interest groups want to deny Wicomico voters.

An elected school board will not be a silver bullet to correct the problems our public schools face; it certainly won’t yield worse results than we’ve seen to date.  However, the powers that be continue to stonewall the county’s voters.

How can we get an elected school board?  It all starts with the County Council.  They need to pass a resolution which would (hopefully) be signed by newly elected County Executive Bob Culver.  Members of the county’s legislative delegation would then be asked to sponsor a bill in Annapolis calling for a question to be placed on the 2016 ballot.  If the question received a majority vote of Wicomico voters, it would then fall on the legislature to approve a bill allowing for an elected school board.

The process could fall apart at any step of the process.  BUT … it needs to start with the County Council.  As the legislative session begins, and the deadline to introduce bills fast approaches, where is the County Council on this issue?  They have had two opportunities to introduce a resolution but council president John Cannon hasn’t placed anything on the agenda.  Could Culver introduce a resolution?  Sure.  But let’s face it; his hands are full while the council isn’t doing much more than approving appointments right now.

Cannon claims to support an elected school board, but he set’s the council’s agenda.  There is no reason not to place a resolution on the council’s agenda … IMMEDIATELY!  Waiting makes it less likely that Wicomico will have an opportunity to select the people who run our schools rather than Annapolis doing it for us.

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Does “Advocacy” Equal Spending?

We’ve heard it all a million times … The more we spend on education the better our society (town, city, county, state, nation) will be.  It sounds great!  It’s for the children!  It also happens to be false.

Does anyone believe that New York City’s public schools are among the nation’s best?  How about Washington, DC or Chicago?  They all spend substantially more per pupil than Wicomico County.

Last Sunday we were treated to an op-ed by Wicomico Board of Education (WCBOE) president Ron Willey.  Willey argues that it is the board’s responsibility to “advocate” for more money:

We would also be less than responsible if we did not speak out for the needs of all of our students when it comes to facilities that will provide 21st century education opportunities.

It is true that modern buildings support the instructional programs and enable teachers to provide creative and more effective instruction for students. Whether elected or appointed, the school board must be the voice for these issues when budget decisions are made.

No Mr. Willey!  Your responsibility is to direct Wicomico County’s public schools.  That MAY mean building new schools when needed.  It also means making sure that the employees of the WCBOE maintain the existing stock of facilities.  It also means directing the Superintendent and his underlings to put the maximum number of available dollars into the CLASSROOM, not the bureaucracy.

Currently the WCBOE is “advocating” to close an existing school (East Salisbury Elementary) to house bureaucrats while wailing to all who will listen that tax dollars must be expended to build a new West Salisbury Elementary.

We must admit that there are no simple solutions to the problems facing Wicomico County’s schools (or any other school district in the nation).  It is unjust to lay society’s problems at the feet of teachers.  It is equally unjust to demand hard working tax payers shell out an ever increasing amount to solve a problem that isn’t being solved.

Our schools should be adequately funded.  Our schools should be well managed … from the Board on down.  That means maintaining our existing schools and only building new ones when enrollment growth demands it!  That means providing us, the public, with real evidence that the WCBOE is cutting wasteful spending and bureaucracy.  I’m no Pollyanna, but I do believe that taxpayers would be more receptive to higher taxes IF they honestly believed that they were receiving more value for their tax dollars.  The largest share of those tax dollars go to the public schools.

Wicomico County faces a severe financial crisis in the coming years.  The state will have little choice but to reduce funding for a variety of services, including education.  Given that Wicomico County currently funds only about one quarter the cost of its schools, funding for primary and secondary education will probably have to decrease as well.  If Mr. Willey was the honest broker he claims, the WCBOE would be working WITH the county government to plan for these problems instead of attempting to gin up public support for more spending.  We assume that Mr. Willey can read the election returns.  Wicomico voters want less taxes, not more.

“Advocating” for more money will not solve the problems of Wicomico’s education system;  LEADERSHIP, from the WCBOE, the Superintendent, the County Executive, and the County Council will.  “Advocacy” (for more money) does not improve the quality of schools.  Advocacy for change can.

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Fredericksen Changes Horses in Mid-Stream (Again)!

Wicomico Public Schools superintendent John Fredericksen fancies himself a politician.  He uses tax dollars to implement a (usually unsuccessful) grass roots lobbying effort to obtain more money to spend.  He also doesn’t hesitate changing positions at a moment’s notice.  Today’s op-ed by Fredericksen (along with the typically courageous stance of the Daily Times) provide more evidence that our county and state elected officials need to exercise great caution when dealing with Fredericksen and the Wicomico County Board of Education (BOE).

Fredericksen implies that Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver lied to the public by claiming that a replacement for West Salisbury Elementary School was not in the capital improvement plan:

This is a project that has been in the works for many years. Additions to West Salisbury Elementary were recommended 16 years ago in the 1998 Seidel Commission Report. Plans for a West Salisbury Elementary project have been in the Capital Improvement Plan and "future plans" section of the Facilities Master Plan each year since the Fiscal Year 2001 report — some 14 years ago. These reports go to the Board of Education and County Council each year and are available to the public.

This is a typical “bait and switch” which Fredericksen loves to foist on a plain speaking public.  Culver was correct.  The county’s capital improvement plan (CIP) does not include replacing West Salisbury for most of those years.  It is not Culvers fault if the BOE did not submit a request or if the county council did not approve every capital request from the BOE.  Wicomico County would be bankrupt if it did.

Here is where Fredericksen switches horses:

[Read more…]

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Pile-up on Bob Culver (Part I)

Bob Culver has been sworn in as County Executive and the sniping has begun.  It didn’t take very long for the usual suspects:  the Daily Times, the Wicomico County Board of Education, and local partisan Democrats to jump on the collective bandwagon attacking Culver for refusing to fund construction of a new West Salisbury Elementary School.

DT reporter Phil Davis seems to have adopted an old tactic – wrap a lie in quotes and don’t bother checking the facts:

Board member Kim Hudson approached the decision calm and collectively, congratulating Culver and the newly elected councilmen on their general election day wins, but criticized the resolution.

"Education has to be a top priority in our county," Hudson said, adding the bonds were "money that was already in the capital improvement plan."

As will be shown in a bit, funding for a new West Salisbury Elementary School may be on a long list of projects in the county’s capital improvement plan, but was a recent addition.  Furthermore, Davis totally neglects to explain what a CIP is – a combination planning document and wish list.  Also included in the CIP is a multi-million expenditure for renovating Wicomico Middle School; yet the the WCBOE (Ms. Hudson included) wishes to shut down that school in an attempt to make the county’s test scores look better.

[Read more…]

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Twiddlin’ Thumbs on Taxpayers’ Dime

WASHINGTON, DC – You’ve heard of New York City’s infamous “Rubber Rooms” where teachers are paid for years to sit around and do nothing.  The federal government has a similar deal.

An Inspector General’s report details how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pays employees on “paid administrative leave”.  The EPA payments are costing taxpayers over $1 million per year.  A report by by the General Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that paid administrative leave cost federal taxpayers $3.1 billion between 2011 and 2013.

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What to Do About Wicomico’s Crumbling Schools

Last week I asked the question, “Should Wicomico County borrow more money?”.  This was primarily in reference to the swearing in of a new County Executive and County Council and council president Matt Holloway acted responsibly by pulling the item from the agenda. Yet, a greater underlying problem lurks beneath the surface for Wicomico taxpayers.  How does the county provide a decent education for the children of Wicomico County and still live within its means?

West Salisbury Elementary School has been slated for rebuilding.  There is also discussion by the Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBOE) to merge West Salisbury and Charles Chipman Elementary Schools.  Why do we need a new school?  Some may argue that we don’t, but the fact that West Salisbury has been denied any meaningful renovation since it opened in the early 1960’s means that a new school may have to be built.

West Salisbury is Bennett Middle all over again.  Don’t renovate.  Don’t maintain the physical plant more than absolutely necessary in hopes of building a new school.  Evidently, building (first) and renovating schools looks good on a superintendent’s resume.  In addition, the state pays for a hefty share of new school construction but doesn’t cover renovation costs.  As I have noted earlier, Wicomico County can expect a decline in state aid  (and possibly direct aid to the county’s schools).  Currently Wicomico County pays less than 25% of the cost of the county’s schools.  Compare this to 35% in Dorchester and over 75% in Worcester.  In addition, Wicomico will no longer have the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to look to.  So what should Wicomico County, and its new County Executive, do?

[Read more…]

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Should Wicomico Borrow More Money?

It’s approaching noon.  The agenda and briefing book for tomorrow’s Wicomico County Council meeting hasn’t been posted online.  The public won’t be able to prepare to intelligently comment at the meeting.  Yet, the outgoing council expects to vote on borrowing $16 million.  Should they?

A majority of the incoming council will be new.  The incoming County Executive is new.  Some of the funds for the expected bond offering will be for new projects (such as replacing the Westside Primary School West Salisbury Elementary School).  Wicomico County faces a potential budget disaster.  Should this council approve putting Wicomico County even deeper in debt?

As with most things, the answer is complicated.  The county has little choice but to approve capital projects already started (such as the new Bennett Middle).  However, new projects should at least be put on hold until the new council and executive are sworn in.  They are the ones who will have to live with the consequences.

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First Amendment Dead in Maryland

TOWSON, MD – The left seems to believe that there should be no consequences to saying anything … provided you adhere to the liberal orthodoxy.  However, if you don’t then they also seem to find no problem throwing the First Amendment right out the window.

We see one such example in the recent arrest of a Howard County parent attempting to ask questions at one of the recent meetings on “Common Core” being held by the state Board of Education.  The parent was arrested and charged with assault.

Readers should understand that the rules set by the Maryland board were designed to limit discussion and deflect serious debate away from this issues.  All questions were supposed to be submitted ahead of time, in writing.  The government officials were able to cherry pick questions and re-word them to allow softball answers to softball questions.

While the charges against Robert Small have been dropped, the message sent was loud and clear – DO NOT CHALLENGE THE STATIST ORTHODOXY.

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Obama’s War on Innovative Education

Last week, President Barack Obama was telling students that he wanted to change federal student aid to reward schools that were providing a “cost effective” education.  Sounds great, right?

At the same time the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting body for over 1,000 colleges in 19 states, was pulling the plug on Ivy Bridge College, a partnership between Tiffin University and the for-profit Altius Education.  Ivy Bridge College’s mission was to provide a cost-effective two year program that successfully funneled students into completing their four year degrees.

The Obama administration argues that the federal government must focus on rewarding schools which are cost effective.  In theory, this is a sound idea.  Unfortunately, neither Obama nor people of his ideological persuasion are able to grasp a few basic truths:

  1. The liberal policy of throwing money (in the form of grants and federally subsidized loans) is a primary culprit in price inflation of a college education far outpacing the price inflation of the economy in general.
  2. “For-Profit” is not synonymous with “bad”, “evil”, or “poor quality”.
  3. A government cannot centrally plan an economy, or a large portion of it, with same efficiency and quality as a free market.
    Like the mortgage crisis, the “crisis” of inflation in higher education is a product of government action.  Monetary inflation is the effect of too much money chasing a limited supply of goods.  Easy money (in the form of poor quality, government subsidized mortgages) chasing a limited amount of real estate precipitated the real estate “bubble”.  Inflation in higher education is the effect of too much money (in the form of grants and subsidized loans) chasing a limited number of seats in our colleges and universities.

Obama and his ideological acolytes first tried to tell us that it was “for profit” education that was the culprit (just has the evil banks were the culprits in the mortgage crisis).  Then we were told that private sector participation in providing student loans was costing taxpayers and students.  While the Obama administration has nearly destroyed for-profit higher education and has ended private sector student lending, the costs of a four year college education continue to rise far faster than the cost of living.

Has all of this extra funding gone to providing a higher quality of education?  No.  Today’s colleges and universities are investing in such educational necessities as rock climbing walls, fancy dining facilities and a Starbucks in almost every building.  This flood of money yields an increased competition for customers students.  A better library, smaller classes, or a better teaching just can’t compete against saunas and caffeine.

Innovation in higher education, just like the innovation brought by school choice in primary and secondary education can’t be permitted.  Free market solutions simply cannot be allowed.  We can continue to expect declining public schools and college graduates drowning in debt … and liberal politicians continuing to claim that the solution is throwing your tax dollars at the problem.

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Virginia Taxpayers Subsidizing Anti-Americanism at Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, VA – With taxes on the rise and government clamoring for more spending, why are Virginia taxpayers subsidizing the activities of a Virginia Tech professor who attacks the United States and our troops?  On Sunday Salon.com published a piece by Tech English professor Steve Salaita where the professor equates “supporting our troops” with jingoism and American imperialism.

Salaita goes so far as to belittle our troops in the field and calls them beggars:

In addition to donating change to the troops, we are repeatedly impelled to “support our troops” or to “thank our troops.” God constantly blesses them. Politicians exalt them. We are warned, “If you can’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” One wonders if our troops are the ass-kicking force of P.R. lore or an agglomeration of oversensitive duds and beggars.

Such troop worship is trite and tiresome, but that’s not its primary danger. A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation.

Salaita certainly has a right to his opinion.  Taxpayers have a right to ask if they should be forced to subsidize it.  Salaita argues that “troop worship” is encouraging citizens not to think.  On the contrary, non-governmental efforts to support our troops does just the opposite.  As someone who opposed President Bush’s attack on Iraq and who now opposes President Obama’s sabre rattling in Syria, I appreciate the opportunity to show support for our men and women in uniform.  For those of us who do oppose war, we are afforded the opportunity to do so AND support the men and women who volunteer to lay their lives on the line for their country.  Soldiers don’t start wars.

I know, Salaita has First Amendment rights and must be afforded “academic freedom”.  He certainly has a right to free speech.  That does not mean taxpayers (or tuition paying parents) should be forced to subsidize it.  As for academic freedom, this doesn’t apply.  Salaita is paid to teach English.  He is a tenured professor at a large, state-supported university.  As such he is a representative of that school.

In a state with the proud military tradition of Virginia (a state which is one of two with state-supported military colleges) and which serves as the home base for tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines should the state taxpayer be subsidizing such an individual.  If Salaita worked in the private sector, he would be on his way out if he hadn’t been escorted out on Monday.

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Maryland Begins Common Core

Public schools begin classes in Maryland today.  The controversial “common core” federal education standards begin impacting student education with the beginning of this year.  Should parents be concerned?

In Maryland the answer is a surprising no.  Given that the Once Free State:

  • is already a poster child for nanny-statism
  • has an educational system run by the teachers’ union
  • has no viable school choice
  • believes that funding equates to quality in education
    the impacts of common core will be negligible (and possibly slightly positive) compared to what would have occurred otherwise.
    Repackaging Old Ideas

[Read more…]

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Was Slavery Wrong?

Not According to Obama Education Policy

Imagine a social studies  or history class in public school.  The discussion for today is slavery –

Johnny:  I think it was wrong to free the slaves.  Every white person should own at least one.

Teacher:  OK Johnny.  Can you please explain how you came to that conclusion?

Johnny:  Sure.  Look back at how things were when we had slavery.  Life was easier for people like me (we can assume Johnny is white).  We didn’t have the crime problems that we have now.  My dad is always complaining about high taxes.  If we still had slavery, we wouldn’t have to pay taxes for things like food stamps and welfare.

Teacher:  Very well reasoned Johnny.  I believe that you’re wrong, but I can certainly understand how you came to that answer.

Sound ridiculous?  Of course it is.  There’s just one problem.  With the Obama administration’s “Common Core” education initiative you can expect your children (if they are in public schools) to be taught this way.  Watch the video below:

4 x 3 = 11 in the world of “Common Core”

Mathematics is a priori knowledge.  It can be proven rationally, with no need for empirical evidence.  If little Johnny can get away with 3 x 4 = 11, then there is no possible argument that little Johnny can’t also hold a supposedly informed opinion that slavery was good, that the Holocaust  never occurred, women should not have the right to vote, or that Jim Crow had a net positive social impact.

We should be careful what we wish for … unless that wish is for Idiocracy.

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Pollitt, Board of Ed Confuse Public Hearing with NPR

SALISBURY, MD – As Wicomico County homeowners again face an increase in their property tax rates, County Executive Rick Pollitt held a “public hearing” on his soon-to-be-released FY 2014 county budget.  It should be noted that no real budget detail was provided for citizens to comment on.

Rather than unveil his budget, Pollitt and the Wicomico County Board of Education used the event to call for more spending on Education.  While I came late to the event it appears that little was missed.  When I asked two individuals after the event if I missed anything of substance, the responses were nearly identical – “If you heard one teacher speak, then you pretty much heard the whole thing.”

I recognize that Pollitt again faces tough budget decisions.  However, repeated acts of political theater do not solve problems.  While the Daily Times is giving prominent coverage to Delmarva Public Radio’s current “begathon”, Pollitt needs to realize that public hearings are not supposed to be begathons.  They require information for open citizen input.  Given that this event was held without providing that information (like his proposed budget), there is no point other than to politicize an already volatile issue.

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Bad Economic Lessons – It Must Be Budget Time in Maryland

The state of Maryland has just passed a $37 billion budget, chock full of the expected tax hikes and wasteful spending.  Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt will unveil his proposed budget on Thursday during his annual dog and pony show at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.  We can expect a proposed $0.07 rate hike.  In a lead up to this, Wicomico School’s superintendent John Fredericksen provides an op-ed in today’s Daily Times which again proves that someone with so little understanding of basic economic principles should not be in charge of so much money.

Public schools are important to a community on multiple levels.  The perception of high quality schools impacts whether or not a county or city is a desirable place to call home.  That same perception can even impact whether or not businesses choose to locate in an area.  It is a widely held belief that quality public schools impact an area’s crime rate.  There is also the moral argument, which is probably the strongest of all, that we owe our next generation a decent education.

Yet, Fredericksen makes none of these arguments.  Instead he tells us that Wicomico County’s public schools are an “economic engine” which grows our local economy.  While I realize that none of Fredericksen’s degrees are in something as practical as finance or economics, that does not excuse ignorance about something so basic.  I would be happy to suggest several easy reads which might get him up to speed.

Fredericksen’s argument is equivalent to Nancy Pelosi’s laughable statement that unemployment benefits are an economic development tool.  Government spending, whether on education, unemployment benefit, or food stamps is a transfer of wealth – NOT a creator of wealth.  In the case of state or local spending, where the government cannot run a deficit, this is even more so.  Money taken from individuals and businesses for government spending could be put to better use by those individuals or businesses.  It could be invested in new plant or equipment.  It can create jobs through the CREATION of wealth rather than through its transfer.

Does this mean that public schools are bad?  No.  We, as a civilized society, have decided that funding public education is something we need to do.  Unfortunately, people like Fredericksen attempt to equate spending ON education with quality OF education.  Unfortunately people like Fredericksen want you to believe that the spending, in and of itself, is the net benefit to our community.

It’s little wonder that Wicomico taxpayers have such little respect for Fredericksen or the system he is charged with running.  That’s the real shame.

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Free-For-All at Somerset Board of Ed

WESTOVER, MD – Daily Times reporter Deborah Gates describes a free-for-all at this month’s Somerset County Board of Education meeting as competing groups collided over recent criticism of Washington High School principal William Johnson.  Parents have accused Johnson of poor leadership and spoke of disciplinary issues at the last two BOE meetings.  At this month’s meeting supporters of Johnson came out and accused Johnson critics of being racially motivated.

At several points during the meeting BOE chair William Miles had to gavel the crowd to order.  Several Johnson supporters called for the resignation of BOE members Dan Kuebler and Robert Wells because of their public criticism of Johnson.

At several points in the evening a Johnson supporter attempted prevent Gates from taking pictures of Johnson.  After the meeting, Johnson supporter went so far as to steal Gates’ cell which she was taking pictures with.  A police officer had to retrieve Gate’s property.

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Cape Henlopen Residents Face Higher Taxes or Spending Cuts in Next Budget

LEWES, DE – Cape Henlopen School District’s FY 2013 budget was balanced with a tax hike.  Next year district residents could face more of the same, or reduction in school budgets, if federal money declines.

In a preliminary budget presentation by CHSC business director Oliver Gumbs, board members were warned of possible cuts in federal funding due to sequestration.  Unless Congress acts in the next few months, discretionary federal spending is expected to be cut 7.8% – 9%.  This would include funding for items such as Title I.

READ MORE …

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Is Student Progress Really Part of Teacher Evaluation Plan in Delaware?

DOVER, DE – Delaware’s Department of Education has finalized its teacher evaluation plan for the coming school year.  As a requirement for its federal “Race to the Top” money, student progress must be a component.  Delaware claims that its standardized test scores will be a component for teachers of math and reading.  What isn’t clear is if the scores will be a true evaluation component or simply bureaucratic “sleight of hand” as in Maryland.

Earlier we had reported that Virginia was implementing a plan in which student progress would be used for 40% of a teacher’s evaluation.  We received comment that Maryland was using “student progress” for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation.  Delaware’s plan appears similar.

There is one major difference between the Virginia approach and that undertaken in Maryland (and presumably Delaware).  In Virginia, a poor evaluation could lead to a teacher’s contract not being renewed.  In Maryland it will be only a theoretical possibility that a poor teacher will not have his or her contract renewed because of a lack of student progress.

It should be noted that “progress” is the key word here.  Teachers of poor students should not be penalized because they didn’t turn their students into intellectual giants.  However, parents (and the public) have a right to expect progress.

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UVA Claims Giving Has Doubled Since President’s Reinstatement

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – An article published in the Virginian-Pilot provides frightening insight into the current state of Mr. Jefferson’s university and Mr. Batten’s newspaper.  Readers are told that giving to the University of Virginia doubled after the Board of Visitors reinstated president Teresa A. Sullivan.  Bob Sweeney, the university’s senior vice president for development and public affairs, wants us to believe that the four days between Sullivan’s reinstatement and the end of June was an adequate sample size to imply Sullivan coming back is the impetus for increased giving compared to the previous 16 days (between Sullivan’s forced ouster and her reinstatement).  How is that for poor scholarship?  Did Sweeney ever take an introductory statistics course?

As for the Virginian-Pilot, and the AP, they should know better.  In fact, it appears that they did; but published the article anyway.  Here is the closing paragraph:

It’s unclear how long the temporary boost following Sullivan’s reinstatement will last. Fundraising totals for July are not available yet and Sweeney said July and August are typically slow months.

How’s that for hedging one’s bets?  If giving in July and August are down, it’s because they are “slow months”.  If giving is up, I’m sure that Sullivan’s minions will giver her all of the credit.

We have no opinion as to Ms. Sullivan’s performance.  We also have to be careful in assessing the actions of Rector Helen Dragas and cheerleaders such as Paul Tudor Jones (our opinion of both is decidedly negative).  Yet, Dragas and alumni such as Jones made compelling arguments for Sullivan’s dismissal.  Now Sullivan is clearly put her PR machine into action.  Regardless of her future performance, Sullivan is all but untouchable.

There is only one clear winner in this ongoing debacle – Sullivan.  Virginia governor Bob McDonnell played the fool by intervening in this matter and then re-appointing Dragas immediately after Sullivan’s reinstatement.  Dragas and the visitors who forced Sullivan to resign showed that they cared more about a prestigious appointment than the university they claimed to love.  We only hope that the current and future students of UVA don’t suffer because of the ego and folly of a few.

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O’Malley’s New Wicomico BOE Appointment Just More of Same

SALISBURY, MD – Yesterday it was announced that Maryland governor Martin O’Malley had appointed Kim Hudson to replace Michele Wright on the Wicomico school board.  Some local Republicans are seething because, once again, a Democrat governor has ignored the recommendation the local GOP central committee.  Fiscally responsible voters are concerned that this is another voice for wasteful spending.  Our response?  Who cares? Hudson can’t be worse than Wright.

Let’s face it, the Wicomico County Board of Education hasn’t had a vocal champion for fiscal responsibility since the departures of Robin Holloway and Sue Hitch.  GOP central committee chair Dave Parker decries O’Malley’s appointment:

"We did our part. We interviewed six people, cut the list in half and sent the three best forward, but that wasn’t what (O’Malley) wanted," Parker said. "I want the best people for the education of our children in Wicomico County and I don’t think that is a political issue. It is now and that’s too bad."

Really Dave?  When wasn’t this political?  The Democrat central committee always gets its “suggestions” appointed.  The GOP central committee sees its recommendations appointed when it puts forward individuals who will agree to waste taxpayer dollars or keep their mouths shut.  Case in point – the Wicomico Republican Central Committee recommended the appointment and reappointment of Wright and the appointment of Carolyn Elmore.  When Wright was appointed to her first term she had the strong backing of both the central committee and many local elected Republicans.  Ditto for Elmore’s appointment.  Result?  A supposedly “bi-partisan” BOE that never saw a dollar they weren’t willing to flush down the bureaucratic toilet.

Expect Hudson to support any boondoggle suggested by Supt. John Fredericksen, EXACTLY like her predecessor.  Hudson wants the BOE to have access to unlimited funds.  In Kim Hudson’s world, any dollar spent in the name of “education” can’t be misspent.  Yet, the Wicomico County schools spend millions upon millions of dollars while Johnny still can’t read.  The same mindset also allows schools to crumble without maintenance while people like Hudson call for building new schools, which will also crumble because building schools look good on a superintendent’s resume and keeping schools in good repair doesn’t.

Hudson’s impact on the school board will be ZERO.  She is merely one more profligate among profligates.  Some speculate that Hudson might be a bad enough BOE member that this could motivate voters to demand an elected school board.  Unfortunately, County Executive Rick Pollitt and Delegates Norm Conway (D-38B) and Rudy Cane (D-37A) are keeping Wicomico voters from voting on an elected school board.  Nothing Hudson does will impact this.

The net result – NOTHING.  The BOE will demand more money.  Wicomico taxpayers will continue to see their tax bill rise each year (thanks to Conway and Cane).  A majority of a supposedly conservative county council will continue to fight over the scrap handed to them by Pollitt while refusing cut wasteful spending.  Kim Hudson will simply smile and tell us, “It’s for the children”.

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Student Progress to FINALLY be Part of Teacher Evaluations in Virginia

NORFOLK, VA – We’re always told that more taxpayer dollars must be spent on public education.  “It’s for the children!” is the mantra that was turned into a punch line during the administration of former President Bill Clinton.  Yet, using data as to whether or not a student actually learned when evaluating teachers was anathema, until now.  Starting this fall, up to 40% of a Virginia teacher’s evaluation will be based on whether or nor a student has actually progressed during the year.

It’s about time!  It would be great if states like Maryland actually learned a lesson.  Sadly, when the teachers’ unions are the biggest lobbyists in Annapolis, parents shouldn’t get their hopes up.

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Randall Named to VSU Board

CAPE CHARLES, VA – Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has appointed Northampton County Supervisor and businessman Willie Randall to the Virginia State University Board of Visitors.  Randall is a 1976 graduate of VSU.  After retiring from a 20 year career in the U.S. Army, Randall opened the Exmore office of the Edward Jones Investments.

"In this position, I will have an opportunity to give back to the university that gave so much to me," said Randall on Tuesday.

"I want to thank the governor for having confidence in me and for appointing me to this position. I look forward to helping this great university and my alma mater to shape the future of education."

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Public Hearing on Bennett Middle

SALISBURY, MD – The Wicomico County Council will hold a public hearing at 6PM tonight to hear public comment on borrowing more $12.6 million to move construction of a new James M. Bennett Middle School forward.  The hearing will be in Room 301 of the Salisbury / Wicomico Government Office Building.  The county’s cost of the total project is expected to be approximately $43 million, all of which will be borrowed.

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UVA Board Reinstates President

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Sixteen days after forcing the University of Virginia’s first woman president to resign, the Board of Visitors unanimously reinstated Teresa Sullivan.  Rector Helen Dragas, who orchestrated Sullivan’s ouster, apologized again to the university community for the way the matter was handled.  Dragas admitted that the matter should have been dealt with in a public meeting of the full board. Sullivan’s forced resignation was announced after a vote by a three-member quorum of the board’s executive committee, including Dragas.

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Former Principal Rejected for School Board Seat

ACCOMAC, VA – The Accomack County School Board Selection Commission has rejected the only applicant to a vacant seat on the Accomack County school board.  They will re-advertise the position.

Former Nandua High School principal Larry A. Thomas was the sole applicant for a vacancy on the school board for District 7.  Al McMath, who has held the seat for 16 years is not eligible for re-appointment because his home is no longer in District 7 after the county completed re-districting.  The Selection Commission voted Thomas down by a vote of 3-4.

Thomas, who worked for the Accomack County public schools for 34 years, retired in 2005 in the wake of standardized testing investigation.  Nandua High School subsequently lost its accreditation as a result of the investigation.

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UVA Board Member Resigns

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Mark Kington, Vice Rector of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors has submitted his resignation after the board appointed McIntire School of Commerce dean Carl Zeithaml as interim president.  The appointment was necessitated by the forced resignation of Teresa Sullivan.

"In order to better serve this university which I love and respect, and to help bring about new leadership on the Board of Visitors at this critical time, I am resigning my position as vice rector and as a board member effective immediately," Kington wrote to Gov. Bob McDonnell. "I believe that this is the right thing to do and I hope that it will begin a needed healing process at the university."

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Biden to Deliver High School Commencement Address in VA Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA – One way to know that a state is seriously in play in a presidential election is when the President or Vice President delivers a HIGH SCHOOL commencement address.  Today VP Joe Biden will be delivering a commencement speech at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach.

Biden is also delivered a commencement address earler this month at Central Bay High School in Weston, FL.  Coincidentally, Florida is another “in-play” state.

Source – Virginian-Pilot

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Talbot County Jeweler Gives Pearls to Every Female Talbot County Graduate

EASTON, MD – They are called “Pearls of Promise”.  This year every young lady graduating from a Talbot County high school received a pearl necklace from Silver Linings, a jeweler with stores in Easton and St. Michaels.

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UVA President to Step Down

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – After less than two years on the job, University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan is stepping down, citing “philosophical differences” between herself and the school’s Board of Visitors.  Sullivan’s resignation is effective August 15th.  Sullivan will vacate her position after only two years and two weeks, the shortest tenure of any president in the University’s history.

photo courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Wicomico Teachers’ Union Demands Money That CANNOT Be Appropriated

SALISBURY, MD – After spending thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in an attempt to garner public support for $38.7 million Wicomico County tax dollars being funneled to the Board of Education (WCBOE), members and allies of the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA) marched down Glen Avenue last night and demanded that the Wicomico County Council appropriate $2 million in excess of County Executive Rick Pollitt’s proposed FY 2013 budget.  After disrupting the beginning of the council’s meeting and heckling speakers who opposed more funds for the WCBOE, supporters of the additional $2 million – Pollitt’s budget already contained funding that was $500,000 above maintenance of effort (MOE) – begged, pleaded, cried (literally) and threatened council members.  In the end, it was all for naught.  Even IF a majority of the council wanted to appropriate the funds, the county’s charter prohibits them from doing so.

Why?  Well, if anyone deserves blame it would fall on the WCBOE.  Their initial budget request which was submitted to the County Executive did not include the additional $2 million.  The county’s charter does not permit council to increase spending on ANY line in the budget submitted by Pollitt.  They can only cut spending.  State law, which trumps the county’s charter, does allow the council to increase funding, but ONLY to the extent that a county executive has cut the budget request of the local board of education.  Pollitt did not cut the WCBOE’s submitted budget.  Therefore, council CANNOT increase spending.

This begs a question.  Is Dave White, president of the WCEA, incompetent?  The union’s leadership?  Or … was last night’s piece of political theater designed merely as a prelude to the 2014 elections and an attempt to return to the spendthrift policies which led to the implementation of Wicomico County’s revenue cap?

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Teachers’ Union Should Cut Dues

SALISBURY, MD – If you live in Wicomico County chances are that you received the above postcard at the end of last week.  The WCEA (Wicomico County’s teachers’ union) wants you to attend the Tuesday evening’s public hearing and demand MORE money for the Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBOE).  If you can’t attend, they want you to call or email the members of the county council.

Fair enough.  Just because you work on the taxpayers’ dime doesn’t mean that you lose your right to free speech.  I’m just wondering if Wicomico’s teachers are getting an appropriate bang for their buck from their union.

This postcard reminds me of an effort put forward a few years ago when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation spent tens of thousands of dollars on a similar campaign to encourage citizens to support a proposal to strip local farmers of their property rights.  The plan failed so miserably that a year later six members of council were elected (or re-elected) who pledged never to support any similar proposal without fair compensation to local farmers.  The defeat was so humiliating that the CBF shuttered its Salisbury office.

Wicomico’s teachers’ union now wants citizens to support $2 million in ADDITONAL spending above what was proposed by Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt in his FY 2013 budget.  Taxpayers should be reminded that this budget already appropriates over $2.6 million MORE than was appropriated last year:

$206,000 to meet Maintenance of Effort (MOE)
$500,000 ABOVE MOE
$2.173 million for Teacher Pension shift

To be fair, the $2.173 million for the pension shift is a pass through.  However, while the state has mandated counties pony up for the pension shift there is no guarantee for Wicomico County that they will receive state aid to offset that expenditure past FY 2013.

Yes, providing a quality education to our county’s children is important.  Yes, public schools should be well funded.  However, the last available figures show that Wicomico County suffers from an 8.4% unemployment rate.  We do not know what affect ObamaCare will have on PRMC – one of the county’s three biggest employers.  We do not know what future funding looks like for Salisbury University – another of the county’s three largest employers.  We do know that the enviro-left, and their pals in Annapolis and Washington, are attempting to drive Perdue Farms away.

Adding an additional $2 million to our county budget for schools is not a one time expenditure.  That money, plus a built-in inflation rider, will have to be appropriated next year, and the year after, and …

While I don’t doubt the hard work put forth by MOST of Wicomico’s teachers, should the taxpayer really be forced to fund salary increases given our current economic straights?  Instead of funding paying for fancy postcard campaigns and bogus studies, perhaps the WCEA could simply eliminate their dues for one year.  That’s more money in the pockets of teachers which could be spent in the local economy – AND the rest of Wicomico’s taxpayers aren’t having to cut their spending to pay for it.

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Pollitt “Withdraws” Waiver Request

SALISBURY, MD – In a press release Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt has announced that he is withdrawing the county’s request for a maintenance of effort (MOE) waiver from the state Board of Education:

May 21, 2012 — Salisbury, MD Wicomico County Executive Richard M. Pollitt, Jr., announced today that he has notified the Maryland State Board of Education that he is withdrawing the county’s application for a waiver of the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) standard for funding public education for Fiscal Year 2013.  Pollitt was to attend a hearing scheduled for tomorrow in Baltimore to appeal to the State Board but the withdrawal negates that presentation.

In a letter to the State Board, Pollitt said, “Having our MOE standard re-based under the terms of the State legislation, I am now able to proceed with my original budget to the Wicomico County Council. That budget provides the full amount originally requested by our local Board of Education, not only achieving MOE but adding more than $500,000 in new funding, as well.”

The Daily Times has transcribed Pollitt’s press release, plus a few minor factual errors, in today’s edition.

Unfortunately, this announcement is just spin.  While it is true that the waiver request was no longer necessary, it was also nothing but a PR exercise.  The request was DOA when Wicomico County Board of Education and the local teachers’ union rejected the request.  Without their support, the state board was not going to grant the request.

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NFL Veteran Earns Degree

LAS VEGAS, NV – Veteran NFL linebacker Andra Davis received his college degree from UNLV this past weekend.  The 33 year old free agent never graduated from the University of Florida after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2002.

Earlier this month we highlighted NBA great Shaquille O’Neal receiving his doctorate.  While current and former professional athletes returning to college and completing their education is still rare enough to be considered newsworthy, it is also something that we are seeing more of than in years past.

We commend people like Davis, NBA star Vince Carter, and Dr. O’Neal for setting a true example for America’s youth.

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School Budget Cuts Spark Protest

LAUREL, DE – Students at Laurel High School staged a protest Friday to oppose personnel cuts in the district.  Fifteen teacher, two secretaries, six custodians, and twelve paraprofessionals were notified Friday that they would not be employed by the Laurel School District next year.  The reduction-in-force was made necessary by a $650,000 shortfall in the district’s budget.  The fifteen teachers represent 8.7% of the districts total teaching force.

photo courtesy of the Wilmington News-Journal

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Dr. Shaq

MIAMI, FL – Shaquille O’Neal, regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, is now Dr. Shaquille O’Neal.  O’Neal, who retired from the NBA after 19 seasons, received a doctorate in education Saturday from Miami’s Barry University.

Dr. O’Neal, along with other professional athletes like the Dallas Mavericks’ Vince Carter, who go back to school to complete their degrees should be applauded for setting an important example to our youth.

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School Rules Jesus Shirt “Hate Speech”

CHESTER BASIN, NS – A school has ruled that a student’s t-shirt promoting Christianity is “hate speech”.  William Swinimer, a student at Forest Heights Community School, was punished for wearing a shirt that read, “Life is wasted without Jesus.”  Swinimer, who has been disciplined in the past for wearing t-shirts promoting Christianity, is threatened with suspension for the rest of the school year if he wears the shirt to school again.

“I’ve been told by my principal that it is hate talk and is disrespectful to other people’s religions,” Swinimer said. “She said it (the shirt) cannot be in school because people would get offended.”

Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, the school board superintendent, told The Canadian Press that the wording on the shirt is “problematic.”

“If I have an expression that says, ‘My life is enhanced with Jesus,’ then there’s no issue with that, everybody is able to quickly understand that that’s my opinion about my own belief,” she told the newspaper. “If the shirt were to say, ‘Without Jesus, your life is a complete waste,’ then that’s clear that it is an opinion aimed at somebody else’s belief.”

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Talbot Citizens Oppose Property Tax Increase

EASTON, MD – Talbot County taxpayers jammed into the Bradley meeting room of the Talbot County Courthouse and overflowed into halls Tuesday afternoon to express their opposition to breaking the county’s revenue cap.  Approximately 100 people also turned out for the second public hearing, which was held at Easton High School.

According to the Star Democrat’s Chris Knauss, most citizens supported councilman Tom Duncan’s plan, which increases the income tax rate to 2.6% and takes additional money from the county’s reserves rather than increase property tax rates.  Citizens also spoke out against the county’s proposal to cut funding to fire companies by $75,000.

An increase in tax revenues is required due to recently enacted state legislation which requires the county to fund maintenance of effort (MOE) for the county’s schools or risk having their income tax revenue confiscated.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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Markell Nominates New Delaware Secretary of Education

DOVER, DE – Delaware governor Jack Markell has nominated Mark Murphy as Delaware’s next Secretary of Education.  Murphy, a former teacher and principal, is currently the Executive Director of the Vision Network.

“Delaware has made remarkable progress, putting forward a detailed agenda and implementing innovative ideas to make sure more students graduate ready to succeed in work or college. If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to helping move each of these efforts forward,” Murphy said. “The teachers, principals, parents and community leaders that I get to work with each day know how critical it is that we keep making progress, and keep doing so together.”

Lillian Lowery, Delaware’s current Secretary of Education, is leaving the post to become Maryland’s new state superintendent of schools.

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Wi-Hi Teacher Pleads Guilty to Sexual Abuse of Student

SALISBURY, MD – Former Wicomico High School coach Steven Mark Kiggins pleaded guilty to sex abuse of a minor in Wicomico Circuit Court on Monday.  Kiggins, 43, of Hebron, had a two year sexual relationship with a Wi-Hi student.  The judge sentenced Kiggins to nine years in prison, five of which were suspended.

Kiggins taught at Wi-Hi as well as coached girl’s volleyball, tennis, and indoor track.

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State BOE Overturns Suspensions of Two Easton HS Lacrosse Players

EASTON, MD – Last spring two Easton High School lacrosse players, Graham Dennis and Casey Edsall, were suspended from school because a pen knife and a cigarette lighter were found in their lacrosse bags.  Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education overturned the ruling of the Talbot County BOE and ordered the local board to expunge the records of the two young men.

The knives and lighter were used to maintain and repair the players’ lacrosse equipment.  Despite this reason, Dennis was suspended from school for 10 days and Edsall was suspended for one day.  In addition, Dennis was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.  The Talbot County State’s Attorney later dropped the charges.

photo courtesy of 24/7 Lax

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Wicomico BOE Adopts School Uniforms

SALISBURY, MD – Under the moniker “Consistent Attire Program” (CAP), the Wicomico County Board of Education adopted a school uniform policy at their meeting yesterday.  The vote was 5 – 2, with members Michelle Wright and Tyrone Chase opposed to program.  The CAP will be a one year pilot program implemented in nine county schools.

Those opposed to the program cited its potential cost to parents.

Supporters of school uniforms cite a reduction in bullying and increased school discipline as reasons for adopting such a policy.  The board members who supported the program cited the support of parents via a survey taken at each school.

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What Hath Norm Conway Wrought?

SALISBURY, MD – Taxpayers in Wicomico and Talbot counties need to batten down the hatches.  The tax man is coming and he wants a LOT more of your hard earned cash.  (Taxpayers in other counties should get ready as well).

While we won’t know the final damage for a couple of weeks, SB 848 and Del. Norm Conway’s HB 1412 are going to hit those of us who live in Wicomico or Talbot counties HARD.  A presentation at last night’s council meeting from Wicomico County Administrator Wayne Strausburg illustrates how bad the damage could be.

If the bills remain in their current form, Wicomico County taxpayers will need to come up with an additional $7 million for FY 2013.  Assuming that the county goes forward with construction of a new James M. Bennett Middle School (remember those of us who asked that the council and Rick Pollitt WAIT until a budget was finalized?), we are already locked into a tax hike of about $0.07 per hundred in the real property rate.  Both County Executive Rick Pollitt and several members of the county council were hoping that employee furloughs would end with the current (FY 2012) budget year.  Here’s what could happen:

Current Rate

$0.7690    

     

to reach Constant Yield

  $0.0549 7.14%

to reach max of Revenue Cap

  $0.0165 2.15%

     

Tax rate before MOE

$0.8404   9.28%

     

to cover new MOE

  $0.0970 12.62%

     

Tax Rate AFTER MOE adjustment

$0.9374   21.90%

     

Rate Increase

  $0.1684 21.90%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does this mean that Wicomico taxpayers will see their property taxes rise by 21.9% or their real property rate go up by $0.1684?  No.  We have to wait and see what version emerges from the General Assembly when they adjourn on Monday.  Then we have to see what Pollitt proposes in his budget.  However, this is not a mere exercise in politicizing an issue or scaremongering.  Taxpayers should be scared.

[Read more…]

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Are Tax Caps in Maryland Dead?

Delegate Norm Conway (D-38B) and Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt may be getting an early Christmas present – the death of Wicomico County’s revenue cap.  Conway’s bill, HB 1412, received a favorable report yesterday from his Appropriations Committee, as well as the House Ways and Means Committee.  If the bill passes both houses, Wicomico (along with Talbot and other counties that have some form of a property tax cap) will no longer have protection from a county government that chooses to hike rates at whim.  The county government will merely need to claim “It’s for the children”.

Pollitt has long been an opponent of Wicomico’s revenue cap and has refused to re-structure the county’s government in response to the voter imposed paradigm shift.  Now Conway, Pollitt’s friend and political ally appears to be on the verge of successfully shepherding through a bill which will only require Pollitt to submit a budget claiming that a property tax hike is “for education”.  The county council can approve such a tax hike with a majority vote.

Today the Wicomico County Council will hear from the Executive Branch on the potential impact of HB 1412 and SB 848.  The Senate bill, which has already passed the Maryland Senate and received a favorable report from the House Ways and Means Committee, redefines the way maintenance of effort (MOE) for counties is calculated.  In order to keep MOE at the same level as FY 2012, the county will (if the bill passes) be forced to increase its income tax rate from 3.1% to 3.2% (the maximum allowed by law).

The Daily Times’ Callum McKinney reported on the measure in this morning’s addition edition, but confused the two distinct bills.  McKinney implies that Wicomico County could be on the hook for an additional $14 million due to HB 1412.  It is the Senate bill that  would reset MOE unless the county raises its income tax rate.

It is telling that Pollitt has been screaming about the proposed shift in teacher pensions but has not muttered any opposition to Conway’s bill.  Supporters of the revenue cap should make their voices heard to both Pollitt and Conway.

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Australian School Suspends Boy for Shaving Head for Charity

MORNINGTON, Australia –  An Australian schoolboy was suspended after he shaved his head to raise funds for a cancer charity and support a friend who is battling leukemia.

Going beyond a "number two" haircut was against the school’s uniform and grooming policy, said school principal Christopher Houlihan of Padua College in Mornington, about 25 miles southeast of Melbourne.

The Year Nine student received an internal suspension. He went back to school on Monday, but must wear a cap until his hair grows back, the Mornington Peninsula Leader reported.

"He took it on himself to shave his head for a very good cause, he didn’t go through school procedures and deal with us first," Houlihan said.

"I’ve always told students who wanted to support World’s Greatest Shave it was OK, as long as hair length was within acceptable levels — a number two. Then we can also then support them with publicity."

Every March thousands of people shave, color and wax their hair to raise funds for the Leukaemia Foundation in what is one of Australia’s biggest fundraising events.

Melbourne radio station 3AW reported that the teenager’s act was in support of a friend who is battling leukemia.

story courtesy of FOXNews

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Maryland Senate Passes Budget

ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Senate has forwarded an FY 2013 budget to the House of Delegates which includes tax hikes and a shift of teacher pensions to Maryland’s counties.  Included in the tax increase package is a new version of the failed “millionaires’ tax”.

In addition to the tax increases and moving teacher pensions, the Senate budget includes a provision similar to HB 1412 which would send county income tax revenues directly to the local school board if a county fails to meet maintenance of effort.

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McDermott, Holloway Speak for Wicomico’s Right to Vote

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Del. Mike McDermott (R-38B) and Wicomico County Council president Joe Holloway appeared before the House Ways & Means Committee Thursday afternoon in support of HB 966, which would allow Wicomico voters the opportunity to vote on whether or not they would prefer an elected school board.  HB 966 is supported by the Wicomico County Council, delegates McDermott, Addie Eckardt (R-37B), Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-37B), and Charles Otto (R-38A).  Senators Richard Colburn (R-37) and Jim Mathias (D-38) have sponsored SB 99.  The House bill identical to the bill sponsored by Colburn and Mathias.  Only delegates Rudy Cane (D-37A) and Norm Conway (D-38B), along with Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt and councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes are opposed to allowing Wicomico voters the opportunity to vote on this issue.

In addition to McDermott and Holloway, local citizens Greg Belcher and John Palmer travelled to Annapolis to appear before the committee.  Both voice their strong support for the bill.  No one spoke in opposition of the measure.

As Holloway noted in his remarks to the committee, an overwhelming majority of Marylanders, residing in an overwhelming majority of Maryland counties already have the opportunity to elect their school boards.  HB 966 simply grants the citizens of Wicomico County the chance to express their preference.  It is non-binding upon the legislature.

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School Bus Burns in Kent County

CHESTERTOWN, MD – Nine school children are in the hospital after a 12 year old student ignited a marine flare on board a bus in Kent County this morning.  The Office of the State Fire Marshal stated that the act “may not have been malicious”.  The Fire Marshal and the Criminal Investigative Division of the Maryland State Police are jointly investigating the incident.

Two students were transported by Kent County EMS, two students were transported by a Queen Anne’s County ambulance, and five students were transported by a Kent County Public Schools bus. The most common complaints were smoke inhalation and "nervousness," according to one emergency medical responder at the scene. A hospital spokesman said the injuries were not life-threatening.

Bouch said seven students were taken to the hospital with minor smoke inhalation; they were treated at Chester River and released.

The bus was transporting students from the Rock Hall area to Kent County Middle School.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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Virginia Supreme Court Denies Cuccinelli’s Request for UVA Documents

RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Supreme Court has blocked an attempt by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to secure documents in his investigation of work performed by former University of Virginia instructor Michael Mann regarding climate change.  The high court ruled that the state’s “Fraud Against Taxpayers Act” was not intended to apply to state entities.

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Another Coach Arrested for Unlawful Contact with Minor

LEWES, DE – Jordan Thomas, the JV Girl’s basketball coach at Cape Henlopen High School, was arrested March 1st after it was reported that he kissed a 15 year old student while giving her a ride home.  Thomas has been suspended from all coaching duties.

photo courtesy of Cape Gazette

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HB 1412 Proposes to Steal County Revenue and Give It to BOE

ANNAPOLIS, MD – An “Emergency” bill, co-sponsored by Del. Norm Conway (D-38B) proposes to circumvent tax caps passed by counties such as Talbot and Wicomico counties and steal income tax revenue from counties to directly handover to local Boards of Education.  HB 1412, which has the backing of House Speaker Michael Busch could be one of the final nails in the coffins of Maryland counties.  If passed, local governments will be almost totally subservient to the whims of Annapolis.

Under the proposed bill a voter-adopted tax cap (such as in Talbot or Wicomico counties) could be overridden by a simple majority of the county council IF the additional monies were earmarked for the local board of education (BOE).  In addition, if a county failed to fund “maintenance of effort”, the state Comptroller would be required to withhold a county’s income tax revenue and deliver those funds directly to the BOE.

This bill was filed on Monday and a hearing is scheduled today at 1:00 PM.

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Pollitt Asks Wicomico Council to “Bet on the Come” with Bennett Middle

SALISBURY, MD – In a Wicomico County Council work session Tuesday, the administration of County Executive Rick Pollitt asked the council to “forward fund” construction of a new Bennett Middle School without any guarantee that the state will reimburse the county.  In a discussion of the county’s capital budget (CIP), finance director Andy Mackel proposed that the county borrow $12.5 million to move forward on the Bennett Middle project with the anticipation that the state will reimburse the county $10 million at a later date.

Last month the council voted 4 – 3 to move forward on Bennett Middle School after councilwoman Stevie Prettyman (R-2) changed her vote.  The state’s Board of Public Works subsequently denied funding for the project.  The county hopes that funding will be approved later this year.  In the interim, Pollitt wants to fund the project internally.

Of the $12.5 million, Pollitt claims that $10 million will be reimbursed from the state.  However, the initial round of funding from the state was supposed to be only $4.5 million.  Unless the state chose to reimburse the state for the full $10 million this year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional interest costs will have to be covered by the Wicomico taxpayers, along with the other costs associated with the project.

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