As Expected, the System Fails

Yesterday, Governor O’Malley reappointed Tricia Johnson and appointed Terese Milio Berge to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, moving us further along the circle of failure that is the current School Board Nominating Commission Process.

Johnson and Berge bring nothing new to the Board of Education. Johnson, whom was appointed in 2003 when I was a candidate for the open seat, is the current President of the Board. Ostensibly a Republican (though her most recent political donations have all been to Democrats), Johnson has stood for little more than the status quo during her tenure on the Board. She has failed to stand up for common sense Republican ideas, has failed to stand up for fiscal responsibility and accountability, and has failed to move schools from its current state of stagnation. She’s been nothing more than a rubber stamp for both Kevin Maxwell and Eric Smith before him. Tricia Johnson has proven that she is not an agent of change, and should not have been rewarded with a second term. Particularly when you consider this:

Mrs. Johnson said she didn’t have any specific plans for her second term.

“I hope that I can serve the people of Anne Arundel County to the best of my ability,” she said.

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If she has no plans, why did O’Malley give her five more years?

The appointment of Berge is just as problematic. A Democrat, Berge’s professional experience has surrounded working with the legislature on noticeably non-education issues. While she may be currently working as an accountant, her career seems to have had more professional dealings in state government and politics than anything related to schools. I see little in Berge’s experience that makes her more qualified to represent District 32 than Sam Georgiou, former Chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council and a longtime advocate for public schools. Berge appears, on the outset, to be more of an Annapolis insider than somebody who is going to put common sense school reforms on their agenda. In fact, it seems like Berge is going to give a free ride to Kevin Maxwell if you believe her candidate statement:

I believe that a board member’s proper role is that of policymaker, and an idea generator. I think that a board member needs to allow the Superintendent and his or her staff to do their job and make the administrative decisions that have been clearly delegated to them.

Which means that you are going to get more of the same from Berge: no legitimate oversight of the job that Kevin Maxwell is doing, and probably a continued acquiescence to Maxwell’s desires on policy and budget without a vigorous watchdog role.

Now, we move on to the final phase. Voters will have to make what will likely be an uninformed decision on whether or not Johnson and Berge should serve the remainder of these five year terms. Instead of competitive elections, in which Johnson and Berge could be challenged on their ideas and vision, we will likely see these two members hand-picked by the O’Malley/Leopold Commission rubber stamped into office. And that is bad news for the people of Anne Arundel County. As I have said before, the people of Anne Arundel County have had this shell game foisted upon them by John Leopold and the General Assembly delegation. What is it going to take to prove the unfeasibility of such a system, and the need for these candidates to compete in competitive elections based on ideas?

True, an elected school board is not going to be the answer to all of our problems. And there is nothing to say that an elected school board is going to provide more qualified candidates than this cockamamie Nominating Commission will. But I certainly would put more faith in the choices of voters than I do the choices of individuals hand selected by Martin O’Malley and John Leopold.

I’m voting no. How many others will?


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