County Commissioner Blaine Young, a Frostburg State University graduate, used to be a teacher.
Now he is trying to teach a recalcitrant school board to do things right — the way he wants. And lately, the text seems to be favoring Blaine. We will know more after the November general election.
Ever since the method of choosing county school board members was changed — from allowing the governor, with advice from local politicians, to appoint them — to a system where voters select board members, the elections have been “non-partisan.” Or so they say.
No Republicans or Democrats.
But not anymore.The all-Republican Board of County Commissioners, led by Blaine, has jumped in and actually campaigned for members, including Blaine’s brother, Brad.
That’s wrong.If the BOCC wants to run the school system, we should go back to having the Democratic governor pick the candidates with the advice of the local commissioners. On the other hand, a separate school budget election could be staged at the same time, and voters could decide just how much they want to spend on education.
There is no district in the state that follows the concept, though, and the school board rejected that idea this year. The reason is simple. In this dire fiscal time, no one wants to accept responsibility for dunning voters millions for the schools.
However, you have to convince people to choose one way or the other, Blaine.
This school board election is teaching the wrong civics lessons to students. Two years ago, when both of the Young boys ran, they campaigned together. Brad Young, who was elected to the school board, had his name on Blaine Young’s signs.
Nothing illegal, mind you, but certainly partisan. Both won overwhelmingly.
This year, with Brad no longer school board president, the BOCC has to squash dissent by picking up a fourth member of the school board for a majority.
So along comes the “Oranges” slate. The teachers association has an “Apples” ticket, which normally chooses the winners. This year Blaine’s Orange team chose Tony Chmelik, who barely won a primary seat.
The general election is in November, in which the six primary winners are vying for three seats. The Apples have a strong slate, including longtime incumbent Katie Groth.
If things go as Blaine plans, though, he will win a majority in November. He calls the Apples a “special interest” group just looking out for the teachers and not all of the voters, as his Oranges team does.
Let’s let the experts at the schools, not at Winchester Hall, figure out how much money is spent.
Is that too much to ask?
Yes, it is, says Blaine, who contends the BOCC, not the school board, passes the budget and he “gets blamed specifically for pay raises.”
Moans Blaine, “I don’t know what to do at this point.” But he says some system for allocating money fairly could work if the school board and the teachers association — Blaine likes to call it a union — could sit down and talk reasonably.
Clearly, Blaine is trying to exercise his clout while he still has time. He says he is not running for re-election as county commissioner in two years but is seriously giving the governor’s job a look.
Maybe Gov. Blaine will end up solving the problem.
Joe Volz, a former Pulitzer Prize finalist, has written for newspapers in New York and Washington. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To submit a letter to the editor in response to this column, email email@example.com.