A school board candidate’s decision not to serve if elected in November could result in a member of the Frederick County Board of Education being appointed by the county commissioners.
Concerned about who the Frederick County Board of Commissioners would choose, Tom Shade — who has said he cannot serve due to health reasons — is asking supporters not to vote for him.
Shade supporters say Commissioners’ President Blaine Young (R) could use this to seize control the school board because if Shade finishes as one of top three vote-getters in the race, the five commissioners would appoint his replacement under county law.
In what is meant to be a nonpartisan race, Young, a Republican, is advising his two endorsements for the board — Colleen Cusimano and Tony Chmelik — to tell voters they are Republicans to get support.
“It is very important for people to understand what happens with their vote,” said Valerie Dale, one of the volunteers who worked on Shade’s campaign.
“Commissioner Young has made it very clear that he needs just one more vote on the board of education. People clearly need to understand that.”
Shade announced that he was withdrawing on Sept. 18.
However, because the announcement came after the official withdrawal deadline of Aug. 28, Shade’s name will still appear on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election.
“My understanding is that any vote for me is a wasted vote,” Shade said.
That means Shade is still competing in the race, and if he gets a sufficient number of votes, he could be elected to serve on the school board, said Donna Duncan, elections management director at the Maryland State Board of Elections.
“It is not an official withdrawal,” Duncan said. “He would still be a viable candidate.”
Shade now is encouraging voters to support candidates Kathryn “Katie” Groth, Joy Schaefer and Zakir Bengali, who have been endorsed by the Frederick County Teachers Association.
Young however said he is not seeking power over the school board. He also does not think Shade could still win the election.
“The majority of people know that he has withdrawn,” he said. “The union is scared to death that for a first time they could lose control of the school system.”
Young said the teachers’ union is afraid that Tom Shade could take votes away from the other union-endorsed candidates.
He said commissioners have not given any thought to whom they may appoint in place of Shade, if it comes to that. But Young also said that the commissioners are not angling for power on the school board.
If Shade is elected he will have two options, to serve or decline. If he turns down the position, it will be considered vacant, in which case the commissioners will appoint a qualified candidate to fill the spot, according to Stuart Harvey, director of the Frederick County Board of Elections.
Under existing law, the commissioners can choose anyone they feel is qualified to do the job and do not have to be limited to the candidates who ran in the election, Harvey said.
Shade and his supporters now are working to inform voters about the change and the way it could affect the final outcome of the election.
Since the last election in 2010, when three new members came to the seven-member school board, the board has been frequently voting 4-3, with board members Kathryn Groth, Angie Fish, Jean Smith and Donna Crook standing in opposition to Brad Young, James “Jimmy” Reeder, Jr. and April Miller who ran together on a platform of fiscal responsibility in 2010.
Shade, who was one of the front-runners in the primary, said he did not know about this possibility when he withdrew his candidacy. But even if he gets enough votes in the election, he has no plans to reverse his decision and serve on the school board.
“I have gone though quite a few medical issues in the last few weeks. There is a good possibility that I may not be even available to do the job, and I don’t expect people to wait for me,” he said. “I have withdrawn, and I plan to stay withdrawn.”
A former school administrator and principal, Shade has been involved in county public schools in various capacities for 44 years. A well-known figure in county education, Shade finished the primary election as the newcomer with the highest number of votes, second only to Groth, an incumbent and longtime school board member.
Shade was also the only one of the top three candidates in the April 3 primary who was not endorsed by the teachers union. After the primary, however, the union endorsed him.