Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Open Forum: School board endorsements are way off base

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The Gazette's endorsements for Frederick Board of Education left me feeling profoundly disoriented (Jan. 24).

I recently participated in a public forum where I had the opportunity to briefly interview all of these candidates save one, and I could not recognize either the people or their positions in The Gazette's endorsement.

Perhaps if The Gazette's board had not believed the candidate's position papers, and had actually done good journalism, I would not find so much misleading and incorrect information in your editorial.

As much as FCPS may do well, the system has substantial problems in preparing students for the workplace and for college — the existing board and superintendent are lacking vision and drive, and are not actively pursuing strategies designed to address the system's failures.

In my interviews of these candidates, Katie Groth expressed opinions that were clearly anti-budget transparency. Angie Fish was completely unclear and was parsing her answers in a way that led me to conclude that she has no compelling vision that addresses the system's issues.

Bashing Tony Chmelik for home schooling his children is pure foolishness. No one has a better perspective on the system's failings than someone who has concluded that he can do a better job than FCPS at preparing his children for life.

Here are conclusions from my interviews that I found surprising.

Joe Chmelik really does understand what's at stake, and has an understanding of what it will take to fix. Wes Salter brings a process and engineering bent that understands that systems don't improve unless one is measuring the correct metrics.

FCPS is a broken system that thinks that its standardized test scores are the whole story. The incumbent board got us to this predicament, and it needs to be replaced by new perspectives and different skills.

Anyone who has a stake in the status quo — incumbent, teacher's union member or union endorsement — is not doing the things that your children need in order to be successful.

Greg Shamieh, Jefferson