Marc Kilmer: Elected school board efforts not over

An elected school board may be good enough for 21 other counties in Maryland, but apparently it’s not good enough for Wicomico County residents. At least not yet.

That seems to be the message legislators sent this year. They once again failed to act on legislation that would let the voters of Wicomico County decide whether we want an elected school board.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised. I’ve worked around public policy long enough to know that it can take a long time to make a big change like this.

In the past, legislators had an issue with the fact that the County Executive at the time didn’t support the council’s ideas.

With this in mind, this year we on the council worked together to craft a proposal that every single member supported. Our current County Executive then signed on and we sent a draft to Annapolis. The Wicomico delegation introduced a bill in the House and State Sen. Addie Eckardt introduced a bill in the Senate.

State Sen. Jim Mathias did not support the legislation. He wants more public input into any proposal that the county sends to our legislators.

That’s fair enough. I’ve talked with Sen. Mathias about this and am convinced he’s not opposed to an elected school board. He seems genuine in his desire to seek more input from the community.

There’s no reason the council shouldn’t be able to hold the number of public hearings requested by Sen. Mathias. It’s always good to hear from a wide group of people before putting forth a ballot question.

The council tried to do that this year. We held a hearing on our school board proposal. Many people showed up to support what we’d recommended or call for a fully elected board. I personally reached out to community groups, including the NAACP, to discuss this issue.

Given the limited time we had, we did the best we could to have the types of discussions that Sen. Mathias desires.

I have no problem with doing more outreach throughout 2015. It seems clear that Sen. Mathias is willing to work with us to craft an elected school board proposal that will reflect the will of the community.

But the only real way to determine what people want is to let the voters of Wicomico County cast a yes-or-no vote on a ballot question.

As a community, let’s spend this year having the discussions. Let’s have some public hearings. Let’s debate the issue.

Then, in 2016, let’s have the chance to vote on whether we want to choose our school board members.

This issue has been left unresolved for too long. Let’s put it to rest by voting on it in 2016.

Marc Kilmer represents District 2 on the Wicomico County Council.

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