Holler, Estefania, School board selection, October 26, 2017.
I was stunned by Brian Griffiths’ accusation in his column (The Capital, Oct. 6) that Democrats’ backroom maneuvers led to the selection of Colin Reinhard of Linthicum to fill a county school board vacancy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And I would know because, unlike Mr. Griffiths, I am a member of the School Board Appointment Commission. I am also a registered Republican and the president of the Anne Arundel County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, or AACCPTA.
I will not speak for my fellow commission members, but Mr. Reinhard was my first choice to fill the vacancy. Not only was he a teacher and an entrepreneur, but he answered the commission’s questions with deep knowledge and it was clear he would bring unique insights to the board.
As a commission member representing the AACCPTA, I sought to give voice to parents, teachers and, yes, taxpayers. And before the decisive round of voting, I made the case publicly for Mr. Reinhard’s selection.
“Smoke-filled rooms” were not part of my decision-making process. The commission conducted public interviews over the course of several weeks and then held multiple rounds of votes in public. The entire process is a matter of public record, and the round-by-round vote results are available at the Anne Arundel County Public Schools website.
Despite Mr. Griffiths’ outrageous accusations, I wholeheartedly agree with him that county voters should “have the opportunity to elect our own school board members.” Ultimately, Mr. Reinhard will have an opportunity make his case to voters, but he should be allowed to do so without misleading accusations.
Anne Arundel County Council of Parent Teacher Associations
“’Smoke-filled rooms’” were not part of my decision-making process.
It may not have been part of your particular decision-making process, but it was very much a part of other commissioners’ decision making process.
“The commission conducted public interviews over the course of several weeks and then held multiple rounds of votes in public. The entire process is a matter of public record.”
This is PR of a highly misleading sort. Yes, the public part of the process was public, and kudos to the SBAC for making the public meeting part of the process meaningfully public (at least until all the records are taken down, which they were for the SBNC and already have been for some of the critical SBAC records). But there was also a substantial and arguably more important shadow process that was neither subject to the Open Meetings Act nor the Public Information Act. If you and your fellow commissioners are sincere in your stated commitment to transparency, you should commit to using official email accounts for your official business. (By the way, I raised this issue several times during the public participation part of your meetings, with no response or sincere change in the leadership’s email practices.) Even better, you should call for an independent probe into SBAC commissioner deletion of official emails in response to Public Information Act requests for them. Of course, there is only a snowball’s chance in hell of this happening.
Vice-Chair Pickard’s Reply Comment
The primary vote (round one of voting where each commissioner listed their top 3) is on the AACPS/SBAC website with all the other votes taken. Each Commissioners vote was read aloud and confirmed by the commissioner on the archived video. I really don’t know how more transparent and open this process could be. I will continue to stand proud of the process we crafted and the public discourse that took place to get to the outcome. We did the work, GOOD work.
As to 1971jpowers comments above, I can assure you that Allison Pickard is not controlled by anyone. I have 45 years of my own experiences, education, and public service that informs a STRONG voice all my own. Have you met me? I look forward to convening the SBAC again in November and working with my fellow commissioners to make this next appointment to the Board of Education. No matter what the naysayers want to opine, the SBAC did GOOD work this summer and that GOOD work will continue this fall. I invite you to follow along. You know most folks would not bother to respond to comments such as these but I feel very strongly about the work of School Board Appointment Commission. It was hard work. Just formulating questions that would hopefully bring forth qualities, experiences or character traits of each applicant to help determine if a candidate was a good fit was challenging. We each spent countless hours reviewing 23 applications. There have been a couple articles about the work of the commission, not ONE interviewed a single commissioner for their insight into the process. If you want to experience the work of SBAC, I would encourage folks to go to www.AACPS.org/SBAC and watch the 35 minute video of the 8/24/17 vote and definitely tune in for the upcoming candidate interviews for the District 32 seat on Tuesday, 11/14.
Vice Chair of the School Board Appointment Commission
Snider Reply Comment
Dear Ms. Pickard:
I agree that posting the SBAC’s voting records on the Internet is a big improvement over the SBNC’s vote posting practices. But why not post the vote totals in a timely way when the press and public might make most use of them? Why take weeks or months to do so? And why not date stamp when you actually post (and change) documents on the SBAC website?
Thank you for acknowledging SBAC’s use of private email for official business and the practical impossibility of accessing that email under Maryland’s Public Information Act. Thank you for also acknowledging AACPS’s systematic deletion of relevant commission records, including the applications of successful candidates such as Colin Reinhard. Of course, yours wasn’t a direct acknowledgment, but I believe it was the best you could do under the circumstances given your role.
J.H. Snider, Editor