This is the first of a three part exchange between J.H. Snider and Scott Howarth, CRASC President. The second part was conducted via email, and the third part in person at the SMOB election on April 15, 2016. Despite at least six requests over the span of more than two weeks, Mr. Howarth refused to provide the names of the SMOB interview panelists. It later became apparent that AACPS staff instructed him not to release the names.
Capital News Article
Huang, Cindy, Students make their case for school board seat, Capital, March 31, 2016. This article follows up on a March 9, 2016 Capital news article, Student group announces three finalists for school board seat, March 9, 2016
Snider Comments and Reply Comments
I believe this is the first time the Capital has provided coverage of the student member of the board (SMOB) elections prior to the election, and I applaud it for doing so. Given that as of July 1, 2016 the SMOB may become the swing vote on the Board of Education, this is an important election.
The Capital should now investigate the SMOB election process, which is far more politicized and corrupt than the adult school board member nominating process. That election process, as most Capital readers will now understand, is quite a low benchmark. You can get a little feel for the type and level of corruption via my report, “AACPS Thumbs Its Nose on Maryland’s Vague and Meaningless Ban on Using Government Resources for Political Activity,” available at eLighthouse.info.
Let me put it another way: in terms of misusing government resources for political purposes (and I’m speaking here totally in terms of ethical, not legal, political corruption), what County Executive John Leopold did was nothing compared with what AACPS election handlers from the top on down do with regard to the SMOB election.
@Snider So what do you think will happen? Do you think that if the kids vote the Hogan/Schuh will change it? This is a very important vote!
@Snider, *that* Hogan/Schuh
@mathewstd The Governor has never overturned a SMOB nomination. It would create a firestorm if he did.
@Snider confused as to what exactly your accusations are in your comment?
@shcoltsrule Check out my report, “AACPS Thumbs Its Nose on Maryland’s Vague and Meaningless Ban on Using Government Resources for Political Activity,” and my Capital op-ed, “Board’s Student Member Lacks Independence.”
@Snider I have read the reports before and I still do not see the issue with CRASC Process. What do you think is specifically wrong with the process? I am a member of the interview panel for the SMOB nominees and I do not see any conflict of interest in our process.
@shcoltsrule Please let me and the readers of the Capital know 1) who was on the interview panel this year, 2) where (or whether) that information is posted on the CRASC website, 3) where (or whether) the minutes of that panel’s meetings was posted, including your votes for the nominees, 4) where (or whether) the most recent regulations for the interview panel have been published online, and 5) who controls the CRASC website. Please note that the Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Commission, which nominates the adult school board nominees, publicly posts information for 1) to 4).
As the President of the official student body of Anne Arundel County I feel compelled to let you know that your assertions about CRASC are misguided. Because I am accountable to the students of this county, I will answer your questions.
1) The individuals on the interview panel are prescribed by the approved election rules. These individuals were further discussed and approved by the executive staff prior to the interviews. There was much discussion and ultimately only one student had a dissenting opinion. The voting members of the staff voted on the proposed interview panel and it was approved.
2/4) That information is available on our website. Our election rules document can be found at www.crasconline.blogspot.com. This information was also made public at a number of CRASC meetings prior to the opening of the nomination period.
3) The minutes of our interview panel are not made available to the public because they contain information about minors. Since our organization is one that respects students and their privacy we would never publish any information that might potentially embarrass one of our peers. However information from each students individual interview is made available to them upon request. Please note that we will NOT release the score sheets but offer a debrief to each student involved in the process as well as their parents.
5) All of this information and more is available on our website as stated above. This website is an independently maintained website that is blocked by the school system servers. It is maintained by our Secretary and there are no school system employees or public officials who have access to it.
It also includes a full calendar of our events and links to our social media pages. we encourage any students or community members who have an interest in student leadership to follow us on twitter or join us for a meeting.
A great time to learn more about our organization and the process of selecting our full voting student board member would be on April 15th at the election at South River High Scool at 10am.
As the President of this organization I am extremely proud with what we do and who we represent. And I would like to respectively ask that community members and public officials fo more research before making false accusationas about an extremely successful student led organization such as CRASC.
@mathewstd, there’s a new sheriff, eerrrr, County Executive in town. I don’t doubt for one minute that Schuh and his buddy Hogan would appoint someone other than whomever CRASC nominates, if Schuh felt like he could control that person, either directly or indirectly through Dr. Arlotto or Amalie Brandenburg. Politics before people!
@mpate21401 Just to clarify to everybody there are no adults that will have any control over our Student Board Member. All of the candidates are aware of the accusations that they can be controlled by public officials throughout our county and state. And this is not true at all. It is extremely politically based on the adult side, but as for the students. They want to give the best education to the 80,000 students in our school system that deserve that regardless of the partisan issues facing the adults.
@shcoltsrule Scott, thanks for partially answering my questions. Some points that weren’t directly answered:
1) Who were the specific individuals this year on the CRASC interview panel? This isn’t confidential info. You say that “The individuals on the interview panel are prescribed by the approved election rules.” But powerful people who aren’t so prescribed have also been in the room while the candidates are being secretly interviewed. I don’t find that practice in the election rules. What is your view of that inconsistency with the published rules?
2) You might be curious to know that I helped set up CRASC’s website in the mid-2000s when my daughter was SMOB. Some years later it was taken down and replaced with less complete info. I’m glad to see that some of the missing info is once more available.
3) Let’s assume the names of student candidates deserve secrecy. Even secret meetings have public notice of their time & place, plus minutes concerning public officials in attendance and the Open Meetings Act exemption used for discussing secret items. I’m not aware that the panel provides such minutes.
4) My experience is that there has sometimes been years between when CRASC changes a critical rule (e.g., concerning the panel) and when it is published online. In short, I have not found the publicly available rules reliable. Knowledge of critical election rules shouldn’t be restricted to insiders. By the way, after years of delay, the rules now appear current. But I’ve never before seen election rules that don’t have an effective date within the document and some info about their passage.
5) My impression is that the school system has tight de facto, if not, de jure, control over any info CRASC makes public. What safeguards prevent such inappropriate control?
1) The people written in the current election rules that we follow are: A representative of the Superintendent (CRASC Advisor), a representative from the board (the current SMOB), a representative from a bargaining unit (TAAAC), the highest ranking CRASC Officer (President), and a student at large. The panel consists of these 5 people. 3 of which are students and 2 adults.
2) Interestingly enough I did know that your daughter is a former SMOB. The website was taken down because the executive staff saw it as ineffective. In the recent years we have revamped our social media and internet presence. Our Secretary has done a fantastic job at making our website more user friendly and easy to navigate as opposed to the previously used website.
3) All of the information regarding the dates for the application process for the SMOB position was published. There are no “secret” meetings. I am unsure as to what the accusation us there. In regards to who was in the room only the five members of the panel and the nominee were in there. Again as previously stated we WILL NOT provide the public with the minutes from our interviews. They are confidential and can only be seen by the nominee and the CRASC Advisor for a debrief upon request.
4) I am again unsure what your accusation is here. CRASC takes pride in being an extremely transparent organization. The election rules were voted on by the General Assembly.
5) I think that your impression is obviously misguided. I have been a member of CRASC executive staff for 6 years and I have yet to see or hear from community members or public officials at one of our meetings. Again, as previously stated if community members or public officials would like to learn more about our process please join us for our election on April 15th.
We would love t have anybody interested and clear up the large misconceptions that I am seeing so often posted on the internet by such few people.
Again, April 15th at South River High School at 10am. I would be happy to meet and speak about our process and explain the transparency that you seem to not see.
Also, it seems to me that a great concern of yours is that the adults have control over our website, which is not true with our new website. As you stated you helped work on building the website that was taken down in the mid-2000s. Could that be considered an adult having control over the CRASC webpage?
While you may have had some previous experience with our fantastic organization. We have revamped our system since when you were involved in the mid-2000s and have greatly improved in…
@snider mr snider I am confused as to what exactly your accusations are in your comment?
@shcoltsrule Scott, here are a few ideas that I hope you’ll consider. Let me know if you like any of them.
1) Make the public officials on the interview panel for nominating SMOB candidates subject to the same ethics disclosure and right-to-know laws as the members of the School Board Nominating Commission for the adult members of the Board of Education.
2) Prevent AACPS staff from serving on the interview panel and having superior access than both the students and general public to the panel’s deliberations and votes.
3) Increase the currently non-existent incentives students have to whistle blow when AACPS staff inappropriately interfere with CRASC lobbying and elections.
For readers who aren’t familiar with the interview panel’s rules, which have never been reported on in the Capital and change without public notice from time to time, I’m copying them here:
“For the SMOB elections, this interview panel will consist of the following positions with the final approval of the executive staff by a 2/3 vote.
A. The highest ranking member of the CRASC executive staff who can participate without a conflict of interest.
B. A member of the current Board of Education, preferably the current Student Member, unless this presents a conflict of interest.
C. A representative of the superintendent, such as the CRASC Advisor.
D. A non-voting representative from an employee bargaining unit such as TAAAC or SAAAC.
E. A student at large to be selected by the CRASC Advisor and approved by the CRASC President. (said student must be a member of a student organization, other than CRASC).”
Thank you for copying in the election rules that I explained in my previous comment.
I’m not quite sure what you are talking about when you say that AACPS Staff inappropriately interfere with elections. If you could give me an example in recent history that you have been at a CRASC election and witnessed this then I would understand. Being that I have been involved for the past 6 years and have not once seen you at one of our events that tells me that you are basing these false assumptions on your experience in the mid 2000s. As previously stated the organization has updated the election rules and revamped our process to make this more transparent.
If you would like to witness the elections md the process I would like to again invite you to the election on April 15th at South River High School.
@shcoltsrule I am pleased to hear that your AACPS advisor no longer refers to senior CRASC staff, including the CRASC president, as her “bambinos” and “minions.”
I’ve scanned www.crasconline.blogspot.com and do not see an archive of CRASC’s key documents, such as a history of CRASC’s election rules and when and by whom they were changed. If I’ve missed something and there is a record of the rule changes, please let me know where they can be found online. I’m not aware of any public body that doesn’t keep a copy of its rule changes.
My guess is that there is no family in Anne Arundel County that has attended more CRASC executive committee meetings than mine. What year did you begin regularly attending CRASC executive committee meetings?
We do not have a record of previous election rules on our website. Only the current ones. We do have access to the old documents. As I previously stated the election rules were voted on and approved by the general assembly.
I began being on the executive staff in my 6th grade year, 6 years ago as I have previously stated.
Any further questions or comments that you have can be directed to my email:firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mr Snider schooled by the very knowledgeable CRASC president!
Ray Leone (aka bucketlist),
I’m glad that you agree that the SMOB election process is an important issue worthy of public attention, and I’m glad that you also recognize my confusion over how exactly that process works.
Alas, I’ve been asking the current CRASC president, who is responsible for managing that election, how exactly it works, given that its website has abysmal information on that subject (e.g., far worse than the nominating commission used for adult school board members). I asked him several times in this forum and got no satisfactory answer to the most politically sensitive question: who exactly is on that SMOB interview panel?
CRASC’s President suggested we continue the discussion via email. But after several times attempting to do so and not getting that information from him, I filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for it. I have also asked CRASC’s First Vice President, CRASC’s Secretary, CRASC’s Advisor, and the supervisor of CRASC’s Advisor for this essential electoral information, and all have refused to provide it to me.
So I would encourage you to distinguish between a real answer and a non-answer that attempts to masquerade as an answer. Oddly, the information he provided on the positions of the interview panel members was information I had already published in my report (already cited here in my correspondence with the CRASC President): “AACPS Thumbs Its Nose on Maryland’s Vague and Meaningless Ban on Using Government Resources for Political Activity.”
On the other hand, I completely agree with you that the CRASC President has a wealth of information about CRASC electoral procedures for the student member of the Board of Education. But all that knowledge doesn’t do the public much good if he won’t share it publicly.
Snider Note: Immediately after this online exchange I emailed CRASC President Scott Howarth requesting that he provide me the names of the interview panel’s members, as I had already done several times previously during this online exchange of comments recorded above. Scott replied by asking me why I wanted the information, and I replied I would post it publicly on this website. Not having received the information I requested, shortly before the close of business on Monday, April 4, 2016, I submitted a Maryland Public Information Act request for the information.