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From the Desk of
County Commissioner Blaine Young

(8/2012) Earlier this week I had the opportunity to tour the outside of the newly renovated Lincoln Elementary School on my own. Most of you know that this school, once known as South Frederick Elementary, is located in the City of Frederick just south of the downtown. As one of our older schools, Lincoln was badly in need of renovation.

So thanks to 30 million dollars of taxpayer money, we have a brand spanking new Lincoln Elementary, of which we can be proud. In my mind, this was money well spent. The attitude of the current Board of County Commissioners in allocating scarce tax dollars to renovating old rundown schools and new school construction has been evidenced since the day we took office, and is demonstrated by our commitment to accelerate funding for the upgrade of Oakdale Elementary and North Frederick Elementary.

But what I was shocked to learn this week is that when this beautiful renovated school opens in August it will do so at 73% of its capacity. Thatís right, after spending 30 million dollars of taxpayer money to renovate a school, the majority our Board of Education is too scared to hold the redistricting hearings which would be necessary to ensure that the taxpayers get the full benefit of this very expensive facility. The timeframe and opening of Lincoln Elementary has not been a secret.

I cannot for the life of me understand how any member of the Board of Education can, in good conscience, continue to lobby for more state and county tax dollars while at the same time the majority of them refuse to take a simple step to make sure that we are fully utilizing the resources we already have. I found it very interesting that recently the President of the Board of Education went on the record whining and complaining about future development plans in Frederick County, when the BOE under her leadership (or lack thereof, as I see it) will not make a single tough decision to redistrict students so that our facilities are properly utilized.

It is absolutely criminal of this BOE that they can continue to add portables to Urbana Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary at the same time they will allow Lincoln Elementary to open at 73% of its capacity per the state formula. And it is even more appalling when you realize that the district boundaries for both of those elementary schools either adjoin or are right next to Lincoln Elementary, thereby minimizing the impact on parents and students of a redistricting to spread the capacity out over all three facilities. Elementary schools are the level of schools that have the most challenges from a capacity standpoint, and therefore the BOE should be especially diligent in seeing to it that we utilize all of our elementary facilities in such a way to minimize the inconvenience to students and parents.

It is one thing for an elected board, like the BOE, to make a wrong decision. At least then they can say they were trying. But it is a complete abrogation of their duty to the taxpayers and to the public when some sit back and do nothing, except complain about what the Commissioners are doing, while portables are being added to schools adjacent or close to a school that is 27% under-utilized.

Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: If you are going to have an elected school board, you need to have accountability. If the BOE actually had to answer to the taxpayers directly, we might see some more rational and courageous decisions out of them. But under the current scenario, and particularly under the current BOE leadership, my guess is that things will not change. Instead of action, we will get complaining and continued finger pointing. And instead of sound policy, we will get more putting the problem off to another day.

Speaking only for myself, and not for anyone else, I will tell you that I will continue to not be bashful about telling the school board exactly what I think about their atrocious, slipshod and seemingly disinterested approach to some of their positions. If they didnít want to make tough decisions, they shouldnít have run for office. They did, theyíre here, and the taxpayers have a right to expect better. Iím sure I will get some type of typical response from this editorial of the same answers of why they could not and how they are being prudent and efficient.

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