On Monday, Citizens Above Partisanship hosted a panel discussion on education at the Washington County Free Library. The panel, featuring Executive Director of the WCPS Education Foundation Caren Cramer and OnTrack Washington County Board of Directors Vice-President Paul Frey, covered local education concerns ranging from post-secondary education paths to education funding.
Discussing the impact of OnTrack, Frey pointed out that “… the economy has changed based on technology, based on all kinds of issues, and so what we’re suggesting at OnTrack is we want cradle to career… if there’s a career, what steps do you have to take for that career.”
The panelists also discussed the respective roles of national and local control in education. “I do believe that states should have control over their education system, and filter that to the local counties,” said Cramer.
A very engaged audience asked the speakers some tough questions regarding local education. Although the panelists brought different perspectives to the discussion, both were obviously committed not only to quality education in Washington County but also to working together to achieve it. Their diverse perspectives worked together to give the audience a better understanding of all forms of education in the county, which is exactly the kind of cooperation that CAP stands for and works for. They have our sincere gratitude both for being panelists and for the work they do with their organizations.
A recording of the full panel discussion will be posted later this week on Citizens Above Partisanship’s YouTube Channel and their Facebook page.
By Greg Murray, Treasurer to the Donna Brightman campaign
What can we say about the election? Well, we knew from the beginning that it would be difficult to get a female Democrat elected to the Board of County Commissioners in Washington County. Even so, the goal was to get the message of change out to the public and help shed light on all the issues that any candidate would need to address. That happened. Washington County is the better for it.
Looking at the vote tallies it’s obvious that the party line carried the day, but what did that say? First, the five Republicans were followed by two female Democrats – Donna Brightman and Elizabeth Paul. Their voices were heard. Second, two new Board members were seated – Cort Meinelschmidt and Randy Wagner. And third, the voters overwhelmingly chose a new president for the Board, with the potential that the vice president will be one of the new members rather than an incumbent (pending final tallies, and of course the new Board must actually elect the new officers). Change carried the day. The voters wanted a different direction on the Board and they got it. Again, this is good for Washington County.
After 40 years as a Republican (I hear many of you groan), I saw in Donna Brightman someone who really understood the need to get the county back on track, and she helped make that happen. The outcome may not have been everything we wanted, but it also was not unexpected. We wanted to make change, and change was made.
Now it is up to the new leadership to carry that change forward for the betterment of Washington County. We support them in that. Hopefully we can put the nonsense aside and truly get back to business.
Leadership, vision, direction, trust, and cooperation – all things these candidates value and will bring to the table. Let’s bring government for the common good back to Washington County!
Monday, May 21
Washington County Free Library
100 S. Potomac Street, Hagerstown
Featuring the candidates CAP is endorsing for
County Commissioner and Board of Education:
To submit a question for the candidates to address at the forum, please complete the form below:
Citizens Above Partisanship’s extremely successful Meet the Candidates Kickoff party at Bulls & Bears on Thursday, May 10 was concrete evidence that Washington County is ready for cooperative, nonpartisan government. The event was attended by four of the five candidates CAP is endorsing in the 2018 election and by more than 50 community members and supporters. Attendees enjoyed food, drink, and animated conversation about the future of Washington County. Overheard were discussions of education funding, tax policy, and economic development, as well as spirited debate about candidates for statewide office. These conversations were certainly energetic, but they were also mutually respectful, with an eye toward how to best serve the common good.
Each candidate addressed the crowd briefly, talking about their support for CAP’s mission of nonpartisan cooperation and about their individual campaign objectives. John Krowka, candidate for Board of Education, led off by talking about smart school spending, career readiness that doesn’t always involve a college degree, the need for community engagement, and the fact that “one size does not fit all” in education.
The crowd then heard from the candidates CAP is endorsing for County Commissioner. These candidates span the political spectrum, but while they spoke from different perspectives they voiced similar concerns. Donna Brightman asked the crowd to redirect the frustration they might be feeling about politics at the national level into meaningful action at the local level. Scott Bryan emphasized the importance of mutual trust between a community and its leaders. Cort Meinelschmidt talked about the need for a budget that meets the needs of all citizens, and praised Krowka for his emphasis on education that serves all students. Although Elizabeth Paul was unable to be at the Kickoff, a campaign representative spoke on her behalf about her commitment to ethical leadership and responsible governance.
The breadth of support for CAP’s mission was further evident in the wide range of donations to the silent auction that took place at the Kickoff. From Fountain Head Country Club to Talon Studio Tattoo and with many, many others in between, small businesses all over the county clearly understand the necessity of cooperative government in Washington County. Other business donors included:
CAP is deeply grateful to all these businesses, as well as to the individual artists and collectors who also donated to the auction, and of course to everyone who came out to the Kickoff to support our candidates and our mission. Democracy takes work. It’s good to know that we can have fun at the same time!
Citizens Above Partisanship met Monday night to vote on endorsements in the races for Washington County Commissioner and Board of Education. After spirited discussion, members voted to endorse five candidates for County Commissioner:
In addition, CAP endorses John Krowka for the nonpartisan Board of Education.
In keeping with its nonpartisan mission, CAP’s County Commissioner endorsements include three Democrats and two Republicans. All are passionate about working across political differences for the good of all Washington County residents and are committed to CAP’s three priorities: education, the economy, and ethics.
Watch this space for candidate profiles in the coming weeks, and be sure to get your ticket to meet them in person at our Meet the Candidates event on May 10.
Update May 3: We are saddened to learn that Harry Jones has had to withdraw from the race.
Citizens Above Partisanship is focusing on two critical local races in the 2018 election cycle: Board of County Commissioners and Board of Education. At our October and November meetings we heard from speakers whose experience was relevant to the first race; at our most recent meeting, held January 22, we hosted speakers with Board of Education experience.
Panelists at the meeting were two past presidents of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Joy Schaefer and Donna Brightman. In addition to their experience leading MABE, Schaefer and Brightman are both past presidents of their local Boards of Education, in Frederick and Washington Counties respectively. A third planned speaker, Verjeana Jacobs, was unable to attend due to an emergency.
Both speakers stressed the nonpartisan nature of Boards of Education. Members “have to be concerned about every single kid in every single school,” said Schaefer, recommending that voters look for candidates who are talking about all students. Good Board of Education members are forward thinking and “in it for the long haul,” understanding that the work they do today may not pay off until long after their terms have ended. “Unfortunately, education has become politicized,” she said. “We need thoughtful, deliberative people who will not be swayed by the noise.”
Brightman mentioned several important structural and administrative features of Boards of Education, including the fact that members are state-level officials and are not beholden to local officials. In theory, this prevents the kind of politicization that Schaefer talked about, and Brightman said she would like to see a return to a truly nonpartisan Board of Education in Washington County. She also mentioned the unusually wide range of responsibilities of Board members, from budgeting to policymaking to adjudicating complaints and appeals. Because members have no staff to rely on, they must be prepared to handle all those responsibilities effectively themselves.
The Board of Education race fits perfectly into CAP’s mission to rise above partisan politics. We seek forward-thinking candidates who have a positive vision for public education in our county. In the months to come, we will support those whose vision will serve the common good, irrespective of party affiliation. Follow us to stay informed as we learn more.