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Retiring police chief Dolgos lauded for making Chestertown 'a better and safer place'

CHESTERTOWN — He’s had a long and stellar career in law enforcement, officials here told Lt. John Dolgos at Monday night’s mayor and council meeting.

Dolgos, 51, is retiring at the end of the month after 30 years, all with the Chestertown Police Department. For the last two years he has been the acting chief.

It is believed that he has the longest tenure with the CPD.

After giving his monthly report for August — cataloguing the number of service calls, manpower hours, criminal and accident investigations, and arrests — Dolgos was asked to remain at the podium as Mayor David Foster read a proclamation declaring Sept. 30, 2021 as John Dolgos Day in Chestertown and presented Dolgos with a ceremonial key to the city.

Dolgos received a standing ovation from the audience, Foster, council members Sam Shoge, Tom Herz and Meghan Efland (Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver was absent), Town Manager Bill Ingersoll and Town Clerk Jen Mulligan.

An emotional Dolgos thanked the mayor and council for the opportunity over the last two years, a time that he said where the communication and openness between town hall and a police chief “is the best I ever saw in my career here.”

He asked that that positive relationship continue with the new chief.

Dolgos thanked the Chestertown residents, allied police agencies and his family.

And lastly, turning to the audience, Dolgos said, “I don’t know if everybody knows, but I’m retiring Sept. 30th after 30 years here.”

According to the proclamation, he totaled 10,943 days on the job.

Dolgos, who grew up outside of Chestertown and attended Kent’s public schools, joined the CPD on Oct. 15, 1991.

“During his decades of public service, John became a face that everyone recognized and trusted while he faithfully represented the police department in the community and worked toward making Chestertown a safer and better place in which to live and work,” the proclamation reads.

In addition to his community law enforcement career, Dolgos was commended for his loyalty to the police department and the town, and the talents he displayed over years of public service, most notably as a volunteer of 35 years with the Kent-Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad.

Dolgos must retire at the end of the month due to the state pension system.

After 45 days of separating with the CPD, Dolgos could return in a new position.

Dolgos said in a phone interview Tuesday that he might be interested in coming back part time.

The town began advertising for a new chief in early spring with an application deadline of May 10.

Tolliver, Efland and Ingersoll vetted the pool of 38 applicants to three finalists.

In a closed-door special meeting Sept. 13, the mayor and council met with the finalists individually.

On their own, the mayor and each of the council members ranked the finalists.

Ingersoll announced at Monday’s meeting that there was enough of an overlap in the rankings that a clear front-runner had emerged.

The new chief will be named soon, Ingersoll said when he was asked about the timeframe.

“We have to get going. John’s leaving,” he said.

When Dolgos asked if there would be time for him to orient the new chief, what he referred to as a “transition period,” Ingersoll said “Yes.”

In a follow-up telephone interview Tuesday, Foster said “the answer should have been ‘We hope so.’”

With Dolgos due to retire in about a week, Foster said, “We cut it a little too close.”

As of Tuesday, no one had been hired, according to Foster, who also said he did not know if a job offer had been made.

It looks as if an interim chief would be named until there is a new hire. That likely will be the second in command, Sgt. Steve Lozar.

“We’re not going to be left without someone in charge,” Foster said.

centerpiece featured
How we got here: Critical Race Theory
  • 9 min to read

CHESTERTOWN — “I am writing this because I understand that a Kent County elementary school teacher was trying to teach Critical Race Theory to her students,” was the first sentence of a letter to the editor received at the Kent County News in early June.

That line did not make the final cut of the letter resubmitted by the author and ultimately published in our Opinion section. The letter’s additional statements about Critical Race Theory led to a months-long back and forth in the newspaper among community members.

Then, last month, Congressman Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, took the debate further over Critical Race Theory and schools.

Harris attended in person an Aug. 19 Dorchester County Board of Education meeting in Cambridge to, as a media advisory in advance of his appearance stated, “address the concerns of his constituents regarding any possible attempts to implement Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the county’s school curriculum.”

“These are Marxist ideas that divide the nation into oppression and the oppressed,” Harris told the Dorchester board members. “Instead of being color blind, they base everything on race. I don’t know, that’s not the America I grew up in.”

Born in 1957, Harris grew up in New York during the Civil Rights movement. He was 8 years old when reports of the Bloody Sunday violence against peaceful marchers in Selma, Ala. aired on television sets and 11 years old when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Harris told the Dorchester board members what he thinks students should be taught and what “real oppression” looks like, using the example of the Taliban reclaiming control of Afghanistan.

“I think we should teach students to appreciate America. Critical Race Theory teaches them to hate America, because it is systemically racist. I’d suggest that if you want to see what real oppression is turn on the TV and look what’s going on in Afghanistan and what’s going to happen to the education system. Now that’s real oppression, not what happens in the United States here,” Harris said.

Harris is far from being alone in raising concerns about Critical Race Theory being taught in schools.

Critical Race Theory, though, is not a grade-school level curriculum. History lessons about slavery and Harriet Tubman or the Civil Rights movement and King do not equate to Critical Race Theory.

Nor is Critical Race Theory new. It has been worked up, discussed, debated and dissected for decades among legal scholars and law students.

What are we talking about?

To understand what Critical Race Theory is, attorney and law professor Cheryl Harris summarized it in June on the “Make Me Smart” podcast with “Marketplace” radio hosts Kai Ryssdal and Kimberly Adams. Cheryl Harris’ work brings her credit as being one of the original Critical Race Theory scholars.

She said the question critical race theorists first grappled with is why, with anti-discrimination laws on the books as far back as the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, there are still “huge racial disparities in society — basically across every dimension of American life.”

“We have a society committed to colorblindness, but we still end up with a lot of visible racial inequality and we wanted to ask what is the role of law in that,” Cheryl Harris said.

Elena Deanda-Camacho is the director of the Black Studies Program at Washington College. She teaches Critical Race Theory, as do some of her colleagues at Washington College. The college held a forum on Critical Race Theory Tuesday, Sept. 21

In an interview last month, Deanda-Camacho said the questions at the heart of all this go back much farther than the 30 or 40 years when Critical Race Theory was given a name.

She sees Critical Race Theory as the distillation of Black scholars, philosophers and thinkers reflecting on the American experience and its paradoxes, “between what is the ideal and what is the real, and how the real affects their lives.”

“This is started with Frederick Douglass thinking about the relationship of his own self worth with regards to the white man. This started with Harriet Tubman helping people gain dignity by moving to places where inclusion was part of the picture,” she said.

She said it continues through figures like King, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida Wells, Malcolm X and James Baldwin — “all the ones that we consider today being OK in Black History Month in school.”

Is the intent of Critical Race Theory to pit community members against one another based on race or making children feel bad for the color of their skin as stated by so many who talk about it being taught schools?

Deanda-Camacho provides an example of how that is not the case.

“Are we blaming contemporary Germans for Hitler?” she said. “We’re not.”

She said the way in which the German government approached the country’s history is by saying they needed to take a hard look to their past, the harm caused and the lasting impact. She said that ensures it will not happen again in the future.

Continuing disparities

The achievement gap among student groups is a frequent discussion topic among boards of education. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show infant mortality rates are highest among Non-Hispanic Black babies. The Federal Reserve System Board shows a significant difference in median net worth between white families and everyone else.

Critical Race Theory is one way of applying a long-term approach to understanding how these disparities pervade post-slavery, post-Jim Crow and post-Civil Rights.

Ellsworth Tolliver is a Chestertown councilman, pastor of Bordley Chapel AME Church in Pondtown and a retired teacher. He is not a sociologist or a law professor, but he began reading up on Critical Race Theory as its profile grew in more and more discussions around Black Lives Matter.

Speaking last month, Tolliver said Critical Race Theory takes a critical look at systems in place — such as education and housing — and how the disparities people of color face are part of them.

“By looking at them critically and measuring where these places are is the way that they can be better fixed,” he said.

Last year, Georgia State University College of Law associate professor Courtney Anderson published in the Harvard Law Bill of Health an article titled “A Critical Race Perspective on Housing and Health.”

In it, Anderson looks at how exclusionary former government housing policies continue to lead to health issues in communities of color.

“Decades ago, the federal government issued maps which gave low ratings to Black neighborhoods, prohibiting many of these families from receiving government-backed home loans. This process is commonly known as redlining,” Anderson wrote.

Redlining locked generations out of home ownership. In addition, covenants were placed on many properties stating that ownership could be passed only to a white person.

Looking at the long-term view, that means wealth passed down through inherited property is lost. With property taxes being used to fund schools, those living in poorer areas receive lower education. Poorer areas also are more prone to environmental issues, whether due to living near a landfill or the prevalence of mold in buildings, leading to increased health issues, which Anderson sought to highlight in her article.

“Understanding how racism creates socioeconomic determinants of health in the housing context is a first step towards dismantling the harmful components of the housing system, thus mitigating health disparities,” Anderson wrote.

Why now?

What brings this decades-old theory into the public spotlight? Deanda-Camacho looks to the politicization of education, particularly American history.

A notable touchstone here is “The 1619 Project” by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones launched in 2019 by The New York Times. That series sought to view the history of the United States through a perspective focusing on “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.”

Deanda-Camacho said awareness of issues being raised by Critical Race Theory also continued to rise following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer while in custody in 2020. She said institutions, governments and companies took public stances against racism and more people began to educate themselves on the issues.

Republican politicians responded by seeking legislation barring “The 1619 Project” and Critical Race Theory from becoming part of school curriculums.

Then-President Donald Trump established the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission. The published report calls for “restoring patriotic education that teaches the truth about America.”

One name that comes up in looking at how the campaign against Critical Race Theory began is Christopher Rufo, a writer, filmmaker and fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

An appearance he made on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program deriding Critical Race Theory is widely reported as having been watched by Trump and helped spark the politicization of the academic study. He has tweeted about his efforts to make Critical Race Theory a negative brand.

A New Yorker profile by Benjamin Wallace-Wells published in July quotes Rufo talking about how terms like “political correctness,” “cancel culture” and “woke” are not as effective when it comes to conservative political messaging.

“’Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain,” Rufo is quoting as writing in his correspondence with the author.

Deanda-Camacho shared flyers by opponents of Critical Race Theory.

“Critical Race Theory or ‘CRT’ is a contagious ideology which asserts you, your children, family, everyone and everything you know are racist, that is — if you happen to be white or don’t subscribe as a fan to CRT,” states a flyer from a group of Idaho residents. “CRT is becoming a quite ‘popular’ view against Western culture — CRT is being used as a tool to undermine our freedoms and steal the birthrights of every American Citizen.”

Deanda-Camacho said they are using Critical Race Theory — what would otherwise be viewed as “boring stuff” from academics — as a boogeyman.

“They are not criticizing necessarily Critical Race Theory because they haven’t read it. They don’t know what it is,” she said, noting also that there is no link to Marxism as opponents state.

She said the concerned residents who are showing up to their local school board meeting and politicians are using Critical Race Theory to further divide society into the “so-called minorities” and the status quo and those who seek to defend it.

“Now, more than Marxism, I think what people are afraid of is these words that we haven’t used for a long time — that is ‘equity,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘inclusion,’” she said. “So ‘Marxism’ is really a smoke bomb to make people come back to the Cold War times.”

In a tweet, Rufo posted that “for the soccer mom in suburban Dallas, ‘critical race theory is Marxism’ is a good and accurate (non-scholarly) shorthand.”

At the local level

In 2020, Tolliver introduced a resolution calling for Chestertown to form a Human Rights Commission that would look into allegations of discrimination. The resolution also called for the town to apologize “for slavery, the slave trade and the lives, the wealth and the freedoms that were stolen from enslaved people entering our port and our town.”

That apology was approved by the mayor and council, while months of debate and revisions led to the Human Rights Commission piece of the resolution being withdrawn by Tolliver. The town did establish an Equity Advisory Committee.

In an interview last month on Critical Race Theory, Tolliver spoke about the reaction he received from some community members over the apology.

He said people asked what slavery had to do with them and why they should apologize for something they had nothing to do with. He said people do not want to realize that they benefitted from what happened back then.

He questioned how Chestertown could have historically been the second-leading port in Maryland behind Annapolis and not have slaves being moved through here. He said people want to ignore that.

“Critical Race Theory says, ‘Let’s teach this.’ We’re not teaching hate. We’re teaching the truth. We’re not teaching separatism. We’re teaching opportunity for people to really know who they are and where they come from,” Tolliver said.

A marker was placed at the foot of Cannon Street on Juneteenth this year noting the history of slavery in Maryland and the injustices suffered by African Americans that continued after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“In sorrow and regret for these past atrocities, we recognize that upon the backs of many of Chestertown’s African-American ancestors, this Town and County were built and flourished,” the sign reads. “We honor them here.”

For Tolliver, over the past year, the marches have been held, the markers placed and the Black Lives Matter murals painted in Chestertown. He wants to move keep moving forward.

“The next logical step in the battle — in the fight — is to affect policy. And that is what Critical Race Theory does. It makes you look at policy and how it negatively affects people of color,” he said.

In our schools

Dorchester board members and the superintendent there did not respond to Andy Harris’ statements at the Aug. 19 meeting, not even during their own comments section listed on the night’s agenda.

The congressman possibly pre-empted them by saying he expected their response to be that they do not teach Critical Race Theory in Dorchester County Public Schools. Andy Harris pointed to the school system’s mission statement to counter their hypothetical argument.

The statement as posted on the Aug. 19 online agenda reads: “The Mission of DCPS is to implement immediate and effective measures to close achievement gaps and promote equity. By implementing strategies and removing systemic barriers, all students will develop intellectual curiosity and skills to complete their Program of Study.”

Harris said “equity” and “systemic barriers” are “code words from Critical Race Theory.”

Looking at Kent County Public Schools, the superintendent here spoke in a phone interview about Critical Race Theory and how students are being taught history.

“We want our all of our students to feel like they’re a part of the schools and our curriculum. So, our efforts as a school system to be more inclusive of our students and families does not equate to teaching Critical Race Theory,” KCPS Superintendent Karen Couch said.

Couch said that while some may believe Critical Race Theory pits people of color against the white population, KCPS “does not teach divisive discourse” and educators here are not advocating that discrimination against white students is the way to achieve equity.

“We don’t do that,” Couch said.

She said throughout the nation’s history, people have been identified and received unfair treatment based on gender, religion, ethnicity and culture.

“So we teach history accurately. And we don’t distort or politicize our history,” Couch said. “All our history discussions are age appropriate and they’re relevant to the required grade level standards.”

The mission statement for the school system here reads: “KCPS is an anchor organization that creates an environment of academic excellence through a collaborative, equitable and rigorous learning community.”

For Couch, “equity” means that the school system is “trying to ensure that we provide supports that are necessary for all students to succeed.”

“What we mean is that we provide supports to make all of our schools safe and that we’re supportive of all students: white students, students of color and other underserved populations. And we just make sure that there is a sense of belonging for all students and make sure that there’s a pathway to success in our schools for all students,” she said.

Foster running for full term as mayor; councilmen Tolliver, Shoge not seeking re-election

CHESTERTOWN — With the filing deadline fast approaching, the incumbents who are not seeking re-election outnumber those who are.

Chestertown council members Ellsworth Tolliver (Third Ward) and Sam Shoge (First Ward) told the Kent County News in emails this week that they will not run again, while Mayor David Foster, who is serving out the remainder of his predecessor Chris Cerino’s term, has announced that he will seek a full four-year term.

The election is Nov. 2.

The filing deadline is the close of business Oct. 1.

As of press time Wednesday, Foster was the only person to file the necessary paperwork at town hall, according to Town Clerk Jen Mulligan. She said one other person had picked up a petition of candidacy.

Foster declared his candidacy at the Sept. 7 council meeting.

In a Sept. 12 email to the Kent County News, Foster attributed his delay in announcing a run for mayor to the deaths of family members and “the combination of the Pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and the unprecedented attack on our Capitol, all seemed to insidiously combine to inflame normal discourse and make it almost impossible to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Even here in Chestertown, small issues seemed to get blown out of proportion while far larger ones were too often ignored, Foster said in his email.

He said Cerino was “hounded out of office” and the COVID restrictions on social gatherings made it challenging to hold productive mayor and council meetings, much less committee meetings, on controversial issues.

“While I was willing to serve as interim Mayor for a few short months under these circumstances, I wanted to think long and hard before making a commitment to serve four years,” Foster said.

With that in mind, he first sought advice from friends and family and, wherever possible, held lengthy conversations with people on both sides of controversial issues in town.

Foster said his own personal grief subsided with time.

He also sensed that most of the controversies have calmed down and, in his opinion, “many of the former antagonists have become far more willing to search for common ground.”

When Cerino abruptly resigned the first week in April, Tolliver and Foster both sought to serve out the remaining eight months on the mayor’s term.

In a vote of the council at the May 3 meeting, Foster was chosen over Tolliver, 3-1, with each candidate voting for himself.

Foster was officially sworn in May 17.

Shoge was the only applicant to fill Foster’s seat, and he joined the council May 28.

In an email Tuesday, Shoge said he would not seek a full term.

“After careful consideration, I’ve deemed the task of juggling a career, a small business, family, and political life to be too much, and am seeking to maintain some semblance of order/balance,” Shoge said in the email.

He said he enjoyed being back on the council.

“It really is fulfilling serving one’s community and making a difference,” he wrote in the email.

Shoge previously served one term on the council, when he resided in the Third Ward.

He did not seek re-election in 2017, citing a potential conflict of interest after accepting a position as economic development coordinator for Talbot County.

Shoge and his young family moved to the First Ward three years ago, and he no longer works for Talbot’s economic development office.

Since March 2020 he has been the executive director of the Kent County Chamber of Commerce.

Tolliver followed Shoge as the Third Ward’s councilman. He was unopposed in the 2017 election.

In a one-sentence statement emailed to the Kent County News on Monday, Tolliver said he would not seek re-election to the Third Ward seat nor would he throw his hat into the ring for mayor.

Kent Goes Purple
Proper medication storage and disposal helps saves lives

CHESTERTOWN — Did you know that sports injuries are the second leading cause of emergency room visits for adolescents?

About 3 million youth are seen in hospital emergency rooms each year, with primary care doctors seeing another 5 million.

And while we’ve probably all heard of treating injuries with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), sometimes a health care provider may recommend or prescribe a prescription opioid.

Most sports medicine physicians and other health care providers recognize that when treating children and teens, opioids are not appropriate for common injuries.

Still, sometimes a prescription opioid is used, like for a serious injury that requires surgery. Most children or teens will not become dependent upon painkillers if prescribed and used correctly.

Yet, accessibility of medications is the lead contributor to misuse and abuse of prescription opioids.

Research shows that 70% of people who abuse these medications get them from friends or family, usually right out of a medicine cabinet. Meanwhile, more than 50,000 young children are seen in emergency rooms each year because they got into medications when an adult wasn’t looking.

Proper storage and prompt disposal of leftover medications — especially opioids — can greatly reduce the risk of accidental poisonings, misuse, abuse and overdose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to keep all medications, even vitamins, away from children’s reach.

Other tips include putting medicines away every time; making sure the safety cap is locked; teaching kids about medication safety; and keeping the poison help number handy (800-222-1222).

The CDC has a medication safety campaign with a host of resources at upandaway.org.

The preferred method for disposing of unused, unwanted, expired or otherwise unneeded medications is at a drug drop box.

There are three drop box locations in Kent County, all accept medications 24 hours a day:

• Kent County Sheriff’s Office, 104 Vickers Drive Unit B, Chestertown

• Rock Hall Police Department, 5885 N. Main St., Rock Hall

• Chestertown Police Department, 601 High St., Chestertown

Second best is with a medication disposal bag, such as Deterra.

Annette Duckery, alcohol and other drugs prevention coordinator with Kent County Behavioral Health Prevention Office, has a variety of pill storage options and medication disposal bags available for free. She also has free bags for mailing in sharps. Call Duckery at 410-778-7918.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency sponsors “Take Back Days” twice earch year, in April and in October, in communities across the nation. Many communities have their own take back programs. The October event is slotted to occur from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Check with local law enforcement for details.

If you cannot get to a drop box and cannot access a medication disposal bag such as Deterra, you may safely dispose of medications at home as is recommended by the Office of National Drug Control Policy:

• Remove the medications from their original containers.

• Conceal or remove any personal and prescription information from the label with a marker, duct tape or by scratching it off.

• Mix with undesirable substance like coffee grounds or kitty litter.

• Put the mixture into an empty can or sealable bag.

• Throw away.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions against flushing medications unless specifically on their flush list and only if a drop box isn’t an option. Medications on that list, including fentanyl, are especially lethal with just one dose.

Accessibility is the lead contributor to all misuse and abuse of prescription opioids. By simply keeping these medications under strict lock and key, and keeping complete count of the pills, anyone can help prevent accidental overdoses, deaths and misuse.

Kent Goes Purple is a substance abuse awareness and prevention initiative that empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse.

This year’s initiative includes daily educational messages, which the community can share from the Kent Goes Purple Facebook page. These messages are intended to educate and encourage conversations about substance use prevention. Other ways to get involve include getting trained on Narcan; learning about the Good Samaritan Law; and learning about medication storage and disposal.

More information is available at www.KentGoesPurple.org and on Facebook @kentgoespurple.