Board of Ed approves formation of citizens committee

Kent County Board of Education members Wendy Costa, left, and Trish McGee debate re-establishing a Citizens Advisory Committee during a workshop Monday, Oct. 25. Costa cast the sole vote against the committee’s formation.

ROCK HALL — After months of discussions and revisions, the Kent County Board of Education formally approved establishing a Citizens Advisory Committee during a workshop meeting Monday, Oct. 25.

The vote was not unanimous. The authorizing policy was approved 4-1 on a motion by Vice President Trish McGee and seconded by Nivek Johnson. Board member Wendy Costa casting the dissenting vote.

“I just think it’s another way to make us accessible to the public,” said McGee, who also is associate editor of the Kent County News. “There’s no such thing as having too much information and being just as informed as you possibly can when you make a decision. And we’re asked to make some of the most important decisions in Kent County.”

With the measure approved, the board is currently accepting applications for would-be members of the Citizens Advisory Committee. The application can be found at www.kent.k12.md.us/CitizenAdvisoryCommittee.aspx.

The deadline to apply is Monday, Dec. 6.

The committee will have 13 members, two from each of the five schools, two at-large members and a Kent County High School student. All members will be approved by the Board of Education.

“The Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) is a structured group that meets about specific issues impacting educational policy, activities, and programs. The CAC may also respond to requests from the Board for research and recommendations on specific educational issues,” the policy states.

The policy also notes that the committee will not provide oversight any other of the school system’s committees.

Costa questioned the need for the Citizens Advisory Committee. She voiced concerns about more people be needed for school PTAs. She also said she would prefer more committees with a targeted focus.

While she was presented with a list of targeted committees already established within the school system, Costa said she was concerned that the Citizens Advisory Committee would take up staff time that could be better utilized.

“Nobody’s convinced me that this committee will improve anything for children and I think it will end up using a lot of staff time that might be on wild goose chases,” Costa said.

Johnson said now is a time to try something different. He said the policy could be revisited next year as necessary, a statement with which other board members agreed including President Joe Goetz.

“We should be revisiting policies all the time,” Goetz said.

Board member Francoise Sullivan, who voted to move forward with the committee, agreed on the need to fill out PTAs. She said with the Citizens Advisory Committee’s formation, parents still need to engage with teachers and administrators.

Discussions about sitting a Citizens Advisory Committee came up over the summer. Community members informed the board that there already was a policy calling for such a committee, but one had not met in probably a decade.

The board opted to review and revise the policy over the following months.

One concerned parent at the Oct. 25 workshop voiced her support for the re-establishment of a Citizens Advisory Committee.

“The committee would be a formal way for parents to work with Kent County Public Schools advocates for students,” parent Valerie Walters said. “I think that it should be made clear that any board member that votes against it is voting against collaborating with parents and supporting our schools.”

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