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From the Desk of Board of Education Candidate Colleen Cusimano

Many of us have seen police officers issue a field sobriety test, either on television or in person. This test is used to indicate a subjectís ability to negotiate physical instructions, and provide an answer of whether the person should be trusted behind the wheel of a car.

If they canít walk a straight line, they canít drive one either.

In looking at our current school management, I see some folks who should not be behind the wheel. There are a number of professions where integrity is a job requirement, where the mission of the organization is so very important that swaying our way to the goal is unthinkable. Working for the school system is among these professions.

When my children had school buses taken away four years ago, forcing them to walk in the roadway on country roads with drainage ditches at the sides, I was unhappy. It was explained to my neighbors and I that the school system had purchased a new million dollar mapping system that would allow them to identify places where children could safely walk. Our neighborhood was among those selected. Apparently, the neighborhood that is adjacent to school property, allowing students to walk on the path along the school fields was not deemed walkable, and they remain bussed.

Every year since then, more buses have been removed from communities in Frederick County. The distance students can walk has been increased up to 2 miles for Middle and High School students. The selection of neighborhoods walking versus bussed seems to be selected by drunken sailors, with children walking in roadways, crossing multi-lane state roads, for distances that will allow them to remember "I walked uphill both ways, for miles and miles to get to school", truly.

Last year, while the school administration was rolling out "tiers of cuts", directly impacting students. These would be necessary in the dire budget situation they found themselves. They also publicly congratulated themselves for creating a whole new tier of management in the form of Directors of Elementary, Middle and High Schools. These are in addition to the Associate Superintendents who had been responsible for the management prior. Apparently there was a drastic need for more desk-dwellers thinking big thoughts. The price tag for this group of new management is half a million per year, plus benefits.

This summer there has been a contentious conversation about air conditioning on special needs buses. While the senior executives tool around the County in their FCPS-provided luxury vehicles, they refused air conditioning to some of the most vulnerable children in our district. The Executive staff even directed bus drivers that they were not permitted to use air conditioning, even if it was in their vehicle, unless they had children on the bus with multiple medical and regulatory forms requiring it. Not only were these children forced to live with this torturous directive, but our low-wage, hardworking bus drivers also had to suffer through hours on a bus, in a summer of record-breaking heat without being able to use air conditioners that were right in front of them.

Letís not forget the new FCPS building. While the list of County schools in need of renovation and improvement grows, our leaders decided to bypass their own evaluation for prioritizing and put up their building first. They capped off the decision to build with a decision to spend $250,000 yearly to pay for employee parking fees. "We and our central office employees deserve it.", a few Board members said at their first meeting on the top floor of the lovely new office building.¨¨

I have some different ideas about what they deserve! Our community deserves public servants who understand the distinction of honor and responsibility that the term implies. What we have is a group of people who have learned to serve themselves, and a Board that has empowered them to do so Ė all at the expense of our children.

It is time to sober up! Our school system is a big rig, and it needs to be moving forward at a pace that places our children shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the nation. We donít need a bunch of leaders with defensive explanations of why they should be allowed to keep driving until we land in the ditch. We parents know what our children need! We deserve a voice in the decisions that are made. This is our school system. We need to take the wheel!

I am a 20-year resident. I have been a community volunteer, including time as a PTA mom and Girl Scout leader. I have 3 children in the County school system. I worked for 2 years at FCPS central office in technology services, and saw first-hand the waste and mismanagement plaguing our schools. My priorities are to bring integrity and transparency, attract and retain the best teachers in the region, and to make sure that every decision is made on the foundation of PUTTING CHILDREN FIRST!

Read position papers of other candidates running in the 2010 primary