To the Editor:
Send a message to the Montgomery County Board of Education: Stop wasting taxpayer’s money and work in the public interest, not special interests.
The election is fast approaching and there is an opportunity to strike a blow for good government, educational opportunities for our students, fiscal responsibility and common sense. The issue exposing this lack of responsibility toward education and the disregard of judicious use of taxpayer money revolves around a 20-acre parcel of land owned by the Board of Education which was set aside for the building of a Montgomery County Middle School. The need for the school did not materialize and in the 32 intervening years the land was leased to an organic farmer. The farmer and nature have given the people of this county an unexpected and precious gift. This land was carefully cultivated into organic soil over the years. As Gov. Martin O’Malley stated in a letter to the Board of Education of Aug. 14, 2012: “I believe we are about to make a big mistake in destroying acres of productive farmland and its soils which could be a priceless asset to the education, health, and well-being of generations of Montgomery students."
This has become a unique Montgomery County resource and should be preserved. This is a public resource and should be used for the benefit of Montgomery County Public Schools and all the children and citizens of Montgomery County. Not for any exclusive private use.
The majority of the Board of Education voted to lease this 20-acre parcel of public land for use by a private organization for the building of a soccer complex for the exclusive use of a private organization. (The county intends to lease the land to MSI, a private non-profit organization for its exclusive use by MSI and its members.)
In my view doing so:
A majority of the Board of Education:
Violated the Open Meetings Act (The Brickyard Coalition Suit)
Preferred private interests over the public interest.
Is fiscally irresponsible.
We cannot vote out the BOE. However, one incumbent member, Christopher Barclay, is up for re-election. He is currently vice president and soon to be president of the board. He was and is a strong supporter of leasing the site to the county. And the County Executive Ike Leggett wants to lease the land for private, members only, soccer fields which will result in the destruction of this precious soil. Moreover, Christopher Barclay is adamant in his opposition to an offer of settlement by the Brickyard Coalition and the Brickyard Educational Farm.
The Brickyard Coalition in its simplest form is seeking to redo the process for deciding the use of this land in the open light of day and in accordance with the law. The Board of Education has expended more than $200,000 in legal fees defending its decision to lease this property, primarily defending themselves against violations of the Open Meetings Act. This $200,000 has been spent for a lease that will only pay BOE $1500 a year.
We can’t defeat all the members who voted for private soccer fields, yet, but we can send a message and take a step in the right direction by defeating Christopher Barclay and supporting a new slate of candidates for the Board of Education.
Annita Seckinger is opposing him and she is in support of the settlement. Moreover, she supports using the land for the purpose of education and sustainable farming.
In addition Rebecca Smondrowski is in alignment with Annita Seckinger. She supports the settlement, using the land for the education of all Montgomery County students and sustainable farming.
And to the teachers out there who belong to the Montgomery County Education Association, Annita Seckinger and Rebecca Smondrowski support your positions and aim to keep Maryland schools ranked no. 1 in the nation. The difference is they have integrity, are fiscally responsible and support government transparency and will work for the public good, not private interests.
If you are for the settlement and stopping this profligate waste of taxpayer money, vote for Annita Seckinger and Rebecca Smondrowski for the Board of Education. Send a message to the Board of Education. Reckless spending and deals with special interests will not be tolerated.
Edward Jon Guss