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Former commissioner critical of school officials

To the Editor:

Transparency in government is crucial. Transparency is my motivation for writing this letter. The public deserves to know the truth about the irregularities at the Calvert County Board of Education (BOE). You will see why I am so adamant in my support of certain candidates for the BOE in the upcoming election. 

As a County Commissioner, I had to trust the elected BOE who have the legal authority to spend approximately half of your local tax dollars. Maryland law forces the BOE to trust the Superintendent that they hire. By law, the superintendent has a great deal of autonomy. His/her contract must be for four years, making it hard to replace a dishonest or an incompetent superintendent.

The public knows that Supt. Jack Smith got a contract fit for a king. The BOE signed his initial contract in 2007. [It included] Life and health insurance for him and his wife for life and many other perks. On the BOE in 2007 were Bill Phalen, Eugene Karol, Frank Parish, Bob Gray and Mary Garvey. President Bill Phalen signed the first generous contract. 

Superintendent Jack Smith then signed royalty-type contracts with his top appointments to various deputy superintendent positions. Who oversaw that? Eugene Karol, Bill Phalen, Bill Chambers, Tracy Maguire and Rose Crunkleton. 

The contracts got increasingly lucrative under the tenure of Eugene Karol, Dawn Balinski, Bill Chambers, Tracy Maguire and Rose Crunkleton. Dawn Balinski has told me that she asked a lot of questions, but was not backed up by the other BOE members to get the answers. Eugene Karol’s signature is the only one on the contracts. 

Were there conflicts of interest? Yes.  Eugene Karol’s wife was and is an administrator.  She and others recently sued the BOE resulting in a monetary settlement being reached. Tracy Maguire’s husband was and is employed by the Supt. in the IT department. The failed IT system that had to be replaced resulted in thousands of dollars of overtime for him.  The ultimate cost for the failed system?  $7 Million!  Who oversaw this travesty with taxpayer dollars? CFO Tammy McCourt, who was Superintendent Jack Smith’s top deputy. She also benefitted from his largesse. Please ask your state legislators to pass a law making it illegal for spouses of BOE members to be employed by the same system they oversee. 

What other corrupt acts occurred?  The superintendent and his close lieutenants took days off, the days were put back in the leave bank and were later cashed in, resulting in double pay for leave.  I am told (I have no proof yet), that the settlement of the recent lawsuit (Did you know about this??) resulted in sick leave being converted to annual leave, then paid out in large cash settlements.

I could go on. Half of your tax dollars are entrusted to the elected BOE.  I trust Kelly McConkey, Nancy Highsmith, and Dawn Balinski. Yes, Dawn will get her questions answered next time.) 

Why didn’t the public know all of this?  That is a good question!

Susan Shaw
Former Calvert County Commissioner (2002 – 2014)
Huntingtown, MD

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the management and staff of The BayNet.

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