Monday, September 25, 2006

Another "Unedited" Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:
The EACC is at it again. I am writing this letter in response to an article on Wednesday, September 20, "EACC gets its way in board primary" and a letter to the editor on the same day from Ms. Meg McDonald, representative of the EACC, titled "Revolutionary results in the school board primary". For those readers unfamiliar with the EACC, it is ONE of our local teachers unions who is lead by a small but very vocal group of individuals who try to portray themselves as representing ALL the teachers of Charles County. Unfortunately, the information put out by the EACC leaders is frequently inaccurate with the intent of misleading the public and misrepresenting others and me on several issues.

Personally I despise the bantering back and forth in the newspaper between letter writers so as opposed to fabrication, innuendos, and down right slander, I would just like to clarify a few facts.

· I am a Christian and believe in God, he walks and guides me through my daily life. Does this mean I am trying to impose my religious beliefs in the public school system? NO
· Ms. McDonald refers to me as part of a radical right voting block. I strongly encourage all readers to review the minutes of the Board meetings . It it obvious the voting block is Collins Bailey, Donald Wade, Mark Crawford and Cecil Marshall.
· Ms. McDonald refers to the Board of Education "goals" released in 2004. Again, inaccurate information in hopes of misleading the public! We (the board) have never discussed the teaching of creationism, intelligent design, or the distribution of Bibles in schools. Were these topics written on a list as suggestions for future discussion items and submitted by one individual board member? Yes they were! Was it me? NO it was not! I wish the board member that wrote it would be man enough to stand up and admit it in public.
· The Board of Education in which I proudly serve has never discussed the banning of books. We have discussed books on the ?required? reading lists in response to a parental complaint but NO books have ever been banned!
· We, the Board, have never discussed the use of vouchers. Was this submitted by a board member as a possible discussion item on ways to decrease overcrowding? YES, but it was quickly out voted, and I voted against it.
· In March of 2006, Mr. Fisher, President of the EACC, announced to all staff at several schools (not just the EACC members) "Ms. Young and Ms. Abell voted against increasing the teacher's pension." This statement is blatantly untrue! I voted to increase the teacher's pensions! When I was made aware of the comments (contrary to EACC beliefs I do have teachers supporting me), I questioned Mr. Fisher who was adamant he was correct. After my insistence he reviewed the Board minutes and later called to apologize for he stood corrected. However, Mr. Fisher refused to send out a retraction to all staff informing them of his error.
· Did I oppose the interviewing of a new board member in public? YES, I did! We had over 40 applicants to interview and in an effort to be fair to all of them and not give any one person an advantage I opposed the interviews being conducted in public. However, I did suggest that the names be made public and the interviews be video taped and shown publicly at a later date via the CCPS Comcast station. I was not supported by a majority of my colleagues.

As for the candidates for Board of Education, you the public, have 13 to choose from. Some are very qualified and vying for the position with the best interest of our county?s students in the forefront. Others are not. The five incumbents have actual voting records that the public can easily access and review ( Of the 13 candidates, three (Wise, Gesl, and Stover) have a conflict of interest; their personal family incomes and benefits are directly tied to the Board of Education. In addition, only one non-incumbent has taken the time to actually attend a Board meeting. Please, I urge you the voters, do your own homework and don?t rely on hearsay, the media, or ?little apple ballots?, when you make your decisions for the Board of Education. Our children, their education, and this county?s future is relying on you.
For further details regarding my beliefs, feel free to visit my blog at; or email me at
Thank you,
Jennifer Abell


Jennifer Abell said...

Seems as though everyone is emailing with questions as opposed to posting so let me clarify.

I believe the voting public needs to be aware that if the three candidates I reference in the letter are elected, they will ethically need to recuse themselves from a majority of the items coming before them due to a conflict of interest. The conflict of interest I am referring to is the fact that Gesl has a wife that works for CCPS (receives salary & benefits), Stover is retired from CCPS (receives retirement and benefits), and Wise is not only retired from CCPS but her husband is a principal (receives retirement, salary, and benefits). All of her household income is provided by CCPS. If these members recuse themselves from votes, the public wouldn't have the privilege of a full-voting Board member(s). That might not be an issue if there was only one member with a conflict of interest but if all three are elected and must recuse themselves from voting, the remaining four members of the Board would be making all the decisions by default. That is a scary thought.

Let me further say, I have nothing against the candidates, I think everyone is trying to do whats best for the children. I just believe the in transparency and full disclosure.

doodydom said...

Why are you mud-slinging? I disagree about conflict of interest. I believe that board members who are educated, and who have experienced first-hand the issues in schools are better equipped to respond to issues.

Jennifer Abell said...

Mud-slinging? Quite the contrary. Mud-slinging is usually fabrication or truth concocted into a negative light. (Like your previous post about my attire!) I simply state facts. Something that the public should be aware of before voting. Would you really want to vote in 3-4 board members that would not be allowed to vote on a lot of the items coming before them? And if they couldn't vote, that means whoever is else is sitting on the Board would be making the decisions. In addition, their experience is based from the staff and teacher prospective. Who would be representing the students and parents?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Abell,

I don't understand why you assert that a retired educator as a member of the BoE is a conflict of interest. The only possible scenario I can imagine is a vote to change benefits of those already retired. I would be surprised if the BoE would consider actions that would impact benefits of those already retired.

As for the specific case of a spouse who is a CCPS employee, again the only potential conflict would be a BoE decision that directly impacts the salary or job position of that particular employee. Hopefully that is not a regular occurance.

Would you please elaborate on the circumstances, issues, and/or decisions you expect the BoE may be faced with that would result in a conflict of interest.

I want want BoE members who have a personal connection with the CCPS, either as former educators or parents of enrolled studets.

Jennifer Abell said...

We, the Board, vote on contracts that affect current employees and retired employees on an annual basis. Currently the Board pays 75% of life, medical etc. insurance. This percentage is subject to change based on the contract when it is renewed. In the FY07 budget there was a $6.17M increase in negotiated contract changes. That was just the increase for the new contract. If you look at the FY07 Budget on the CCBOE website you will see that salaries = $165M and Benefits/COLA's = $35M out of a total expenditure budget of $253.3M. That means employees and retirees receive 79% of the budget. Then you must remove the amount for gasoline, snow blowers,lawn mowers, electricity, garbage removal, vehicle insurance, uniforms, banking services, postage, bus contracts, etc. Students receive the minuscule amount that's remaining. Check out Article 17 of the negotiated contract for more information.

Anonymous said...

Of the things you listed, how many annual decisions/votes would financially impact a retired CCPS teacher? I assume you regularly voted on issues that directly had an impact on your children who are enrolled in the CCPS. Because your votes impacted all students and not just your specific children no conflict of interest existed. Correct?

The way you presented the budget figures leads me to believe that you think CCPS employees are paid too much. If we are in a position where we are turning away qualified job applicants because we have no need for more ? you may be correct. I was under the impression that we have a problem attracting and retaining qualified teachers ? if so our compensation may not be as competitive as it should be.

The mission of Charles County Public Schools is to provide an opportunity for all school-aged children to receive an academically challenging, quality education that builds character, equips for leadership, and prepares for life, in an environment that is safe and conducive to learning.

This education can only be provided by professional educators. Every person in the CCPS including the board, the Superintendent, the administrators, and even the facilities personnel, exist to support the teachers who do the mission critical task of teaching the kids.

It is my belief that professional educators are in a unique position to know which policies and practices support the educational process and which do not. Likewise, parents of enrolled students are in a unique position to know which policies and practices are effective for their children and which are not. A healthy combination would likely result in an effective Board of Education.

Jennifer Abell said...

Yes, I regularly vote on issues that may or may not impact one or more of my children, but not in a monetary nature.
As for the budget figures...I do NOT think CCPS teachers are paid too much. Quite the contrary. The numbers were quoted to represent what a vast majority of the budget is spent on employees and how detrimental it would be if 3-4 Board members were incapable of voting on the budget.
3rd para. = mission statement. I assisted in writing that statement.
4th para. = I differ slightly. We do not all exist to solely support the teachers. I believe we all exist in an effort to educate the students of this county. Supporting the teachers is only a portion of my extistance. I also support the parents, students, staff, and community.
5th para = I agree a healthy combination will result in an effective Board of Education. However it is imperative for all prospective Board members to be aware that they do not have all the answers. No one does. In addition, no matter how ggod you think your idea may be, it must have four votes to be implemented. Board members must be willing to work cohesively with other members of the board in order to move the school system forward.

Anonymous said...

doodydom is certainly an annoyance...trying to stir up trouble and not being constructive. We bloggers have seen your rude comments enough!

doodydom said...

I love you too, anonymous!

Anonymous said...

You responded to scomule that the EACC did not endorse any Republicans for Board of Education.

Surely a member of the board is aware that candidates for Board of Education run for office without regard to party affiliation. That's why their names appear on the primary ballots of both parties.

Jennifer Abell said...

Yes, I am aware of that fact. However, it is a fact that the EACC endorsed candidates do NOT appear on the Republican Party membership list but they DO appear on the Democratic Party membership list.

Anonymous said...

It is also a fact that since candidates run for Board of Education without party affiliation that party membership is irrelevant to the race.

Jennifer Abell said...

In a perfect world, that would be true. Is it coincidence that out of 18 candidates the EACC chose to endorse all dems?

Anonymous said...

The EACC is nothing but a bunch of left wing socialists that have an agenda of homosexuality, anti-religion, cronyism, etc.
We need a lady like Jennifer to keep an eye on them.

I would liken her to the "Homeland Security Department" at the BOE, keeping the commies at bay.
Great work Jennifer. Don't let Meg McDonald and her Klan take you off the track of really caring for what is best for our children and taxpayers.
We pay these people's salaries, not some slush fund.