Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Apple Factory

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) uses a "rigorous" process to select the candidates it will recommend for political office.   It reportedly contacts all candidates- announced, rumored, or incumbent, and then invites the candidates to complete a questionnaire and personal interview.  A special committee of member-volunteers then makes a recommendation based on a variety of criteria.   The Board of MCEA then makes its own recommendation.   These recommendations then go to the Representative Assembly for a final decision, where a  58% supermajority is required to move forward with MCEA's final recommendation.

In my search for information about the Montgomery County Board of Education, I then found the MCEA questionnaires submitted by the candidates.    To my surprise, the only questionnaires I found were those of the four incumbents.   In some cases, it was clear the questionnaires were spell-checked but never proofread.   In other cases, questions were answered in single sentences.  And in other instances, the answers were thoughtful and reflective.    I recommend that any person considering a vote for the Board of Education read these questionnaires.   They are perhaps the best evidence voters have of the character and personality of the incumbents.

After I read these questionnaires, I then attempted to contact the challengers for Board of Education.  Karen Smith of district 3 filed after the recommendation process  was complete.   She was never contacted to complete a questionnaire or interview.   Martha Schaerr of district 5 filed after the recommendation process was complete.    She was never contacted to complete a questionnaire or interview.   Lyda Astrove, Louis Wilen, and Agnes Jones-Trower of the Parent's Coalition, all filed after the recommendation process was complete (and lost in the primary).    Ms. Astrove confirmed that she was never contacted to complete a questionnaire or interview.   I have not been in contact with the remaining challengers.

I have previously challenged the notion that the Apple Ballot represents the views of teachers across Montgomery County.   Regardless, if this is the "rigorous" process that MCEA uses to vet its candidates for office, this strikes me more of political machinery and deception than it does of democracy and what is best for education.  It does not matter that MCEA had a timetable to follow.  It does not matter if MCEA will not likely change their collective mind about who is recommended.   People actually vote based on these recommendations.   And so I believe MCEA has a civic responsibility to do their due diligence on each and every candidate so long as they filed before the July 6, 2010 deadline.  My plead to Montgomery County voters (of which I am not one); please disregard the recommendations made on the Apple Ballot and come to an informed decision on your own.  Otherwise, you're just another moving part in the apple factory.

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