The controversy over school board member Jay Mason’s request to be hired as a teacher in Fredrick County is over, but some questions linger.
Mason’s four-year term on the school board will end in December, but he chose not to seek re-election. Rather, he ran unsuccessfully in a Democratic primary for the state Senate.
The school board’s ethics policy states board members cannot work for Frederick County Public Schools for at least one year following their departure from the board.
It is a good rule, and clearly understandable. The board wants to avoid the appearance of impropriety if elected board members were seen as using their position to help them get a job when their term ends.
After losing in the July 19 primary, though, Mason sought an exemption under a separate board rule, which says the board can grant waivers to its policies.
At the board Aug. 11 meeting, members declined to discuss Mason’s request for a waiver. After Mason spoke about the issue on Aug. 24, the members again declined to bring the question up for a vote.
So, Mason will head to Montgomery County, to teach in the public schools there. He will teach a fifth-grade class at Bayard Rustin Elementary School in Rockville, he said.
At a time when Frederick County, like almost every school system in the country, is desperate for teachers, some might wonder why Mason was turned down.
Willie Mahone, president of the local NAACP chapter, and Daniel Mahone, legal counsel to the chapter, were particularly outspoken. The NAACP has long advocated for the system to hire more teachers of color, and Mason is Black.
“This board continues to refuse to answer a question presented by one of its own members,” Daniel Mahone said at the Aug. 24 meeting. “We’ve sought to get a discussion on this issue, and we’ve been told no.”
Several board members said they were unwilling to grant a waiver to the longstanding policy. Some said if the policy were reviewed, they might consider changing it.
Board Vice President Sue Johnson said she likely would not have been opposed to updating the policy if Mason had gone through the proper channels and requested a review by the board’s policy committee.
She said she took issue with the idea of making an exception to an existing policy for a board member.
But board member Karen Yoho told News-Post reporter Jillian Atelsek that she would have supported the board discussing Mason’s request in more detail.
“The idea that you can’t change a policy is kind of ridiculous,” she said. “We do it all the time. We update them.”
We believe the board made the right call in this instance, deciding not to alter the longstanding policy on the fly.
But we would encourage the new board, which takes office in December, to review it. The prohibition makes a great deal of sense for top administrators and other policy-making positions. Having a member slide from the board straight into a high-paying job in the central office would be a bad look indeed.
But a retiring board member taking a job as a teacher? We are not so sure that is a bad outcome, as long as the hiring process is followed and the other board members have no influence in the hiring decision.
Once again, the appearance of granting a former elected official special status unavailable to members of the public is the issue. But with qualified teachers in such demand, and no prospect of that changing in the foreseeable future, a former board member might bring a unique skill set and perspective to the classroom.
It is worth the board’s consideration.
They should have at least discussed it, no matter what they finally would decide.
These days, any Congressman from anywhere and any party "retires" and goes straight to private industry. No penalties like there used to be. Also called the "revolving door" and they get away with that. Why not a small time pol on BOE?
According to a previous FNP article, he isn't certified and has only brief experience as a substitute teacher. It sounded like he's not qualified. Do I recall correctly?
Andy S, here is a prime example.
You wrote a well thought out logical thingie on the matter.
But, you allow the comments of our community’s main news source to go wild. You do not follow your own posted rules. You do not honor reported posts (appropriately). You remove posts (inappropriately) of certain others. And you allow in appropriate posts clearly violating the posted rules.
As far as I know, we are all paying subscribers. Also known as customers. At least I am. At no time did you ever disclose to us that if we participate in the comments here, we agree to being subject to harassment and ridicule, and lies publicly written about us.
See, you are smarter than your comment sections makes you out to be. But you still lack the aptitude to control our commenters in a fair and reasonable manner, you’re not better than the board you’re writing about!
^^^^ prime offender. You can't play the martyr for a self inflicted wound. Be civil, and stop the ad-hominem attacks and lying.
I appreciate the feedback. The best way to reach me in the future is directly by email. My email address is email@example.com. -Andy Schotz, editor
Here's another solution. Resign 6 months earlier, & there's no problem.
"It is a good rule, and clearly understandable. The board wants to avoid the appearance of impropriety if elected board members were seen as using their position to help them get a job when their term ends."
Young is fighting for the job he has held for five years after he was fired last week for violating the school system's alcohol policy.
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