May 18, 2016 1:03 am ET
School Board Member fails to stand behind divisive remarks
Photo: BCPS Board Member Marisol Johnson
As the title suggests, this blog will be about one school board member’s rather lacking response regarding a serious matter.
Baltimore County School Board Member Marisol Johnson of the second district openly criticized other members of the board (indirectly) for speaking out regarding the latest ethics complaint filed against Dr. Dance. The complaint focused on his out-of-state travel and $5,000 speaking fees, among other issues.
(Spoiler alert: While the board was divided, it was not divided enough—the motion passed handily without comment.)
Board member Ann Miller had openly requested a delay in the board’s vote until some of the more serious issues could be properly vetted. Obviously, that request was denied.
With all of that said, the school board meeting of May 10, 2016, contained far more controversy than just the vote on Dr. Dance’s new contract.
As the saying goes, the vote for Dr. Dance’s new contract was along party lines, i.e. conservative versus liberal. The final tally of the vote was 10-2 in favor of granting Dr. Dance a new four-year contract, which included a pay raise from his current salary of $270,000 to $287,000.
Nice work if you can get it…
Now, for the more interesting issue: there was a lengthy delay prior to the start of the school board meeting. Apparently, behind closed doors, there must have been some serious discussion regarding the important decision facing the board members prior to the public meeting.
Perhaps the discussion dealt with the “pot of gold” awaiting the good doctor on top of the pay raise—Dr. Dance will receive an additional $142,000 in annual deferred compensation.
Like I said, good work if you can get it…
Despite the foregone conclusion of an outcome, I carefully listened to the various board members as they provided their remarks at the end of the session.
Here are Ms. Johnson’s comments, which I felt were worth looking into:
After listening to those comments, I decided to send Ms. Johnson an email seeking to have her clarify those finger-pointing remarks.
Here is a copy of my email to Ms. Johnson:
Ms. Marisul A. Johnson
Baltimore County Board of Education
Towson, MD 21204
May 16, 2016
Dear Miss Johnson:
(This email is for the record)
Ms. Johnson, I listen attentively to remarks at the recent Baltimore County school board meeting of May 10, 2015, in which you spoke adamantly regarding your perceived notions of discourse regarding certain board members.
You also mentioned various blogs and Facebook pages regarding those who took issue with Dr. Dance’s agenda.
I noticed you failed to mention any names or evidence of your remarks. I find this rather disingenuous for you to accuse others of exactly what you are doing. You are airing your thoughts in the same manner as those you choose to chastise. Unless you can provide specifics regarding your accusations then your words ring hollow.
What I am seeking for my next column on this matter, concerns the questions of who you are referring to on the board that directly relates to the content of your dialogue.
In one statement regarding your message that was broadcast to the public, you referred to one or two board members who are creating dissension within BCSP. You seemed to indicate that discourse was fine as long as it did not occur inside the school board. My question is, are you insinuating that with inside the board there is one agenda and one agenda only and that is Dr. Dance’s?
I challenge you to use names that you are referring to as related to the school board and to specifically use actual evidence of any blog or newspaper article that does not report the truth regarding the Baltimore County School Board.
By failing to use evidence of your statements to the public, you render your comments as disingenuous and without merit.
I find it strange that you stated that when one or two choose to speak out it weakens the Baltimore County School Board. What I also find disparaging you are doing exactly what you claim others are doing to divide the board.
Are you suggesting that all board members follow one agenda whether it be right or wrong, that there should be no dissension among members As you know, this goes against the foundation of this nation which was based on the right to express one’s opinion, referred to as the freedom of speech
If you’re going to make those type of accusations than I would strongly suggest that you use the evidence needed to give your impact credibility. Without that credibility your statements become nothing more than propaganda which itself becomes more divisive than those you are railing against.
I will wait two days fora response from you before I begin my column in response to your statement.
This was Ms. Johnson’s response:
On 5/16/2016 1:47 PM, Marisol Johnson wrote:
Thank you for sharing your opinion of me and my comments.
For the record my name is spelled Marisol.
Take care and have a great week!
Board of Education, Member, District Two
I sent back an apology email and asked Ms. Johnson if she would answer any of the questions I proposed.
She then sent me back another email acknowledging my apology, but that was it.
There were no answers to any of the questions I asked, nor was there any rebuttal to the issues I raised.
So, let me get this straight—she can speak out sometimes, but not when someone wants some clarification?
Public service at its best, folks.
My final thoughts on this matter were summed up by a dear friend and well-known leader.
He said, and I quote: “I guess they want you to come to the ‘Dance,’ but you can’t sing.”
If there is to be progress in any of government endeavors, there must be accountability and transparency. Until that happens, the people have a right and duty to speak freely, openly, and without fear of intimidation. Just because people don’t buy the propaganda doesn’t mean they are the enemy. However, as history has taught us (i.e., Watergate, Spotlight, other scandals), silence only emboldens those who choose to hide behind the curtain.