- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Members of a committee charged with re-evaluating the way that Charles County ensures its public schools’ capacity keeps pace with new development are miffed that the county commissioners last month approved the creation of two new spots on the panel for members of the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors.
The move also prompted the Education Association of Charles County, the county school system’s teachers union, to write a letter requesting that the commissioners make room for two teachers on the committee — the School Adequate Public Facilities Program and Funding Review Committee — as well.
The vote occurred at the commissioners’ April 30 meeting following their appointment of new planning commission members. Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) was absent.
Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) introduced under new business a letter from the Realtors association requesting the new positions.
Commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D), acting as president in Kelly’s stead, acknowledged that the panel already had one member from the association, Glenda Harrison, but seconded Davis’ motion after explaining that Harrison was appointed to the committee as a parent member.
Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D), himself an association member, asked County Attorney Barbara Holtz if he should recuse himself from the vote. Holtz told Rucci he had no conflict of interest, and he voted with Davis and Collins in support of the motion.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) voted against the motion.
Several members of the Realtors group have applied for the new slots, but no appointments have been made. Several members of the schools’ APFO committee expressed concerns during the panel’s Wednesday meeting.
“We’re already formed, and we’ve already been through a whole procedure,” Harrison said. “I am a licensed Realtor, so I feel like I can represent the real estate industry here, and our objective is to make sure that the kids are taken care of, more so than anything. … We’re going to need a bigger room, and I don’t think we’re going to get anything done.”
Charles County Board of Education member Jennifer S. Abell pointed out that Davis initially had opposed appointing new members to the planning commission at the beginning of the year “for fear of disrupting their work” on the county’s comprehensive plan.
The APFO committee started meeting in February.
Parent member Rosemin Daya said that real estate agents and teachers were hardly the only groups who could claim to have an interest in the school allocation process. Currently, developers pay a fee intended to fund school construction to match the students expected to move into new developments in a school district. Critics say that the fee does not adequately pay for the required school construction and that the process allows development to occur uninhibited even as schools continue to be overcrowded.
“This is never going to end. … Everyone could be affected,” Daya said.
Several members said they were offended that the commissioners did not consult with the committee before creating the new positions.
Daya said she has been dedicating her time to attend the panel’s meetings for months and that she was missing her child’s induction into the National Junior Honor Society to be at Wednesday’s meeting.
“To me, I think it’s a mockery of this whole committee to be told weeks in that now we’re going to have two more members, possible two more, and two more and two more,” she said. “When is it going to end? It’s disruptive to the process.”
Kelly, who sits on the panel with Collins, said that the Realtors association letter was inappropriately introduced as new business, and should have appeared on the April 30 agenda as a requested item to be discussed at a future meeting.
The commissioners often set aside time at the beginning of their weekly meetings to receive and consider letters written to them requesting certain actions.
“That is the normal process, which did not happen in this case,” Kelly said, adding that she would follow the regular procedure with the EACC letter at the commissioners’ Tuesday meeting.
Kelly kept that promise Tuesday despite protest from EACC representative Meg MacDonald.
“Is that the process that every group from the community has had to follow?” MacDonald asked during the commissioners’ meeting. “Because, just specifically, April 30, watching the commissioners’ meeting, it did not appear to be the same process that was applied to the Realtors.”
Collins said he would be “inclined to support” the EACC’s request and that he wasn’t aware that there was a specific process for matters like the Realtors group’s and union’s requests.
“This is the way it should be done, the way we’re doing it now,” Robinson said. “It’s not the way it was done April 30.”
Robinson made a motion that two spots be created on the panel for teachers “because I believe in everyone following the same rules,” but it failed without a second.
Kelly suggested that the commissioners put off appointing any new members, including Realtors, until they had heard from the committee.
“I just think we’re making this a lot more complicated than it can be,” Collins said. “From my perspective, and taking all the politics aside out of this, I think it’s appropriate, and I don’t see any reason why the teachers cannot be participants.”
The commissioners ultimately approved adding the EACC’s request to a future agenda, and asked for a briefing from the committee.