For several years, Wicomico County has wrestled with the concept of going from a school board appointed by the governor to an elected school board or a combination of the two. In 2011, a bill that would have put the question to the voters in Wicomico through the referendum process passed through the House with amendments and got before the full Senate, but the clock expired on the session before it could come to a vote. Nearly four years later, the issue has surfaced again and has gotten particularly nasty this time around. State Senator Addie Eckardt (R-37) has introduced legislation that would put the question of an elected school board to the voters in the general election in 2016.
Wicomico remains one of the few jurisdictions in the state with a school board fully appointed by the governor. In the proposed referendum, the voters in Wicomico would ostensibly have a choice between keeping a school board appointed by the governor or opting for the bill’s proposed hybrid proposal, which would include five elected members from each of the county’s council districts along with two appointed members chosen by the County Executive with the advice and consent of the County Council. Also included would be one non-voting student representative.
In typical protocol, a “local courtesy bill” such as a request for a referendum for an elected school board would come with the blessing of both senators from the jurisdiction making the request, in this case Eckardt and Mathias. However, Eckardt has introduced the bill without Mathias as a co-sponsor, an omission that did not get by the committee chairperson. As a result, Mathias was lambasted this week by the Salisbury News blog for his perceived lack of support for the hybrid school board proposal. The blog on Wednesday published Mathias’ contact information, including his cell phone number.
The blog urged readers to reach out to Mathias immediately to voice their displeasure with the fact he was not a co-sponsor of the bill. As a result, the senator was bombarded with calls, texts and emails, not all of which were entirely pleasant. However, Mathias stood by his decision not to sign on to the legislation at this point and said his resistance was based on his notion the public had not been fully engaged in the issue and that he had co-sponsored the legislation in 2011 that just failed to get to a vote before the session expired.