WINCHESTER — Frederick County School Board member Brian Hester felt the need at the end of Tuesday's meeting to address comments he has heard regarding the school division and its officials.
"Over the past two weeks I have read, heard and watched as members of the Board of Supervisors, community and even members of this board take issue with how this school system operates," Hester said.
He described the comments as "bashing the board and specifically our administration."
He continued: "I can guarantee you and you can take my word that we certainly don’t have any spin doctors working for this school system."
Although he didn't cite names, Hester's comment was an apparent reference to a Feb. 20 town hall-style meeting hosted by Shawn Graber, who represents the Back Creek District on the Board of Supervisors. At the event, Graber referred to school division Superintendent David Sovine as "the spin doctor" over school budget matters. School Board member Brandon Monk was among those who attended the event.
At a Feb. 24 supervisors' budget work session, Graber and Gainesboro District Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy pushed for categorical funding of the School Board's budget, which would give the supervisors more control over how the school division's money is spent. Graber said he has asked for a line-item budget from the schools but has never received one. "If they continue to refuse to give us a categorical, line-item budget then I would like to see what our scenarios would look like if we give them simply the bare-bones minimum that is required by the state," Graber said at the meeting.
The "bare-bones minimum" option would reduce the county's funding of the school division by more than $50 million.
"When a few members of the Board of Supervisors or even members of this board, for a matter of fact, try to pit a group or individuals against one another with not knowing all the facts, try to pit the community against the School Board based on information that is readily available because they have not chosen to participate in listening to our needs and why we have those needs, it is our community, in particular our children that suffer," Hester said on Tuesday.
At the Feb. 24 supervisors' meeting, some members questioned why Sovine had not presented his fiscal 2022 budget proposal to them. County Administrator Kris Tierney told them a invitation for such a meeting was never extended, apparently over difficulties agreeing upon a date, but that he would contact Sovine.
Last night, Sovine attended a supervisors' budget work session to present his budget plan.
School division spokesperson Steve Edwards previously told The Star that the supervisors were invited to attend Sovine's budget presentation to the School Board in February and that copies of the budget had been sent to the supervisors.
Hester said that when he chose to run for a seat on the School Board he did so to make the community a better place.
“When it comes to my School Board position I certainly don’t rely on some Tweety bird on my shoulder to feed me information on the way I should vote or conduct myself at these meetings, especially when hidden agendas are being pushed from specific supervisors," he said.
Hester later told The Star he purposefully didn't call out any elected official by name.
"People know who I'm talking about," he said.
Despite tensions between between the two panels, Hester said he is looking forward to working on the budget with the Board of Supervisors in a "professional, productive and mutually understanding relationship."