A rally of about 75 Frederick County Public Schools staff and supporters said Saturday that the future of the schools depends on Tuesday's primary election.
If the wrong candidates win, they said it will give Board of County Commissioners President Blaine Young, a Republican, more power over the school board's budget than he has now. Although the school board elections are nonpartisan, people who attended the rally at Frederick High School said the lines are drawn distinctly between candidates that Young supports and those that they support.
Six school board candidates will be selected Tuesday, and three of those will be elected in November to the seven-seat Board of Education. Five of Tuesday's school board candidates have the group's support and spoke at the rally Saturday: Zakir Bengali, Katie Groth, Emily Ann Meyer, Joy Schaefer and Tom Shade.
Valerie Dale, one of the rally organizers, urged the group to prevent Young's preferred candidates from winning by spreading the word of the election and getting out the vote.
"This is about turnout," said Kai Hagen, former county commissioner, who urged the group to be aggressive in the next 66 hours.
Hilary Stenger, an 11-year school employee, said Young shows little appreciation for the school system employees: teachers, support staff and administrators. The school should not force the school board to choose between paying for construction projects and step pay increases, which employees have done without for four years, the group said.
"He's using these schools as a bargaining chip," said M.C. Keegan-Ayer.
Applause and cheers went up each time speakers faulted Young for his proposal to send out $6.7 million worth of $100 tax rebate checks to property owners. Young announced his intention to do that after the county found a $27 million budget surplus in the general fund.
"Those people are not speaking for my tax dollars," Schaefer said.
"It's a snub to all of the people who work in the educational system," Shade said.
Dale recommended sending their $100 checks directly to a teacher, school or political campaign.
Teri Thorowgood, Schaefer's campaign treasurer, said she would pledge her $100 check to the schools.
"I would love to see that go back in to the school system," Stenger said. "A $100 rebate is almost an insult to a taxpayer."