Superintendent Claims Citizen’s Concerns “Unfounded”
My name is Charles Howarth and recently I wrote about my concerns on the January 11 the snow storm. I had personally witnessed a safety concern of cars and kids slipping and sliding on icy roads while crossing and walking up Ellicott Highway due to the centralized drop-off and pick-up location at the Elementary school imposed by Superintendent Patrick Cullen. I have emailed the Ellicott School Board and Superintendent however the only board members that responded to and listened to my safety concerns were Gary and Michael Dahn.
Hearing nothing back from Patrick Cullen, I attended the Special School Board Meeting on February My concerns were brought up during the meeting when a board member confronted Patrick Cullen on why he sent an email to the board that stated my safety concerns were “unfounded” without even looking into the situation. My question is what investigation was conducted to determine that a safety issue was “unfounded”, when we haven’t had any snow since then?
The truth is there was no investigation, and this is just a classic response that Ellicott Citizens have become accustom to getting from Patrick Cullen every time that they have a concern to voice. I personally challenge parents on bad weather days to bring their cameras and witness the safety issues for themselves, and then see if he wants to claim “unfounded”.
Instead of looking into the concerns, citizens that bring concerns or issues forward are chastised and not taken seriously. More effort is put into finding out who brought something forward, rather than addressing the issues of concern. On multiple occasions concerns brought to Patrick Cullen have been brushed aside and fell onto deaf ears, with more effort being put into ”who said” something rather than actually looking into it. I guess according to Patrick Cullen anything
that he doesn’t want to address is labeled as “unfounded”, which is not the representation that I expect from a superintendent that was hired for $ 125,000 a year.
How can not only the safety issue that I witnessed be “unfounded”, but the fact that parents continue to have students coming home stating that they have to share books on certain days. Patrick Cullen has been told multiple times by the board over the past several years to ensure there is enough books district wide for all students, yet we keep hearing that he and the board president Ernie Hudson wants to put more focus spending $30,000 on a concrete walkway. Concrete walkways do not elevate student achievement or test scores, but our students having adequate access to books do. When are we going to stop pretending there are not issues and start addressing them? How hard is it to get with all the teachers and principals to ensure that there are enough books? I challenge all the parents with students coming home having to share books to come forward so Patrick Cullen can’t hide this issue anymore.
I cannot tell you the irony of sitting at the special board meeting the other night to hear Patrick Cullen talk about one of his “Superintendent Goals” and how we must improve communication, when in the next breath he is chastising board members and getting an attitude over them voicing concerns and asking questions on topics that he wants them to vote on or approve. Let alone the fact that I was totally ignored and he did not directly respond to my email on safety concerns. The only response I got from Patrick Cullen was dirty looks shot my way while sitting in the audience and hearing how he emailed members of the board how my concerns were “unfounded”. Why is the Superintendent dictating his own goals? Isn’t the responsibility of the board to tell Patrick Cullen the reasonable expectations he is to get done this next year and to help steer the direction of the district to a more productive and positive path? Since when do we let out-of-town Superintendents with no investment in this community dictate their terms? Input is one thing, but dictating terms is inappropriate. Why is he allowed to continue to get away with this type of arrogance?
This new board and the future boards need to let our Superintendents know that they work for the board of education of the Ellicott community. The era of Superintendents that have no investment in this community coming in and doing what’s best for them needs to stop and the focus needs to be returned to what is best for the Ellicott community and its students. It is the board members duty and responsibility to this community that voted them in to ask questions and look out for the best interest of the Ellicott School District. Voting on things without asking questions is not what we expect of the elected board members so Patrick Cullen needs to get used to it.
I heard good questions being asked last night such as when the question was poised to board President Ernie Hudson on whether the new contract for the Superintendent had been signed yet, and if so why the board members had not seen it yet and it was not on the website? The board only voted to extend the contract, but did not vote on the new terms of that contract yet. But I was amazed how he couldn’t remember if he had been signed it yet. How do you not know? Why was this conveniently forgotten and taken out of the limelight? Why was it not done at a public meeting with the rest of the board members present? Why is it that the board president directed Patrick Cullen to get with the lawyers to draft a new contract? Isn’t that the board’s responsibility to get with the lawyers regarding this issue? Shouldn’t the board members see the terms of the contract before Ernie Hudson took it upon himself to officially sign it? Did he get a raise and are the terms of the contract agreeable to all members of the school board? I guess only Ernie Hudson and Patrick Cullen know at this point.
These are the types of questions needing to be asked and yet they are the questions that make Patrick Cullen and Ernest Hudson uncomfortable and angry when brought up by other members of the board. Last thing I’m going to say here is I challenge all community members to file a CORA request to see the new Superintendents contract as well as all past evaluations of his performance, and hope to see you all at future board meetings.
Charles Howarth, Ellicott Community Member
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Integrity in Leadership