Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Misbehaving At HCPSS Headquarters

Posted by bsflag2007 on Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The following is the text of the letter I received in the mail Friday, April, 24, 2009. As far as possible I have confirmed that the events outlined have occurred and have been reported to the HCPSS, the Superintendent and The BOE.

I cannot understand why Dr. Cousin did not take firm and swift steps to address this abuse of position. It is my hope that the Board of Education will take their responsibility to the teachers, students and taxpayers of this county seriously and make it clear that the HCPSS Central Office is not the personal throne of any individual, and cannot be used for personal gain by removing the offender.

Cindy V.

To Whom It May Concern:

Several weeks ago an incident took place that should cause great concern
among the taxpayers of Howard County and all those who value the integrity of
public education in the State of Maryland. A high ranking member of
Superintendent Sydney Cousin’s personal staff used the power of his position to
make a grade change happen for a member of his own family. The family
member, a student at Marriotts Ridge High School, had been academically
ineligible to participate in spring sports but was made eligible by the grade
change. The grade change was done over the objection of the teacher involved
and was done solely to make the student eligible for spring sports.

The conduct of the staff member, incredibly the Superintendent’s Legal Council
Mark Blom, violated every concept of civility that Howard County government
has embraced and sworn to uphold. Upon learning of a grade his family member
received that was unacceptable, Mr. Blom stormed off to Marriotts Ridge and
demanded to meet with the teacher. The teacher was pulled out of the
classroom during the school day, without notice or an appointment, and she was
harassed and intimidated by Mr. Blom to the point of being in fear for her job.
The teacher objected to the grade change so Mr. Blom conspired with the
principal at Marriotts Ridge, Patrick Sanderson, to get the grade changed
without the teacher’s approval. The principal, rather than supporting his own
teacher, agreed to the grade change and put the change into effect. This is not
the first time this principal has changed a grade for a member of the Howard
County government over the objection of the teacher. In the most recent case,
the family member of Mr. Blom is a chronic truant yet the principal has taken no
disciplinary action whatsoever against the student. There are two standards at
Marriotts Ridge, one for the high ranking government officials that the principal
wants to appease, and a second for everyone else. This leaves the staff in the
position of knowing that grades or disciplinary policies, no matter how deserving,
will not be supported by the principal if they are less than what certain “important”
parents feel are appropriate. This must not be allowed to continue.

Six years ago similar situations at Centennial and Oakland Mills High Schools
resulted in the discipline and dismissal of several school system employees.
Those unfortunate times should have taught everyone a lesson about what will
and will not be tolerated in our public schools. This situation is far worse as it
involves a member of the Superintendent’s own staff intimidating an employee.
Mr. Blom is supposed to be advising the Superintendent on the legality of policy
matters but he doesn’t feel those same policies apply to him. Please use the
power of the internet to inform the citizens of Howard County what their school
system is up to and do not let Mr. Blom to continue to act in this manner.

Howard County Teachers United For Civility


7 Responses to “Misbehaving At HCPSS Headquarters”

  1. Cooler Head said

    Perhaps Dr. Cousin and his staff are still investigating this matter which is why no obvious action has been taken. From your post, it seems as if you think that Mr. Blom should have been removed immediately. Removing a staff member without a full investigation would be rash decision that would likely be regretted later.

    Furthermore, I don’t know why the writers of this letter (who claim to be teachers interested in promoting civility) would publicly advertise the attendance habits of a student. Perhaps this student has private medical issues or some other valid reason for their alleged truancy.

    Hopefully, cool heads are working to investigate this issue. In the meantime, let’s not jump to conclusions. We should all be concerned when a lynch mob begins to form without knowing all the facts.

  2. bsflag2007 said

    I would be ok with excluding all reference to the student and focus only on the action of Mr. Blom.

    As a parent, he retains his rights to advocate for his children in HCPSS, as do all the employees with students in the system.

    And, like all the employees with students in the system, he has a duty to be cognizant of how his position enhances his ability to complain… and be especially careful not to take actions that any other parent would not be able to.

    In this case, it is unlikely the Principal would have interrupted a class to remove a teacher for an unscheduled meeting with a disgruntled parent.

    Whether the conduct of Mr. Blom rises to a definition of “abusive” that would be applied to an “ordinary parent”, while a question for the “investigation”, I would argue that the Superintendent’s Counsel should be held to a stricter standard of decorum.

    “Cooler Head” says “hopefully, cool heads are working to investigate this issue…:
    As I understand it, the letter writers kept “cool heads” for several weeks while complaints were filed and assurances were being made that such an investigation was being completed.

    It was only after they became convinced that the complaint was being ignored that they went public.

    They put their hopes on Dr. Cousin to make some kind of declaration that members of Central Office Staff would not be allowed to run rough shod over teachers for the benefit of their own children anymore.

    Unfortunately, with the conclusion of the school year upon us, and some clear indication that Dr. Cousin’s response is to be that Mr. Blom’s actions will be accepted and hushed up using privacy laws the worn out argument that he was “just acting as a parent” – frustrations with this return to the dark days has prompted the public notice of the situation.

    Lynch mobs tend to form when it is perceived that justice is not likely.

    Cindy Vaillancourt

  3. PZGURU said

    Cooler Head,

    First, your self ascribed moniker is rather arrogant and a backhanded swipe at the blog poster as well the authors of the letter. You presume that YOUR position is the more level-headed position and course of action. While I defend your right to engage in the discussion, I dismiss your presumptuous tones.

    Looking the meat and potatos of this situation, the accusation is nothing new. I don’t mean that I think it’s acceptable. It’s just that this type of behavior = high ranking employees or elected officials don’t hold themselves to the same standards and rules that we peons are subjected to. Just look at the tax evading scoundrels that are in Obama’s administration. They get a promotion but if any one us mere peons did what they did the IRS would throw us jail, or at the very least hit us with serious $$$ penalties.

    In my opinion, I think these teachers are doing exacthly the right thing. You can not tolerate a world where there are two sets of rules. If the principal changed the grade for a well-connected student, the principal should change the grade for ALL students (who want to be eligible for sports).

    Mr. Blow should be SUMMARILY FIRED!!!! What he did has totally undermined the authority of the teacher. What happens if the teacher gives the same student detention for misbehaving? The student will run to daddy and get out of it. The student will have no respect for the teacher’s authority. This is completely contrary to how things are supposed to be.

  4. PZGURU said

    Sorry about the glitches in my comment: a few missing words here and there.

  5. bsflag2007 said

    the interesting things here that makes this situation “tricky” are:
    1) the abuser is in the position to continue to use his office to punish anyone who even tries to bring these abuses to light
    2) the additional mechanism the abuser has used is the legally protected privacy of student records… the abuser’s job is to advise the Superintendent as to how to interpret and enforce these laws and (what a surprise) his advise is consistently the widest possible interpretation of this privacy protection …. in this case extending the privilege to himself

    the “cure” for this cycle of abuse is for the checks and balances that are supposed to be in place to actually work…. that is, for the Superintendent to set the tone at the highest level that it is expected that upper staff will err on the side of purity…. and not cloak themselves in legal nuances and regulatory protections.

    Since the Superintendent has failed in his responsibility to do so — (yes, it seems the “investigation” is complete and Mr. Blom has been absolved)

    it is now up to the BOE to step in and exercise their obligation to act as a safety check and balance.

    Frank, Sandy, Pat, Janet, Allen, Ellen, Larry … are you there?

    CIndy V

  6. stephen feldman said

    why is anyone surprised? “Clean” Howard County has been foul since the Rouse Co. sneaked itself in and bought up parcel of land deceptively. The school system is “tops” only because white upper middle class kids could score high on the ridiculous standardized tests if they never went to school. County executives of both parties destroy nature and rational planning at will because they are the sweating whores of developers. Get real. Cousins and every one of his predecessors, along with the County Executives, are whores. The stupidity of the white collar denizens of this county is amazing. No it isn’t. Since the biggest employers in the county are the military, the intelligence services and the contractors who will do anything, anything, to “service”, the pot bellied paper pushers of the government.

    The USSR had nothing on Howard County and its socialist/Marxist appartnichicks.

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