CUMBERLAND — Saying they prefer a local person as a leader, three Allegany County education board members voted for Jeff Blank to be the school system’s new superintendent. The board’s two minority members, however, said a thorough search should be held before the position is filled.
Blank, former Allegany County Public Schools chief administrative officer, was named interim superintendent in July. He filled a seat left vacant by David Cox, who accepted a job in Tennessee.
Board Vice President David Bohn at Tuesday’s meeting moved to appoint Blank to a four-year term with salary increases to be negotiated. Board member Wayne Foote seconded the motion.
Board member Tammy Fraley called the decision “a slap in the face of this community.” A thorough search to find the best candidate should have been conducted, and public forums held on the issue, she said.
The move came with “no discussion whatsoever,” she said.
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting listed only a “superintendent search” as an information item under new business.
“We were elected to represent the community,” Fraley said. “Nobody else had any input.”
Board member Deb Frank called the decision “frightening” and said one of the board’s most important jobs is to find the best candidate for the job.
“(Blank) has only done this for two months,” she said, and called the decision “egocentric” to say “homegrown” is the best choice.
“We need to see what’s out there,” Frank said.
Board attorney Mike Llewellyn pulled out a book and read from governing education articles. The board’s role is to offer a superintendent appointment, and the state education superintendent must approve it, he said.
“There’s nothing in the law that requires you to do an actual search,” Llewellyn said.
He said the board at its last meeting directed him to research the cost of a national search for superintendent candidates.
Llewellyn contacted the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, which would charge roughly $18,000 for a consulting fee to help the board with the search.
The board would also have to pay for expenses incurred in the search, he said.
Board President Robert Farrell said he was pleased to have a local person in the leadership role.
“It’s a tremendous cost savings,” he said.
Foote said Blank is “home-bred.”
Prior to the vote, during the public comment period, Allegany County Farm Bureau President T. R. Robinette said the local agricultural community supports Blank as school superintendent. He compared Blank’s leadership so far to a potent and reliable bull in the pasture.
Omaer Naeem, student member of the board, said the decision to name a superintendent is important and should be conducted thoughtfully and with deliberation.
“It is what’s being promoted to the students,” he said.
ACPS Chief Academic Officer Kim Kalbaugh and former supervisor of transportation Jay Walbert were in the running for the interim superintendent position.
At that time, board member Tammy Fraley said the selection process for the interim job was “tainted” because of Foote’s participation.
Foote had appealed a decision by the state education board to remove him for allegations including sexual misconduct, intimidation and breaching the confidentiality of board discussions in executive session. Kalbaugh was a witness in a hearing on the issue.
An administrative law judge later agreed with the state’s finding. Foote has filed arguments with the judge’s opinion. The state is expected to present its argument in the case in the next few days.