Teresa McMinn, a 24-year veteran journalist, is the Cumberland Times-News Digital Editor in Western Maryland.

Jeff Blank

Jeff Blank (Photo from acpsmd.org)

CUMBERLAND — After a contentious debate, the Allegany County Board of Education voted to recommend — to the Maryland State Board of Education — Jeff Blank, chief administrative officer, as interim superintendent of the school system.

Through most of Tuesday's school board meeting, ACPS Chief Academic Officer Kim Kalbaugh filled the superintendent seat left vacant by David Cox, who accepted a job in Tennessee.

Kalbaugh and former supervisor of transportation Jay Walbert were also in the running for the interim position.

Prior to the vote, board president Bob Farrell said all three candidates were “very qualified.”

Board member Tammy Fraley said the selection process for the interim job was “tainted” because of member Wayne Foote’s participation. 

Foote 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 is a named witness in an upcoming hearing on the issue.

“I’ve expressed grave concerns multiple times,” Fraley said of Foote’s involvement in the selection process. Foote should recuse himself from the vote, she said.

Board attorney Mike Llewellyn disagreed. 

“There’s no conflict of interest there,” he said. “There’s a difference between a conflict of interest and a bias.”

Llewellyn also said the board is running out of time to fill the position.

“The clock is ticking,” he said. “You guys need to make a decision.”

Foote, Farrell and vice president David Bohn voted for Blank to have the job, which is set to last a year. Fraley and member Deb Frank abstained from the vote.

The decision is “prejudicial” and sets a dangerous precedent for future hirings and promotions, Frank said. 

In other school board news:

• The board voted to accept its Fiscal Year 2018 Audit, which, nearly a year past its deadline, will be sent to the county. 

• Chief Financial Officer Lawrence McKenzie discussed the monthly financial report, which includes 157.38% use of the board’s budgeted legal fees so far this year.

• Kalbaugh presented a Class of 2019 Report. Among statistics included, the graduates have been accepted to 31 different colleges, universities and technical schools across the country and received nearly $9 million in scholarships. Of the 635 graduates, 282 chose to continue their studies at either Allegany College of Maryland or Frostburg State University, and 225 were offered at least one scholarship. 

• The board will send a second reading of its Teaching on Controversial Issues Policy to the policy committee for review and to include input from the local teacher’s union.

Teresa McMinn is the digital editor at Cumberland Times-News. Email her at tmcminn@times-news.com, call/text her at 304-639-2371 and follow her on Twitter.

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