Reading Water by Nancy Mugele

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I have been looking for my dog-eared copy of Upstream by Mary Oliver for months. I am inspired by this collection in which Oliver illustrates the importance of creativity, her insatiable curiosity for the natural world and the great responsibility she feels, handed to her by writers before her, to observe thoughtfully and record her passions. She encourages us to keep moving upstream – to lose ourselves in the beauty of nature and to find time for the creativity that lives inside each of us. “I could not be a poet without the natural world,” she said, “someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”

I found the book last week in an unexpected place, but one which I should have assumed. Jim surprised me with a short trip to Montana, after a few days in LA for Jim’s business and a little time for me to visit family and a dear friend.The dog-leg to Montana was the perfect end to a week on the West Coast (not to be confused with the Western Shore). I was so happy to see, for the first time, James’ new home, visit Sweetwater Fly Shop, meet the store’s owner and James’ fellow team members, and of course, hug Boh, James’ black lab. Yes, my book was in James’ bedroom sitting casually at the top of an opened, but not entirely unpacked, moving box.

I learned a lot about fly fishing in a few short days as we spent time on Mill Creek and the Yellowstone River. To me, James is clearly one-third fisherman, one-third entomologist and one-third, like Mary Oliver, a joyful nature enthusiast. The 19th Century British chemist Sir Humphry Davy, who invented the miner’s safety lamp, described fly fishing rods as “a fly at one end and a philosopher at the other.” I can attest that this is true.

James told me fly fishing is all about “reading water,” recognizing how the slightest breeze or even the movement of a cloud across the sky changes everything; noticing the dark, slow pool next to the faster water where fish may be lurking. The more time he spends observing and understanding a river, the more success he will have as an angler. Jim caught his first cutthroat trout on a fly on this trip with the help of his personal expert guide!

James also needs to know the bugs that the fish eat and how they perform on the water so that he can tie flies that replicate actual insects. We saw a lot of mayflies on the river. James thinks these are the prettiest bugs; I think they are romantic. Mayflies are aquatic insects and spend all their lives underwater. Then, one day, they leave the water to dance with each other in large groups over the riffles (the rocky or shallow part of a river with rough water – Merriam Webster), lay their eggs, and die. Fly fishermen make use of mayfly hatches by tying, or choosing, flies that resemble these flighty bugs. Tying flies is most definitely an art and a science.

Our Montana river adventure took us through Pray one afternoon and I took note of the town’s name. (You know I am thinking about Kent School and what word I should select for next year’s theme, but that is another story.) Pray, Montana was founded in 1907 on the Yellowstone River and is 30 miles from the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Pray graced us with breathtaking views of the Absaroka mountains in the Gallatin National Forest. It was a spiritual experience for me, and I left the state believing that James is just where he should be, albeit very far from our Chester River.

To me, reading water is literally to read works such as Upstream and poems by others who share their thoughts about the power and mystery of water. This beauty is from Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison which sits in my office on my coffee table. Enjoy!

Only today

I heard

the river

within the river.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Awaiting an Apology from Andy Harris by Michael H.C. McDowell

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I am seeking a full and contrite apology from Congressman Andy Harris, over a verbal attack at a League of Women Voters Republican primary election forum on Sunday, June 10, 2018, at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.

After a no-show by the other Republican primary candidates, the League cancelled the forum. Mr. Harris, however, agreed to take questions from the audience out in the lobby around 1:45 p.m. I joined a group of about eight voters gathered around Mr. Harris, half of whom I knew from Chestertown, where I live.

Mr. Harris first answered a question on health care and pre-existing conditions. After listening to the end of this particular exchange, I asked Mr. Harris a question on his environmental record. I got about 20 seconds into my question when, suddenly, Mr. Harris interrupted me in an aggressive, accusing tone: “I know who you are. I met you in Chestertown. You threatened violence and to kill one of my campaign workers. If you don’t step away, I will call a state trooper.”

I was absolutely stunned. I responded that this was complete nonsense and demanded he explain and retract his wrongful accusations. He persisted in ignoring my response and once again warned me he would call a state trooper if I further engaged with him.

I was shaken and angered by this utter lie. I took a few moments away from the lobby, to try and understand what had just happened. At no time have I ever threatened violence against anyone, and certainly no one connected with Mr. Harris’s campaign, and I never suggested I might “kill” one of his staffers. Where could this truly shocking accusation of Mr. Harris have come from?

The next morning, I spoke to Mr. Harris’s press secretary, Jacque Clark, and on her specific advice, emailed his campaign manager, Nicole Beus, and followed up two further times. Mr. Harris or his staff never responded.

Minutes after the June 10 attack, I recalled a posting on May 8, from a man who occasionally posts on Mr. Harris’s campaign Facebook site and supports Mr. Harris. I made a comment about this posting and received a threatening message to me and other critics of Mr. Harris from this individual. This person said he had a weapon and could shoot us!

I saw from this man’s personal Facebook page that he seemed to have been in the military, or was possibly still in the military, and his photo on the page shows him wearing military fatigues and brandishing military grade weapons. I responded to his post, saying that his comments were way out of line and possibly illegal and perhaps in breach of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He replied back suggesting I didn’t know what I was talking about. I let him know that I am on the advisory board of an historic military college, and know a number of flag officers, judge advocates-general, and other senior officers. This individual mocked my knowing “big shots,” and I didn’t bother responding further.

Later that day (May 8), I had a text and voicemail message from Mr. Harris’s press staff, which were friendly in tone, saying they were deleting this man’s threatening posts and, because I had responded to those posts, my posts would therefore also disappear and they wanted to explain why. I had no problem with that. I responded to the press staff within minutes, suggesting that this man be unfriended and/or blocked from Mr. Harris’s page and that this person should be reported to law officials. That is the last I heard on that issue.

Jacque Clark told me on the phone on June 11 that she indeed remembered that message to me from Mr. Harris’s staff.

Did Mr. Harris somehow mistakenly connect this man’s threat to the Harris staff with me? Did he completely wrongly attribute the threat to me, on account of this Facebook exchange? I want to know on what basis Mr. Harris justified his outrageous and false allegations about me at a public event.

I felt humiliated, angered, and shaken by Mr. Harris’s behavior towards me on June 10. About 10 minutes after this hostile attack, I showed a male member of Mr. Harris’s campaign staff (a burly bearded man with a Hogan campaign sticker on his shirt) the May 8 text I had received from Mr. Harris’s Capitol Hill staff, about the removal of the threatening post on the Harris Facebook page. The staff person suggested I take up the matter the next day. Did this fellow inform Mr. Harris about the clear evidence which I offered?

Mr. Harris verbally attacked me without any factual basis for his claims, refused to allow me to respond to his false accusations, and threatened several times to call a state trooper.

There are at least four witnesses to this appalling and totally unsubstantiated attack. I have spoken to four of them, three of them in person, one on the phone, and have their names, email addresses, and phone numbers. They completely confirm my account of what Mr. Harris said about me in front of them, to their shock and disapproval.

To repeat, I want a full and contrite apology and full explanation from Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris works for us, the voters, of whom I am one. The voters, and this voter, certainly don’t work for him.

As an elected public servant, Mr. Harris cannot be allowed to make such disparagements of a voter seeking information on his campaign platform.

Mr. Harris has had more than a month to act. He has done nothing. Shame on him. The voters of District 1 deserve better than the bullying, arrogant and offensive Andy Harris.

Michael H.C. McDowell writes from Chestertown.

Poodlenomics by Carl Widell

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What has happened to our champion of free trade, Andy Harris? He and his beloved Americans for Prosperity have long supported free trade and low tariffs. But now that President Trump is leveling tariffs against everyone under the sun, even Canada, Andy Harris has rolled over. “Anything you say, Mr. President.” Principles forgotten, Harris has become Trump’s poodle. Welcome to ‘Poodlenomics.’

When President Trump announced tariffs against our largest trading partner, the European Union, Andy Harris did not object. When Trump proposed steel and aluminum tariffs against our allies, Harris let out not a whimper. Even when Trump introduced tariffs against Canada, which makes no sense whatsoever (we have a trade surplus with Canada), Harris didn’t even bark.

It’s not that others are not speaking out. Every other Congressman in the Maryland delegation has spoken out against Trump’s trade policies. Other Republicans, such as John McCain and Jeff Flake, have spoken out. The ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity, of which Harris is a member, which has long maintained that free trade is the path to American economic success, has spoken out. It has called upon President Trump too, “ lift recent tariffs on aluminum and steel imports as well as the proposed tariffs on other imports from China,” (see Freedom Partner webpage: https://freedompartners.org).

Even the US Chamber of Congress, which Harris has long supported, has spoken out. On its website, the Chamber quotes Martin Feldstein, President Reagan’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, who argues that “foreign import barriers (i.e., tariffs) … are not the reason for the U.S. trade deficit. The real reason is that Americans are spending more than they produce…. The policies of foreign governments affect only how that deficit is divided among America’s trading partners.” (See https://www.uschamber.com/series/above-the-fold/trade-deficit-truths.)

Congressman Harris must know the basics of foreign trade accounting, but he chooses to go along with President Trump’s ill-conceived policies. Party over principle – that’s Poodlenomics.

What we need is a Congressman with backbone, with common sense policies, willing to reach across the aisle, who has served in Afghanistan four times and is willing to stand up to the President when necessary. Someone who is not a poodle. Have you looked at Jesse Colvin lately?

Carl Widell Widell is the chief financial officer and a director of Network Technologies International. He also served on the Talbot County Board of Education in 2008. 

On Prejudice by Bob Moores

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In the context of current immigration issues, my Indian friend Babi brought up the subjects of land-grabbing and prejudice. Babi was my associate, Black & Decker’s polymer expert, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States more than forty years ago. Today he feels less welcome in our country than before. He is worried, despite my attempt to allay his fear, that he could be deported.

Why does he feel unwelcome? I will begin with a little history of humankind.

Almost two million years ago, our ancestor, Homo erectus evolved in East Africa, and by 750,000 BCE had emigrated through the Middle East and mostly eastward through India to Indonesia (Java man fossil), China (Peking man fossil), and Korea. See migration map:

Our species, Homo sapiens, also evolved in Africa (about 200,000 BCE), and started migrating around the world. By 15,000 BCE sapiens crossed the land bridge at the Bering Strait, and by 10,000 BCE had made it all the way to the southern tip of South America.

Anthropologists are unsure of the means by which later species replaced earlier ones, but four components may be 1) later species were better adapted to changing environments, 2) our species developed complex, symbolic language, i.e. communication skill, 3) Homo sapiens was better organized in hunting and combat, which led to 4) we wiped out earlier species we encountered. It was probably a combination of these.

As our species expanded we pushed aside or destroyed competitors in our endeavor to dominate territories of the world (land grabbing). The destruction and replacement occurred fastest when invaders possessed vastly superior weapons technology. Axiom #1 of our species has been MIGHT MAKES RIGHT.

As American settlers expanded westward, we justified our right to Native American lands by saying it was our “manifest destiny” to bring the benefits of civilization to these “savages.” A similar rationale was employed for black African slaves we brought to our country. They were better off here, we said, as slaves than in the wilds of Africa. Besides, they weren’t really equals as people. Bottom line: we took those people captive and used them as slaves not because we should, but because we could.

Later, the South claimed that the Bible supported their slave-holding policy. This follows Axiom #2 of our species: GOD DEGREES IT. We are only doing what God wants. But who authored and interpreted that scriptural guidance? Men who needed justification for what they wanted to do.

Prejudice follows from Axiom #3 of our species: MY TRIBE IS THE BEST. Tribalism arises from differences in race, economic status (e.g. caste in India, net worth in USA), religious belief, political persuasion, culture, vocation, nationalism, age, sexual orientation, physical stature, mental ability, gender, and more. The tribe to which I belong is superior to your tribe.

Now to racial prejudice. Is it justified?

A reason why racial prejudice prevails is because one can notice visually that the other is different. He doesn’t look like me. His skin is darker, his lips are thicker or thinner, his hair is blacker or kinkier, his eyelids are less pronounced and the wrong shape. Physical differences make it easier to identify those who are different than your particular tribe.

But are visual differences worthy of prejudice? Consider the genetics.

All people today are the same species. Species is a basic unit of Taxonomy, a system of classification of living things. Using man as an example, the ladder of classification, proceeding from broadest to most narrow, is:

Domain – Eukaryota (cells containing nuclei)
Kingdom – Animalia (Animal)
Phylum – Chordata (Chordate)
Class – Mammalia (Mammal)
Order – Primates
Family – Hominidae
Genus – Homo (man)
Species – Sapiens (wise)
Sub-species – None (there are no sub-species of man)

There are, however, differences in alleles (pronounced uh-LEELS). Alleles are variations of specific genes that result in observable phenotypic (outwardly observable) traits such as eye color, hair color and texture, certain facial features, and the amount of melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) in the skin. These features are akin to color variation in the same species of flower (e.g. roses), and are differences so superficial that they do not warrant classification by taxonomists (or biologists); they are important only to bigots and racists.

The prejudice in our country is mainly skin-color based, especially if dark skin is accompanied by facial features typical of black Africans. But what makes skin dark? A dark-skinned person has more melanocytes in the basal layer of his skin. Melanin is able to dissipate almost 100% of harmful UV radiation that is mostly responsible for skin cancers like malignant melanoma. A high concentration of melanin provides a genetic advantage for people who spend a lot of time in the sun. People who don’t spend a lot of time in the sun do not need as much melanin pigmentation. When man migrated to non-tropical regions he needed less melanin in his skin. He became lighter-skinned. Evolution at work.

There is no biological advantage for lighter skin, and one big disadvantage (less UV protection). So it seems ridiculous for lighter-skinned people to view darker-skinned people inferior. Yet that is what many whites do. Go figure! That prejudice appears to be just another form of tribalism, an even greater divisive force than our current president.

In broader context, prejudice is pre-judging a person not on individual merit, but on ideas one has about the group to which that person belongs. Wouldn’t it be more just to access a person’s worthiness from personal interaction? An exception to this principle would be if the individual in question follows an ideology with an avowed goal of harming non-threatening people who do not belong to his group (e.g. ISIS).

I will finish by adding one more axiom that I think is sometimes right and sometimes wrong: ENDS JUSTIFY MEANS. Example: some Trump supporters consider him means to an end, but at what cost to the norms and ethics of our democracy?


Bob Moores retired from Black & Decker/DeWalt in 1999 after 36 years. He was the Director of Cordless Product Development at the time. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Six Weeks of Happiness, and Hope by Nancy Mugele

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Horizons’ six-week summer program returned to Kent School this week and I could not be happier. Since 1995, when Horizons first opened its doors at Kent School, the academic enrichment program has served hundreds of Kent and Queen Anne’s County children from economically disadvantaged families, as part of a national initiative to improve or maintain their scholastic skills during the summer months.

The summer program in Kent County serves 110 students in PK – Grade 8. There is also a high school mentoring program for graduating 8th graders. This June all five of the high school seniors who remained in the program graduated from Kent County High School. Four of the graduates are planning to attend community college and one plans to enlist in the Army. It is heartwarming that one of the graduates is a Horizons intern at Kent School this summer, giving back to an organization that proved transformative.

And, it most definitely fills me with great hope for the future when programs like Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s – one of 51 national affiliates – serve and support vulnerable students on their educational journey. Statistics show that students from low income families are six times more likely to drop out of high school and have a 50% chance of being unemployed. Congratulations to the Horizons graduates! We are very proud of your accomplishments.

Hope abounds during Horizons’ Six Weeks of Happiness. It is simply wonderful to host dedicated educators and mentors, families who value education, and students filled with intellectual curiosity on our campus to brighten our classrooms in the summertime. Many of our teacher desks were transformed into jeeps for an immersion in animals on safari this summer led by creative teacher/drivers! I cannot wait to watch it all unfold over the next few weeks.

While I greatly miss the joyful noise of laughter and fun when Kent School students are away for summer vacation, hosting Horizons brings a palpable, new energy to campus. I am also grateful that the YMCA of the Chesapeake uses our campus for programming in the summer and that we are the site of Victory Field Hockey Camp. Busy school campuses in summer provide six weeks (or more!) of happiness for administrators and twelve-month employees who work tirelessly, in skeletal crews, from June through August to complete and close one academic year and prepare to open the next.

Happiness and hope are two impactful words with powerful emotions attached to them. Every time I drive across Hope Road on Route 301N as I head home from the Western Shore, I smile to myself and breathe in Eastern Shore contentment. You can feel hope in the air. Merriam Webster defines hope as a verb “to cherish a desire with anticipation or to want something to happen or be true” but I prefer to think about hope as poet Emily Dickinson describes in the first stanza of “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops—at all

Hope is the one true thing that allows us to stay positive even in the face of defeat, sadness or anger. Hope compels us to discover our shared humanity, and to believe that a better world is always possible. Hope for our collective future, mirrored in the faces of all teachers and all learners, is nourishment for the soul. Hope is our fuel.

I bet you are wondering if Happiness or Hope will be the word for Kent School in the 2018 – 2019 50th Anniversary academic year. That is another story which I will share later this summer. These words may, or may not, be on my short list! Happy Summer!

To learn more about Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s visit http://horizonskentqueenannes.org

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

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Behind the Property Tax Increase in Chestertown

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In the June 7, 2018 edition of the Kent County News, there were two front page articles: “Chestertown votes 4-1 to increase property taxes” and “Commissioners hold hearing on FY19 budget”. Both have a direct relationship to taxes; more specifically, your property taxes. Whether you feel good or bad about taxes, they are necessary to fund services. The largest revenue source for Chestertown and Kent County is property tax. Perhaps we should all feel good that the Kent County Commissioners decided to leave the property tax rate at 1.022 cents per $100 of assessed value. For those that live in Chestertown, the feeling may not be so joyous since the property tax rate is increasing from 37 cents to 42 cents per $100 of assessed value.

So why did Chestertown need to increase the property tax rate? There may not be a simple answer, but it does appear related to the lack of a Property Tax Offsets with the County. Residents of Chestertown pay property taxes to the Town and to Kent County for services. The county uses the tax revenues to pay for services that include police, fire, highway and street maintenance, sanitation and waste collection, planning and zoning services, and recreation and parks, as well as staff salaries and other costs of operation.

Property taxes paid to Chestertown and other municipalities cover many similar services yet there is no offset from the county, so town residents are essentially paying the county for services it doesn’t provide to them. Offsets might happen in two ways: Tax Differential which means lowering of the county’s tax rate for Chestertown residents, and/or Tax Rebates that are direct cash or check payments to the government of Chestertown.

There are 23 counties in Maryland. Of these counties, only three offer no Tax Differential or Tax Rebate. Those counties include Kent, Wicomico, and Worchester. Each has its own unfortunate story:

  1. Back in 2012, Kent County had a tax rebate to five municipalities to compensate for parallel solid waste disposal services. The rebate was equivalent to 2 cents per $100 of assessed value. Rebates in Kent County started in 2004. Before that, Kent County provided a Tax Differential. The total tax rebate in 2012 was $193,341 broken out as follows: Betterton-$12,487; Chestertown-$111,622; Galena-$11,202; Millington-$8,553; and Rock Hall-$49,477. It is not known whether the amount of tax rebate covers 100% of the cost of solid waste disposal services but that does not matter. What does matter is that the county recognizes that municipalities pay for duplicate services and should receive some benefit from the county for services they provide at no cost to the county. The lack of recognition by the County Commissioners is a deterrent to small business development, which primarily takes place in the towns.
  2. In January 2018, Ocean City, the largest city in Worchester County, filed suit in Circuit Court against Worchester County due to years of denying a Tax Differential.
  3. The cities of Salisbury and Fruitland and the Town of Delamar make annual requests to Wicomico County for a Tax Differential but are continuously denied.

Chestertown had a Tax Differential/Tax Rebate from 1991 to 2014 with an average of $65,000 per year. The highest amount was in 2011 at $116,147 and the lowest was in 1992 at $32,000. What is disappointing is that the Tax Rebate was denied by the Kent County Commissioners for the past 4 years.

There is a current request to the Kent County Commissioners to reinstate the Tax Rebate for Chestertown. There may be many reasons why the Kent County Commissioners continue to deny Chestertown’s Tax Rebate request. As strange as this might seem, State law allows it. Section 6-305 of the Tax-Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland mandates that 9 counties SHALL provide tax differentials or tax rebates when municipalities perform similar county services. Kent County is not one of those 9 counties. Instead, Kent County along with all remaining counties falls under Section 6-306 of the same code. That Section states that the remaining counties MAY establish tax differentials or tax rebates when the municipality performs similar services as the county but is not required to do so.

Beginning in 1991, Chestertown did benefit from a Tax Differential/Tax Rebate, allowing the town’s property tax rate to remain unchanged, but that ended in 2014. If Chestertown had had a Tax Rebate over the past 4 years, perhaps the tax rate increase for Chestertown could have been avoided or reduced. There is a current request to the Kent County Commissioners to reinstate the Tax Rebate for Chestertown, but the county passed its FY 2019 budget without doing so.

This is an election year for the Kent County Commissioners. We now have an opportunity to vote for Commissioners who would help reinstate the Tax Rebate to Chestertown. Everyone benefits from eliminating duplicate tax payments for the same services. An equitable tax burden just might make us all feel a little bit better about the property taxes we pay. Be sure to ask the Kent County Commissioner candidates their opinion. Let the debates begin.

 

Bob Miller, CPA, MST

Cedar Chase Consulting LLC

Chestertown, MD

Op-Ed: Time, Treasure, and Talent by Darius Johnson

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I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth over the state of education in our world. Especially its impact on Kent County Public Schools and the surrounding community. I have read and witnessed accounts from citizens in response to our schools, which has made me question how much of a community we really are.

As an optimist, I try to gravitate towards the positives and opportunities that present themselves. I attended KCPS from 1997-2011, and I have seen and felt the dividends of the school systems’ hard work for the youth. Due to that, I feel the will to express my thoughts, experiences, and encouragement for those who share my concerns about our schools and community.

When our education is jeopardized due to politics, as in recent events with the education budget, I believe that the community is equipped, qualified, and responsible for filling the gaps in resources through philanthropic and grassroots efforts. In these current times, what other option do we have? Citizens naturally have the resources of time, treasure, and talent to contribute to our society, and those are the keys to any act of philanthropy.

With that in mind, we (Kent County) have enough people and local resources to impact each one of the students in our schools, while supporting faculty and staff who teach, discipline, coach, feed, counsel, and love the kids as if they were their own.

Roughly, there are 20,000 citizens in Kent County, 17,000 who are adults and 3,000 under the age of 18.

Now, imagine if each adult spent 10 minutes of their time, each year, in the school or afterschool programs with students; collectively, a group of (5) adults could provide close to (1) hour of enrichment per year. Extrapolating this to the rest of the adult population (17,000 or 3,400 groups of 5 adults), Kent County’s adult residents could collectively contribute over 3,000 hours of enrichment to its young people each year.

Furthermore, a teacher can average between $19 and $25 dollars per hour (not considering summer hours, vacation, etc.) for his or her work. If those 3,000 community hours are valued at the same rate as a teacher’s hourly wage, the community could be investing between $57,000 and $75,000 of pro-bono time to students each year.

Likely, that will not happen at such a scale, but the idealism of it is inspiring. Especially when it results in the youth being exposed to real-life examples of career paths, tutoring, and a sense of greater connectivity to their community.

A real (similar) example of this scenario in motion is Character Counts Kent County, which contributes 3,600 volunteer hours per year with only 103 volunteers AND they represent less than 1% of Kent County’s adult population. Kudos to them! Their devotion to the youth year-after-year should inspire us to visualize and realize the impact that can happen if we all volunteer.

So, what’s stopping us? Yes — it would take a great deal of community effort to offset the funding deficit for our schools, but is there any harm in trying? Just 10 minutes of your time can go a long way…

A Product of Expectations

I couldn’t tell you who the commissioners were when I was in school, but I still remember the people in the schools and community who had a direct impact on me.

So, what I will do, is tell you about some folks who influenced my peers and me, as products of Kent County Public Schools:

Mrs. Valerie Anderson — she taught us how to type accurately and quickly using Appleworks during elementary school. We had those old Mac computers with the bulky, round, colored backs. We had no clue how important those skills were, but we had fun competing for the best times and accuracy scores. Many of us use those skills daily as teachers, nurses, accountants, and more. Mrs. Anderson also coordinated a small, afterschool group for a few African American Students. There were no more than 10 of us, but I remember exercises where she taught us to carry ourselves with confidence when we walked. She also taught us to be respectful when we talked and greeted others. Mrs. Anderson and the other administrators and teachers were building character, technical skills, and soft skills at Worton Elementary School (WES), “Where Everyone Shines.”

Mr. Ed Stack — his Social Studies class is the best class that I have ever taken to this day. I know so because that was the hardest that I have ever I worked in a class. He knew how to engage and excite us. I also remember him teaching us the Cornell Method for note taking. I NEVER had a teacher educate students on methods to take notes, and it taught us how to digest, synthesize, and communicate the information that we gathered. Reflecting now, it’s funny that we learned how to type in elementary school but still had to write notes by hand in Mr. Stack’s middle school class. I’m glad that we did though. Nothing sticks with you like written notes, and the Cornell Method is still stuck with me to this day. Once again, KCPS builds character and the skills that we need, to be successful.

Mr. Stack also created History Corps, later known as Discovery Corps. An afterschool program for students who found enrichment though historical, geological, and environmental learning activities such as hikes at Gettysburg Battlefield and the Appalachian Trail, or landscaping and ecological restoration at Wilmer Park. Those experiences were amazing and touched a lot of us kids. It made us feel like we were a part of our community. Not just some middle school kids. Some of us would have never had experiences close to that on our own, and many of us are still very close thanks to those times!

Michael Harvey – my college advisor and Business professor from Washington College. He taught me chess at Union United Methodist Church on Saturday mornings when I was in middle school, and he even founded Imagination Alley for elementary school students, which stretched my creativity at a young age. He even drove from Kent County to Baltimore to visit me several months ago just to catch up. I don’t think that there are too many communities where (1) person can have such a broad, lasting impact on someone. Thankfully, Kent County is small enough to enable that to happen, and it has potential to do more.

Reflecting over the past several years as a KCPS supporter and alum, I give so much credit to those who have impacted us through education and volunteership. I only gave three personal examples, but there are dozens more that my peers and I can pay homage to.

We need more of those examples of mentorship and support. Today’s youth need to feel connected to a real community. Not one that has to proclaim itself as “social.” Whether we have fully-funded schools or new county leadership, if we don’t recognize the value of our personal interaction with young people, and each other, we will fail as a society.

I encourage everyone to start with just ten minutes, to share your work or perspectives on life in the schools. Then grab a friend and go back again. Maybe recruit a student to intern or shadow you or offer to help with homework. Anything helps! We have the power to make a lasting impact on our community, and we have the responsibility to strengthen our legacy. We are a product of our expectations; not the environment that currently threatens our growth and sustainability.

If we expect the best from Kent County, then we must give our best to where Kent County starts for each of us. Our schools.

Darius Johnson is a graduate of Kent County High School ’11 and Washington College ’15, where he received the Vincent Hynson Scholarship for his humanitarian values which emulates those of the late Vincent Hynson. He currently works in the fields of workforce development and education consulting as director of the ACE Mentor Program of Baltimore and Outreach Manager for the Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation.

Collective Joy by Nancy Mugele

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Photo credit — Geoffrey DeMeritt Photography

Although my word this past academic year at Kent School was BELIEVE, I have been thinking a lot lately about COLLECTIVE JOY. The term was coined a decade ago by author and columnist Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. In this scholarly history of dance, the author explores the human impulse to dance, and its seemingly constant suppression throughout history. (I always wanted to dance on Broadway, but that is another story.)

Ehrenreich writes about “the desire for collective joy, historically expressed in revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing.” Communal celebrations and mass festivities date to Medieval times and are central to Western tradition. In recent centuries, however, Ehrenreich asserts that the festive tradition has been repressed, but, she states, “the celebratory impulse is too deeply ingrained in human nature ever to be completely extinguished.”

I credit Ehrenreich with naming a condition that contains so much spirit and ability to inspire. In her definition, collective joy involves “music, synchronized movement, costumes, and a feeling of loss of self.” Brené Brown also wrote about collective joy, and collective pain, in her recent book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brown encourages us to share collective joy. “People with a sense of true belonging also spend time sharing emotional experiences with large and diverse groups—whether those groups are found at sporting events, live music, church services, or vigils,” writes Brown.

“The more we’re willing to seek out moments of collective joy and show up for experiences of collective pain— for real, in person, not online — the more difficult it becomes to deny our human connection, even with people we may disagree with.”

Collective pain struck last week as both Kate Spade, creator of iconic handbags and founder of her namesake company, as well as celebrity chef and CNN personality Anthony Bourdain took their own lives. The world was surprised and saddened. If you cannot find the joy in your life please find someone to share your struggle with. We all need each other to create collective joy. Share in it. Your happiness depends on it.

A research study in 2017 supports this. “Collective assemblies (like games, concerts, or plays) contribute to greater meaning, positive emotions, and social connection in our lives.”  Thankfully, collective joy abounds in our culture, and I had the pleasure to see it play out in all of its glory in three distinct ways within a 24 hour period last week.

Take the Washington Capitals. After over 40 years, and for the very first time, the franchise finally won the coveted Stanley Cup, ice hockey’s highest honor. Fans inside, and outside of, Verizon Center, dressed in head-to-toe red, demonstrated collective joy in a visible and tangible way. Strangers drawn together by a singular drive to witness their team reach the pinnacle of the sport. I watched the crowds in DC from the comfort of my couch, but I could not help grinning ear to ear as I watched the Caps revelers – one daughter included! Joy is contagious, and it certainly was that in DC well into the wee hours of the morning as we watched and cheered each player who hoisted The Cup.

The very morning after the Caps were triumphant, Kent School graduated the Class of 2018. Collective joy abounded in the M.V. “Mike” Williams Gymnasium as families and friends celebrated an incredible group of 8th Graders. The love in the gym was palpable, and the joy I saw mirrored in the faces of the graduates and their proud parents will not soon fade away from my memory. Collectively, and singularly, each and every guest at the event held hope for the bright future of our graduates — whether they belonged in their family or not. Collective joy, collective hope and collective love together in one room — a very powerful threesome.

Later that same evening I got updates, complete with photos and video, from CMA Fest in Nashville where my daughters were on the floor in the third row, dancing and singing with thousands of country music fans. (Yes, the Baltimore daughter, who was in DC for the Caps, got on a plane very early the next morning to get to Nashville for sisters’ weekend — planned well before the Caps made history.) A year ago, Jim and I attended CMA Fest with them, and I can tell you firsthand that the collective joy at a four-day country music festival is good for the soul!

So much collective joy in such a short period of time. And, Justify won the Triple Crown the day after all of the above. I am overjoyed!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.
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A Word of Warning on County Council Candidate Jim Luff  by Jay Falstad

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All elections are important but local elections especially so, because they affect our everyday living. The upcoming primary election involving Mr. Jim Luff should be considered as one of Kent County’s highest priorities and Mr. Luff’s candidacy, I believe, should be viewed with a dim eye.  I don’t have anything against Mr. Luff personally, and I’m sure he’s a decent enough guy, but his policy ideas, especially on land use issues are simply out of whack for the rural areas of the Upper Eastern Shore.

Being involved for nearly twenty  years in Queen Anne’s County on land use and political matters, I have seen Mr. Luff’s positions up close. Over the years, Mr. Luff has advocated for the sorts of development proposals that gladly invite uncontrolled development of the type that leads to school overcrowding, congested roadways, and general environmental degradation. His ideas could prove to be ruinous to Kent County’s sense of place, close-knit communities and agricultural landscapes.

His track record speaks for itself. Over the years, he is on public record numerous times as being strongly supportive of the massive 1,100 unit Four Seasons project on Kent Island, the largest subdivision in Maryland Critical Area history. This project on the banks of the Chester River that has been fiercely opposed by local residents, and a project where the developer has already been cited for major environmental violations before they have succeeded in constructing even a single dwelling!

In 2010, Mr. Luff publicly testified in favor of the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (also known as FASTC) in Ruthsburg – a proposed Federal project near Tuckahoe State park (it was referred to as Little Aberdeen by locals in the area) that would have devastated nearby family farms and upended an entire agricultural community with near-daily explosive detonations, automatic rifle-fire, high-speed auto exercises, and much more.

During the Queen Anne’s County Comprehensive Plan review (where I served on the Citizens Advisory Committee), it was Mr. Luff who advanced and advocated for a giant industrial park near preserved agricultural land in an area of northern Queen Anne’s County that had no water or sewer service, and in an area where nearby landowners didn’t want an industrial park. Mr. Luff’s proposal was so outlandish, it was dismissed early in the Planning review process.

In 2011, Mr. Luff advocated for weakening the Queen Anne’s County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) to allow developers to proceed freely with construction projects despite their negative impacts to school crowding and traffic congestion, and thus, throw open the doors to development like you’d see in Glen Burnie.

Fortunately, citizen-sponsored referendums prevented Mr. Luff’s policy views from being implemented. Under the influence of powerful developers—and before that, through the McCrone Company where he worked—it was Mr. Luff who routinely favored development projects at the expense of everything else, including the quality of life of existing residents.

Last year, Mr. Luff invited the mayor of Middletown, Delaware to a Kent County Economic Development Commission meeting, and praised Middletown as an example of what good development could be. Is he serious??? Is Middletown what Mr. Luff envisions for small towns in Kent County such as Chestertown, Galena or Millington?

In short, there isn’t a development project that Mr. Luff hasn’t supported. Big box stores and overcrowded schools are fine by him, and so long as development is defined as “jobs,” Mr. Luff will likely favor it regardless of how it impacts a community.  Please do your research. Google “Jim Luff, Queen Anne’s County”— scroll through the stories and you’ll get a glimpse of his radical pro-development views.

If you like the look of uncontrolled development like that on Kent Island or in Middletown, then Jim Luff is your type of candidate…But, if you think Kent County, with all of its unique character, its small towns, its vast open areas of fields and forests are worth protecting, preserving, and celebrating, I urge you to consider someone else.


Jay Falstad owns Calico Fields Lavender farm in Queen Anne’s County and is the Executive Director of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association.