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Tuesday  •  December 31, 2019

Behind the Curtain of CR-112 – Part 1

By Steven Keller

This is Part 1 of a series of Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) response releases that will give a glimpse behind the curtain regarding the planning and rollout of the Howard County Council’s CR-112 resolution that called on the Howard County public school system to ‘desegregate’ its schools.


Let’s dive in to analyze a couple of important text messages received as part of the response to MPIA requests that were submitted to the County in September by members of HoCo Families for Education Improvement (FEI):


Throughout this Fall’s controversial school redistricting process, Board of Education (BOE) member Sabina Taj has been one of the strongest advocates for Superintendent Martirano’s socio-economic based school redistricting plan and for the CR-112 resolution. Considering the vocal, unwavering and persistent efforts that she made to ensure that all redistricting moves were looked at “through the lens of equity”, a lingering question has been “what did she know and when did she know it?”.


In the August 22, 2019 Baltimore Sun article entitled, “Emails show county officials blindsided by council members’ schools ‘desegregation’ news release“, Sabina Taj apparently told the Baltimore Sun that “she received a phone call but only about the [CR-112] resolution”.

Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article, “Emails show county officials blindsided by council members’ schools ‘desegregation’ news release”, August 22, 2019
Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article, “Emails show county officials blindsided by council members’ schools ‘desegregation’ news release”, August 22, 2019
According to the quote from this article, she seemed to imply that she had no knowledge of the impending CR-112 press release and minimal knowledge of the resolution, just some background information from a phone call.  However, a different story is told within text messages between Howard County Councilmember Opel Jones and his District Aide, Najee Bailey that were discovered as part of this MPIA response.


The follow message exchange occurred on August 12, 2019, one day before the CR-112 resolution press release. In this text message exchange, Najee notes,

“[County Councilwoman Christiana Mercer-Rigby] and Sabina [Taj] discussed putting together a press release before this the School Segregation (CR) is prefilled either tomorrow or Wednesday of this week.”


In another text, Najee also notes,

“[County Councilwoman Christiana Mercer-Rigby] wants to put out a press release before Dr. M. puts his plan recommendations out because Sabina [Taj] said she believes Dr. M. will address Desegregation via his plan, but is unsure if it is going to be watered down or not. [Christiana Mercer-Rigby] wants to put this out before then so the community is aware that you two are looking to hold him accountable.”



According to Councilmember Jones’ district aide, BOE member Sabina Taj seems to have been deeply knowledgeable about both the CR-112 resolution in its earliest stages and also knowledgeable about Superintendent Martirano’s socio-economic based redistricting plan well before the details were publicly unveiled.


It is also implied that Sabina Taj not only knew about the August 13 CR-112 press release (contrary to her Baltimore Sun article comment), but also played a large part in convincing Councilmember Christiana Mercer-Rigby to issue the press release in an effort to put pressure on Superintendent Martirano and the BOE, by threatening that two County Councilmembers “are looking to hold him accountable”.


If Sabina Taj was confident that she was “rewriting 500 years of history” and that “our kids are watching”, why did she feel the need to lie to the Baltimore Sun about her knowledge of and involvement in the planning for the CR-112 press release & resolution and Superintendent Martirano’s socio-economic based redistricting plan?

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