Mayor weighing abolition of the city school board

January 15, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is weighing the question of whether the city school board should be abolished.

"When the charter revision commission looks at the charter, that's a question that ought to be discussed," Schmoke said yesterday.

But the mayor also said there is a long tradition of active citizen involvement with the existing school board system.

As a result, he said, "I would be reluctant to just discuss [abolition] cavalierly."

Under a City Council resolution, a study group this winter is to start considering revision of the city charter. A task force will report to the mayor and council after the 1991 elections. Any revisions would be on the ballot in the 1992 elections.

Just last month, the City Council of Boston voted to abolish that city's school committee, which is the equivalent of Baltimore's school board.

Schmoke, who appoints all of the Baltimore board's nine members, stressed that he works well with the current panel.

Among its other duties, the board has responsibility for appointing or firing the school superintendent. The current board, at Schmoke's behest, decided last month not to offer a new contract to Superintendent Richard C. Hunter, whose term expires in July.

That decision is technically one made by the school board.

But Schmoke said that the role of the school superintendent is now similar to that of other mayoral Cabinet members. He noted that the superintendent inevitably must work closely with other city departments, such as health, social services and recreation.

"Some school superintendents around the country are finding it increasingly difficult to serve two bosses," said the mayor. "There is a logic to just having the superintendent appointed by the mayor, serving with confirmation by the City Council."

Schmoke noted that the independent board that once oversaw the city's Department of Recreation and Parks was changed to an advisory board.

"I think we'll look at that question, not only with the school board but with the fire board as well," said Schmoke.

In other comments, Schmoke said that the school board will keep a close eye on any actions by the lame-duck superintendent that may have an impact beyond the current school year.

As examples, he cited new multiyear hirings or actions involving continuing programs such as curriculum. Such items "are being closely scrutinized by the school board," he said.

Hunter has said that he intends to remain on the job until his contract expires. Meanwhile, "I think that the board has worked out a relationship with him . . . to keep things going without causing a sense of drift over the next six months," said Schmoke.

Members of the board met Sunday morning to discuss the procedure they will follow in selecting Hunter's successor. Members also discussed a more aggressive role in monitoring operations of the system, according to Stelios Spiliadis, vice president of the board.

Further details are expected at Thursday's school board meeting.

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