Board-council Relations Awful,consultant Says

April 10, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

A consultant's report released yesterday paints a grim picture of relations between the school board and the County Council.

Distrust,a lack of respect and confidence and an inability to work together plague these two important panels, says the report, prepared by formerschool Superintendent Dr. Edward Anderson.

"Communications between the council, the county executive and theboard are haphazard at best," Anderson wrote. Speaking yesterday before a council-appointed educational task force, Anderson said, "If I had to use one word to describe what the source of the difficulties might be, it's 'communication.' "

Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, was distressed by Anderson's findings. "Here you have a lack of confidence, distrust and a lack of respect. That's pretty heavy," she said.

Anderson based his report on interviews with 31 people, including all council and school board members, County Executive Robert R. Neall and school Superintendent Larry L. Lorton.

"I wanted towrite a report that didn't condemn anyone, but I wanted it to be very honest," he said.

The report concludes that while a good workingrelationship exists between county and board of education personnel,there is friction between some members of the board and the council.

"Council and board sometimes surprise each other by official actions and through the media, leading to hard feelings," he wrote.

Earlier this year, three council members surprised the board by introducing a resolution to deny the school board extra money until it changed its spending patterns. Board members were angered, the resolution eventually was defeated and the council instead established the educational task force to study spending reforms.

Anderson noted that meetings between the council, board and county executive historically have occurred only after a problem has erupted. "Whenever meetings . . . take place, they appear to be held in a hostile environment."

The study cited other problems:

* Confusion about the role the council and the executive play in setting the board's budget. There are no common goals for the education of students reflected in the budgetprocess, the report says.

* Failure to introduce newly elected council members and the county executive to the school board, and failure to acquaint new officials with school issues.

* A feeling amongschool board members that council members infringe upon their dutiesas assigned by state education laws.

* A feeling among council members that the board does not cooperate with them on constituent issues in their own districts.

The report recommends workshops betweenthe council, board and county executive each fall as classes begin and again in mid-November, when school and county officials can reviewneeded budgetchanges. The report suggests more frequent meetings between all county and school officials.

School board and council members praised Anderson's ideas.

"We certainly needed help," Lamb said.

Anderson, superintendent of county schools from 1968 to 1984, volunteered to serve free of charge as a consultant to the educational task force, which is made up of members of the council, the executive's office and the school board.

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