The County Council and the Board of Education are talking again -- barely.
The two were brought together by County Executive Robert R.Neall last month. At that time, County Auditor Joseph Novotny apologized for bad feelings created by his proposal to redraw school boundary lines -- and move about 15,000 students -- as a way of saving between $80 million and $100 million in construction costs.
Board members complained that the council was delving into matters that were the school system's responsibility. They also objected tothe council's decision to withhold money for North County High School until a redistricting plan was considered.
While the two sides agreed in June to stop the public bickering, at least two meetings since then have been canceled by the board. Officially, the delayed meetings were attributed to the need to coordinate schedules because of vacations and to gather information.
"The last two (meetings) have been canceled on the board's side," said council Vice Chairman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville.
"I'm confident we will meet," he added. "I think the process is moving forward. We have to give the board some credit for gathering data before meeting with us. Sitting there rehashing old news is not my way of fairly representing the people."
Also, leadership of the board has changed since June, with Jo Ann Tollenger being named president and Vincent Leggett vice president.
"I will be meeting with the superintendent and looking at the thingsthe board has to do," Tollenger said. "Of course, redistricting is one of those issues we will talk about. I have talked to (council Chairman) Virginia Claggett, and I feel good about the dialogue.
"I thought the commitment was to give the board time, not an unreasonable amount. We weren't deliberately canceling meetings. My nature is to get things done. We have to get some determination of what to do and move toward that."
School board member Thomas Twombly said he has no problem with drafting a plan to address the issues of tight budgetsand balanced school populations. But he also continues warning the council not to tell the board how to do its job.
"It's amazing how the county got religion all of a sudden," he said. "It's politically expedient to do this now, because they won't run for election for a few years. This should have been handled through the ad hoc committee,but they decided to grandstand."
The committee, created to improve communication between the board and council, is an area where progress has been made. At least six meetings have been held, and the committee of three members each from the board and council, plus staff, has met to discuss issues ranging from merging benefits plans to special education.
"I think (the committee's work) has been very good,"Leggett said. "It's opened up dialogue among the two bodies. We've discussed issues and ways we can collectively save money through jointpurchases."
The committee is scheduled to release recommendationsduring a news conference early next month.