Business Approach to School Policy CARROLL COUNTY

December 28, 1992

When C. Scott Stone took his new seat on the Carroll County school board this month, he offered a preview of the kind of business-like approach he promised voters in the November election.

He asked for a delay in voting on a new policy to make the county schools superintendent's contract a matter of public record, to allow the board to hear public comment and to follow strict board procedures. That is the type of sound approach badly needed on this highly controversial issue.

Mr. Stone unseated board President Cheryl A. McFalls by arguing for public contract disclosure, which Mrs. McFalls had opposed. So his call for delay does not imply opposition to the policy.

There's no question that the superintendent's contract, with salary and details, should be a matter of public record, now and in the future.

That it has been kept under wraps for years reflects no credit on past school boards. And the individual decision of Superintendent Edward Shilling to ask that his contract be revealed does not excuse the board from enacting a blanket policy.

Mr. Shilling's contract terms, and the policy debate, arose when teachers and school staff were denied raises this year. The superintendent's 1991 pact called for him to get $19,500 in raises over three years, to boost his initial $98,600 salary.

One of 10 elected school boards in Maryland, the Carroll body has traditionally taken a jealously conservative view of its authority on personnel matters.

It only recently agreed under political pressure to let the county commissioners evaluate performances of school employees.

Letting the public know what it pays top officials should in no way affect the jobs those officials do. Disclosure allows citizens to know how their money is spent, and if the school board is spending it responsibly.

And just because the superintendent's contract has a built-in raise does not mean that all board employees should receive one.

On the other hand, the suggestion by board member Joseph D. Mish that blow-by-blow negotiations on future superintendent contracts be made public deserves to be rejected. That would serve no useful purpose and might discourage qualified candidates from seeking a post that is of paramount importance to the county.

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