School board selection process scrutinized

March 12, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

An Annapolis church wants the citizen committee responsible for submitting names of county Board of Education nominees to the governor to send only one name for each vacancy instead of two.

But a spokesman for the governor warns the proposed change may not have the effect the church desires if put into practice.

"I would think the nominating committee would be well-advised to send in three names for consideration," said Bob Pascal, the governor's appointments secretary. "I don't think it would have the effect they're looking for to just say 'Here's one name and that's it.' By law, the governor doesn't have to consider their list of candidates."

The procedure for selecting school board members relies heavily on tradition.

Although the appointments are made by the governor, the School Board Nominating Convention was created to evaluate the candidates for board vacancies and make recommendations.

The committee conducts a convention, attended by delegates from various community organizations that have registered at public hearings. The candidates are questioned at three public hearings before a final vote is taken at the convention. The group then submits the names of the top two finishers for each vacant position.

This year's convention is set for May 5 at Severna Park Senior High School, with hearings set for April 7 at Annapolis High, April 14 at Old Mill High and April 22 at North County High.

The governor generally chooses from the list submitted by the convention -- especially since County Executive Robert Neall and his predecessor, O. James Lighthizer, agreed to support one of the group's picks. But that doesn't guarantee the convention's top pick will be chosen.

Margaret Whilden and Joseph Foster were submitted as the convention's top choices last year, with Michael A. Pace a runner-up to Ms.Whilden. The county executive and gubernatorial nods, however, went to Mr. Foster and Mr. Pace.

"This convention can very easily become an exercise in futility," said the Rev. Ricky Spain of the Mt. Olive A.M.E. church. "I've been a candidate before, and I can imagine it must be crushing for someone who got the most votes to find he or she wasn't selected."

Mr. Spain said he understands it is the governor's "prerogative to select whomever he chooses." But last year's experience has deterred community participation in the process, he said.

"Are community organizations turned off? That can be answered by looking at the number of delegates and the number of candidates," Mr. Spain said. "That says it all. Yes, they're turned off."

This year five candidates are running for one at-large seat on the board. Incumbent Vincent O. Leggett is seeking to retain his seat. He faces challengers Francis A. "Paco" DeBartolomeo, Carlesa Finney, Elizabeth Greene and Michael Slotterback.

Last year, 15 candidates were vying for the two vacancies.

Joan Urbas, vice chairwoman of the nominating convention committee, said this week that only 80 delegates have registered to vote. About 160 registered last year.

"Please tell people they can register the night of the hearings," she said.

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