Only 1 candidate takes on school board incumbents Friday is the last day to register with Permanent Nominating Caucus

April 25, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford's Permanent Nominating Caucus, which has recommended school board candidates to the governor for more than 30 years, is suffering from apathy this year -- only one candidate has registered to run against two incumbents.

Last year, the competition for two vacant school board seats was intense, with 12 candidates in the running. The standing-room-only crowd of about 200 got less than 20 minutes to quiz the candidates. Most of that two-hour meeting was devoted to introductions of candidates and statements candidates' qualifications and ideas.

This year, the caucus decided to hold two meetings, one on May 13 and another on May 20, so members could ask more questions. It also moved the meetings to larger quarters, from the Bel Air United Methodist Church to Southampton Middle School.

But no one has registered to run against George Lisby, the incumbent from the Aberdeen area, and only one candidate, H. Everett Smith, has registered to run against Anne D. Sterling, the incumbent in the Bel Air area. Candidates have until Friday to apply for the five-year terms. Two consecutive terms are allowed.

David J. Petr, vice president of legislation for the executive board of the Harford County Council of PTAs, said he believes more candidates will come forward. "Historically, many candidates don't register until the last minute," he said.

Mr. Petr, who has been a caucus delegate for six years, said he expected more candidates because of the uproar over a controversial high school play on AIDS and the school board's decision to start school next year on Aug. 30. The pre-Labor Day opening will force 4-H students to choose between the first week of school and the Maryland State Fair, which runs from Aug. 28 through Sept. 4.

Dee Schuette, caucus chairwoman, said she expected more candidates than have registered because Aberdeen and Bel Air are heavily populated areas of the county. Mrs. Schuette said anyone interested in registering should call 692-5563 for more information.

"I'm not sure why some years we have more candidates than others," she said. She said controversy over such topics as school redistricting can encourage more candidates to register.

The 33-year-old caucus includes PTAs, churches and other civic groups.

Two delegates from each of the caucus groups vote on candidates running for both board seats. The caucus then recommends the winning candidates to the governor. While the governor is not bound to appoint the winning candidates he almost always does, Mrs. Schuette said.

Last year, 83 groups sent delegates to the meeting, up from 50 the year before. This year, Mrs. Schuette said, about 20 groups have paid the $15 registration fee; they have until May 7 to register, she said.

The caucus also makes recommendations to the governor for the board of trustees seats at Harford Community College. Last year there was only one candidate for the empty seat. This year, no one has filed to run against the two incumbents, Patricia Perluke and Paul C. Sands.

Candidates are asked to submit a resume, including community service activities and education and to submit answers to four questions on the school system.

The caucus' existence was threatened this year when state Sen. Habern W. Freeman Jr. introduced legislation that would have replaced it with a seven-member committee to name school board members. The 34th District Democrat's bill, which he also introduced last year, would have removed the governor from the process. The bill died in committee.

Mr. Freeman said his committee, which would have included representatives from the county council, the Harford County Farm Bureau and the county teachers union, would have made the school board less political and more responsive to the community.

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