Finney's Toughest Job Lies Ahead ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

July 14, 1993

Carlesa Finney deserves congratulations for her appointment to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Not only was she the overwhelming people's choice, but she won the support of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and County Executive Robert R. Neall in a county where the nominating convention's top choice has often failed to win appointment.

But the job of winning a board seat was easy compared to the job Ms. Finney now faces.

She joins the board at the end of a year marred by scandals in the schools and divisions among board members themselves. People are looking to her to help erase scars and mend differences. She appears to realize that. Ms. Finney has said she intends to impart her knack for being a team player to "a group of people who have not demonstrated a very cohesive front."

Despite periods of civility, this board basically has been split into factions since its controversial appointment of Superintendent C. Berry Carter last July. Mr. Carter was appointed unanimously, but it was no secret that three of the eight board members preferred someone else. Though the makeup of the panel has changed since then, internal conlicts continued. Occasionally, they have surfaced in public. At an April meeting involving Mr. Carter's decision to start a pilot program at one high school with four class periods a day, the board spent two hours -- two hours -- arguing whether he should have brought his idea to the board first. At times, such as when Maureen Carr-York snapped at board colleague Dorothy Chaney, "Keep your mouth shut while I'm talking," meetings have sounded like domestic squabbles.

No one expects board members to agree on every issue, nor to be hypocrites, pretending to be the best of friends in public when they're at each other's throats in private. But their ability to get things done and their credibility as leaders suffers when personal divisions become as consistently evident as they have been.

During the last year, the board has made important decisions on issues such as grade requirements and teacher salaries. But its immature fractiousness has prevented it from winning our confidence. If the newest board member can change that, she'll enjoy the rarity of ending her five-year term more popular than when she began.

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