Gardina to launch doomed bill on school board County would get to appoint members BALTIMORE COUNTY

September 15, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

Although he faces almost certain defeat, Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, says he will introduce a resolution Monday asking the General Assembly to give the county executive and the County Council authority to appoint school board members.

Mr. Gardina initially bowed to a request by Council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, and other members yesterday to delay the resolution to give them more time to discuss it with their constituents and educators.

But later in the day Mr. Gardina changed his mind after talking again with the council chairman.

"I told him he didn't have the votes and he shouldn't introduce it," Mr. Ruppersberger said. "But I also told him if he had made a commitment to introduce his resolution, do it now, have a vote and get it over with."

Mr. Gardina said during yesterday's council work session that he would not let the issue disappear.

"This is an issue of accountability, and many people in my district feel the school board is not accountable to anyone locally," he said.

The only elected official involved in the school board selection process is the governor, who appoints school board members. Local nominating conventions in each council district send him nominees, but he is not required to choose one of them.

Controversy has surrounded the current school board since it hired Stuart Berger as school superintendent last year and gave him the go-ahead to make major changes in school programs and policies.

The controversy escalated over the winter, when Dr. Berger and the board decided to move hundreds of special-education students into neighborhood schools, and reached a boiling point in late spring, when the board shut its doors on a group of parents and teachers who opposed the special education move and other policy changes.

Mr. Gardina said he would not ask for a vote on his resolution Monday -- which is the usual procedure -- but would wait until the next council meeting. He said he wanted to gather council support, adding that the delay would give his colleagues plenty of time to discuss the issue in their districts.

However, his colleagues feel much more time is needed for such a discussion.

"We need to stabilize our educational system first. Then we can start discussing what might need to be fixed and how to fix it," Mr. Ruppersberger said.

Several other council members criticized Mr. Gardina for bringing up the resolution on short notice without consulting them.

"There are many aspects to this issue, and I think they all should be explored and be fully discussed before this council comes to some consensus on what direction to go," said Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th.

Even had Mr. Gardina's colleagues supported his resolution, it appears it would have had little weight with the county's legislative delegation.

"I told Vince early on that this wouldn't fly in the delegation," said Del. E. Farrell Maddox, a 6th District Democrat and chairman of the county's House delegation.

Mr. Maddox pointed out that when former County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen sought to have school board members appointed by the county executive in 1988, he met defeat in the county's House delegation.

At the time, parent-teacher organizations, teachers' unions and educators adamantly opposed Mr. Rasmussen's bill.

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