Schaefer names 2 outsiders to school board

November 25, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Ignoring the local nominating convention, Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday appointed two outsiders to the Baltimore County Board of Education -- including the chairman of an investigative task force that was highly critical of the current administration.

Sanford V. Teplitzky and Mary Katherine Scheeler, the newest appointees to the nine-member panel, are both lawyers and longtime school and community activists.

Neither sought the job, and both said they were called by the governor's office within the last two weeks and asked if they would be willing to serve.

The appointments brought criticism from County Executive Roger B. Hayden, who said the governor should have stuck with the system set up to bring nominees to his attention.

Mr. Teplitzky won prominence during the summer as head of a task force the board appointed during a countywide furor over Superintendent Stuart Berger's decision to transfer hundreds of disabled children to neighborhood schools and demote more than 40 veteran administrators.

The task force issued a critical report and made nearly a dozen recommendations, including the creation of an independent ombudsman to mediate between the public and the school administration.

After prodding from the public and elected officials, the board agreed.

Mr. Teplitzky said yesterday that he believes the board has implemented most of the recommendations in the report, and he expressed confidence in the board's current chairman, Alan M. Leberknight.

Until now, Dr. Berger has had the unequivocal backing of the board that hired him during 18 months of rapid changes -- some controversial and others well-received.

Governor Schaefer, who has been besieged by parents and teachers who were unhappy, made his appointments just three weeks after he took the unusual step of visiting two county schools to discuss problems with teachers, then talk to the school board.

After that meeting, he said the board had a "communications problem" and would have to "restore confidence in the system."

Under state law, the governor appoints Baltimore County's school board members. A nominating convention of school activists submits a list of nominees, but the governor does not have to appoint any of them -- and Mr. Schaefer has frequently ignored them.

Mr. Teplitzky replaces Hilda W. Hillman, a one-term board member from the northwestern 11th District who wanted another term and had the nominating convention's backing.

Mrs. Scheeler, a former teacher and longtime school activist, succeeds Ronald R. Stokely, a one-termer from Towson's 9th District who did not seek reappointment.

bTC The Hillman and Stokely terms expired in June, although board members continue serving until they're replaced.

The nominating convention submitted only Ms. Hillman's name from the northwest district and gave Mr. Schaefer three nominees from Mr. Stokely's district. Its top choice there was Towson lawyer John Hayden, who is not related to the county executive.

Governor Schaefer praised Mr. Teplitzky's work yesterday. "He worked on that task force. I think he'll give an independent view of that problem there. I think he can soothe the waters. He knows the problems. He wants to solve them," the governor said.

Irony of appointment

The irony of Mr. Teplitzky's appointment is that he is replacing a woman whom Mr. Schaefer also originally appointed without the backing of the nominating convention -- although this time around, she was the convention's choice.

Mrs. Hillman, 78, called her ouster the result of "a political maneuver" but declined to to elaborate.

Mr. Teplitzky, who is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he agreed to take the job because he has two children in county schools. "It was one of the more important things in my life," he said, and he decided to make the commitment.

He said he worked closely with Mr. Leberknight, the school board president, during the task force project, "and I am convinced he is the kind of leader the board needs."

'Fair man'

For his part, Mr. Leberknight said he does not know Mrs. Scheeler and has only met Mr. Teplitzky through the task force.

"He is an extremely fair man, and I was impressed with his leadership and the way he handled it. He is going to bring a very interesting, very good, perspective to the board," Mr. Leberknight said.

However, the board president sympathized with Mrs. Hillman.

"Hilda has been a good board member. She's very astute," he said.

Anne Banta, president of the Baltimore County School Board Nominating Convention, called the governor's action "good and bad."

While he ignored the nominating convention, she said, "There's not a doubt in [my] mind that these two people will be excellent board members."

Bill introduced

Republican Del. John J. Bishop Jr., who represents the Towson area, joined Mr. Hayden, a fellow Republican, in criticizing the Governor's methods.

Mr. Bishop said he has pre-filed a bill to require the governor to appoint a convention nominee.

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