Board Games in Baltimore County

December 03, 1993

It's hard to argue with the choices made by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to fill two slots on the Baltimore County school board.

But it's not so hard to knock the way he made those choices.

Both Sanford V. Teplitzky and Mary Katherine Scheeler, the newest members of the nine-person volunteer panel, appear to be well qualified. Both are lawyers who have been generous in giving their time to their communities. Both have sent their own children to Baltimore County public schools. Both seem committed to doing the kind of work that should help restore public confidence in the school board.

Mr. Teplitzky, the president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, became known in county school circles for another volunteer duty that he recently performed -- namely that of chairman of the board-appointed task force that last summer issued a critical report on how the county school system handled the demotions of 40 administrators and the transfer of special education students into regular schools.

By picking Mr. Teplitzky, the governor clearly sought to placate the detractors of the school administration and the rapid changes it has wrought since Stuart Berger became superintendent 18 months ago.

A close follower of the news, Governor Schaefer knew something had to be done to calm a volatile situation. He was able to get a good reading of it after meeting with disgruntled parents and teachers in the past several weeks.

How better to mollify the critics, he must have reasoned, than to appoint the man who headed the task force that had just admonished the board?

Perhaps the case can be made that these unusual circumstances justified the governor's end-run around the local nominating convention of school activists, which hadn't even considered the two individuals chosen by Mr. Schaefer.

Still, while the board nominees have the makings of excellent choices, the governor might have shown more sensitivity to local wishes by, say, interviewing the convention's candidates or asking the panel to re-submit a list that included Mr. Teplitzky and Mrs. Scheeler.

To have acted otherwise only fuels the arguments of those who claim that the appointive school board system is rigged and who call for the less appealing, more politically hazardous system of elected school boards.

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