Legislators may alter makeup of school board

February 07, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Faced with a stack of proposals that would change the makeup and selection of the Baltimore County school board, legislators say they're unlikely to support an elected board but may change the size of the current one and the districts each member represents.

Sentiment for an elected board ran high last spring amid public outrage over school system changes and charges that the board was unresponsive and incommunicative.

Lawmakers introduced at least two bills calling for an elected board, but one has been withdrawn and the other "probably will not pass," according to its author, Sen. Michael J. Collins, a Baltimore County Democrat.

Several county legislators say they're more interested in making the current nominating process law and having governors select appointees to the board from the nominees of that process.

The board has one member from each of the county's eight legislative districts, an at-large member and a student member with limited voting rights.

Under the current process, a School Board Nominating Convention comprised of community groups holds three meetings between February and May reviewing candidates and then submits a list of school board nominees to the governor.

However, the governor doesn't have to pick one of the convention's nominees. In his most recent appointments in November, Gov. William Donald Schaefer ignored the convention's choices, naming Mary Katharine Scheeler, an attorney and longtime school activist, and Sanford V. Teplitzky, an attorney who chaired an investigative task force critical of the school administration, to the board.

"It's been nice when the governors . . . choose to honor the system. Now we need to do something to provide some stability for the future," said Baltimore County Republican Del. John J. Bishop, author of a House bill that would require the governor to choose one of the convention's nominees.

Mr. Bishop said more than half of the county's delegates have agreed to co-sponsor his bill. Baltimore County Democratic Sen. Paula C. Hollinger has introduced a similar measure in the Senate.

"This is truly a codification of the current process, with a few changes," Ms. Hollinger told members of the Senate's Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee, which received her bill last week. "The process is not the problem. It's how we deal with problems when they come up."

Ms. Hollinger's bill would also have board members selected by County Council district (there are seven), with two at-large members and a student member.

The Bishop and Hollinger measures have been considered by their respective delegations, but neither has been put to a vote.

Whatever the decision on those bills, the General Assembly will have to make some adjustments because legislative redistricting after the 1990 Census took away one of the county's eight districts.

Another bill from Mr. Collins would enlarge the board to 12 so that members can work in committees and "get their information in smaller doses."

George Poff, who represents the school board's interests in the legislature, said the board "has no problem in increasing the number of members."

Mr. Poff testified before the county House and Senate delegations in support of codifying the nominating process, but did say the board has concerns about parts of Ms. Hollinger's bill.

Carroll and Howard counties elect their school boards, while the governor appoints members in Anne Arundel and Harford. In Baltimore City, the mayor appoints the school board.

Attempts to change Baltimore County's school board selection process have been proposed for years. Former Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen tried to win appointment power for himself, but the county's legislative delegation rebuffed him.

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