Democrats delay school board bill

February 12, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Towson Republican Del. John J. Bishop's bill to codify Baltimore County's current method of nominating school board members ran into a wave of criticism from Democratic county delegates yesterday, forcing him to delay a vote.

The bill, HB33, would require Maryland's governor to appoint the people selected by the School Board Nominating Convention, a collection of community groups.

The unexpected opposition was politically motivated, Mr. Bishop said after the county delegation meeting. Del. E. Farrell Maddox, the Democratic chairman of the county's House delegation, denied the charge.

Del. Louis L. DePazzo, a Dundalk Democrat, agreed with Mr. Bishop.

"I see what's going on," he said. "It's turning into Democrats vs. Republicans."

As a compromise, Mr. DePazzo suggested that the law give the governor the option of rejecting convention nominees, if the convention then can pick more candidates.

Mr. Bishop is expected to seek election this year to the state Senate seat now occupied by Fullerton Democrat Thomas L. Bromwell, chairman of the county's Senate delegation.

Friction over school board appointments has occurred when Gov. William Donald Schaefer ignored the convention's choices and named his own people. That was the case in November in his two most recent choices, Sanford V. Teplitsky and Mary Katherine Scheeler.

The governor's actions have discouraged participation in the time-consuming convention process, convention supporters say.

Del. Martha Klima, a Towson Republican, said county school Superintendent Stuart Berger would probably not have been chosen if Governor Schaefer had not ignored the convention's nominees.

Catonsville Del. Kenneth H. Masters, a Democrat who opposes Mr. Bishop's bill, warned that giving the convention so much power might be "extremely dangerous" because there are no laws regulating it.

Dundalk Del. John S. Arnick said he worried that the bill would, in effect, give the convention great influence over the school budget.

Even Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, a Democrat and co-sponsor, found fault with the bill and suggested making the governor's choices optional. Four other Democratic sponsors were absent.

Mr. Bishop and Republican backers defended the bill, saying that convention member groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary are typically the backbone of a community and that it takes at least three groups to nominate any candidate. The convention has been choosing school board nominees since 1962, Mr. Bishop said.

A hearing on another bill to change the composition of the school board was delayed. That bill would have board members appointed by County Council district rather than legislative district. It also would expand the board to include one new member from each of the five administrative school districts.

Mr. Maddox said the bill might be changed to provide for seven district members, four new at-large members and a student member.

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