Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden sought support in the legislature yesterday for a bill that would make School Superintendent Stuart Berger and the Board of Education more accountable to the local government.
The bill was one of two measures aired before the county's state senators that seemed targeted at Dr. Berger's autonomy, and it drew the ire of Sen. Nancy L. Murphy.
Mr. Hayden wanted to require Dr. Berger and the school board to respond to the county's requests for financial information within 10 days.
Mrs. Murphy, a Baltimore County Democrat, said it was "embarrassing that we would look at legislation that requires communication between two of the most important people in Baltimore County. Don't you think you ought to work at that?"
The senators seemed more sympathetic to the testimony of union officials and five demoted principals and assistant principals seeking support of a measure to give administrators the right to appeal transfers before they took place rather than after, as is now the case.
"To be guilty until we prove ourselves innocent should not be allowed to go on," said Randy Javins, a former assistant principal at Owings Mills High School, who is a teacher at the Rosedale School for Alternative Studies.
He and about 10 other demoted administrators -- most with many years of service and consistently outstanding evaluations under former Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel -- are still appealing their reassignments.
School board Vice President Calvin Disney spoke for the board against both bills. Dr. Berger did not testify formally on these bills, but he did answer the senators' questions.
The delegation did not vote on either bill.
The information bill (SB604), which county officials requested, grew out of the strained relations between county and school officials, especially over budget matters. Dr. Berger and Mr. Hayden barely acknowledged one another at the hearing, though Dr. Berger sat directly behind the county executive. "All we're talking about is the ability to get information," the Republican county executive told the senators. "There are things that could be gotten easily and are not. We are not suggesting anything that will cut [the budget for] education."
In response to Mrs. Murphy's questions, Mr. Hayden said he had met several times with Mr. Disney and board President Alan Leberknight. He also said he had submitted several dates for meetings with Dr. Berger but received no response.
Later in the testimony, Dr. Berger said that he had on "at least four different occasions . . . asked for an appointment. The response was that the county executive would see me only if Mr. [Sanford V.] Teplitzky or Mrs. [Mary Katherine] Scheeler was with me."
Mr. Teplitzky and Mrs. Scheeler are the newest board members, appointed in November. Last summer, Mr. Teplitzky led a task force that investigated and was critical of the school system's handling of the administrative transfers and implementation of the inclusion program for students with disabilities.
Dr. Berger said he chose not to meet with the county executive under those conditions and that the two board members shared his feelings.
In stating the board's opposition, Mr. Disney said it is not a question of withholding information but of determining the appropriate channels for communicating that information. "The superintendent is the chief operating officer of the school system in this county. The appropriate channel for county government to communicate with the superintendent is the county executive," he said.