House nears compromise on school board bill

April 02, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County's legislators moved closer yesterday to compromise on a bill that would enlarge the county school board and change its composition, but held off action on a school bus safety measure that the school system opposes.

With less than two weeks remaining in the 90-day legislative session, House delegation chairman E. Farrell Maddox warned that any delay on the school board bill could be fatal. His colleagues nonetheless approved amendments that would force it to a conference with the Senate delegation.

The two houses now agree on a proposal to change the selection of school board members from legislative to councilmanic districts and to add four at-large members.

The result would be an increase in the size of the board from 10 to 12 members. Some change is necessary because the redrawing of legislative boundaries after the 1990 Census extended some Baltimore City districts into the county.

House members also approved an amendment to codify the existing informal procedure under which school board members are nominated by the governor, who gets a list of nominees from a convention of community groups but isn't limited to selecting from it. The amendment would retain the governor's option of rejecting the convention's nominees, but if he did, the convention could submit a second, third or fourth list as needed.

The House delegation held off action on a bill approved by the Senate that would require county school buses to pick up or discharge students on the same side of the street as their home if the speed limit on that road is greater than 40 miles per hour.

The bill would also require county buses to stop on those roads, red lights flashing, while students cross the street in front of them.

Baltimore County is the only jurisdiction in the state, apart from Baltimore City, that does not require buses to wait with flashing lights while children cross. Instead, it requires the youngsters to cross the street before the bus arrives. County school officials and drivers argue that motorists don't obey flashing school bus lights and that the proposed changes would make crossing even more dangerous.

The issue grew heated after a county boy was killed last year trying to cross Old York Road in predawn darkness to catch his bus.

It resurfaced Thursday afternoon when 11-year old Robert Lee Sanft left his Middle River Middle school bus on Wampler Road and was hit by a car that tried to pass the stopped bus.

County police and Rita Fromm, school transportation coordinator, said the Sanft boy ran out into the street while other children were still getting off.

Officials said bus driver Joseph Whitcomb saw a 1987 Honda approaching from behind and waved to stop the driver. The car sped past the bus and hit young Sanft, who was treated for a sprained ankle at Franklin Square Hospital and released.

The car's driver, 24-year-old Ronald DeWitt Hamilton of the 2900 block of St. Paul St., was charged with driving without a license, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving and failure to stop for a school bus. He is free on $5,000 bail.

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