Baltimore Co. school board to expand Schaefer will choose the new members

April 13, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County's school board will grow from 10 to 12 members, and the county's state senators made sure that Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and not his successor, will pick the two new members.

The bill enacted by the General Assembly in its final hours Monday will give Mr. Schaefer a chance to decide on four board members -- the two new members and two current members whose terms expire in July. A conference committee of three senators and three delegates worked out the compromise.

The chief Senate architect of the timing was Janice Piccinini, a north county Democrat. Ms. Piccinini said she wants new members to replace the board members whose initial five-year terms are expiring. That would mean bypassing the school board nominating convention, which recommends names to the governor -- something the governor has done often in the last eight years.

"Clearly something is wrong in Baltimore County," Ms. Piccinini said, noting that the convention is considering only reappointments, without voting on any other candidates. The current members are Paul Cunningham and Dunbar Brooks.

"Only incumbents are nominated," she said. "No one else got involved."

She said she was "very happy" with the timing portion of the bill.

Anne Banta, president of the nominating convention, said 12 people initially expressed interest in serving on the board. However, all but the current members dropped out rather than undergo the convention's time-consuming scrutiny.

Despite Ms. Piccinini's assertion that the public is "clamoring for change" on the board, Del. John J. Bishop, a Towson Republican, said her motive in giving Mr. Schaefer the appointments was merely to preserve Democratic senators' influence. He wanted the new expansion members chosen in 1995, with a new governor in office.

Mr. Bishop, who is planning to run for state Senate this year, also wanted the nominating convention method of selecting board nominees codified into law to prevent a governor from ignoring its choices. But his attempt failed as the conference committee Monday stripped codification from the final bill.

Mrs. Banta's group will have to go through a second round of nominations to pick more names to submit to the governor before July. Normally, the convention goes through its selection process only once each year. Mrs. Banta called the senators' action "unconscionable."

"This gives us no time at all," she said. "That's politics. That's why I don't like politics. The senators have done us in."

The bill provides for seven members to be chosen from County Council districts, four at-large members and one student member. Members now are chosen from legislative districts. That system had to be changed because redistricting after the 1990 census moved some legislative districts across county lines into the city. The changeover will occur as board members' terms expire.

In other last-minute, school-related action, the legislature approved a bill that will require county school buses traveling on high-speed roads to pick up and discharge students on the side of the road where they live. Passage of the measure gives the Vinci family of White Hall at least a partial victory.

The Vincis' 11-year old son, Joey, was killed in January 1993 in the early morning darkness, when he was struck by a car as he crossed Old York Road to catch the school bus.

His mother, Ann Vinci, has sought a comprehensive change in the way school buses pick up and let off students, but the bill allows for a limited change on roads with speed limits of more than 40 mph. She has vowed to return next year to resume efforts to get buses to wait, with red lights flashing, while children cross roads.

School officials, including transportation coordinator Rita Fromm, opposed the change, which was dropped from the bill. They said so many motorists ignore stopped school buses that more children would be hurt if the policy were changed.

Ms. Fromm said the bill enacted Monday will not cause any logistical problems.

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