Blacks seek slots on board

June 29, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Members of Baltimore County's black community are upset that a list of recommended school board candidates for two new seats does not include blacks, and they are urging Gov. William Donald Schaefer to give them more representation.

At least two groups have written Mr. Schaefer urging him to appoint blacks to the board, even though none was among six nominees chosen by the School Board Nominating Convention of Baltimore County last week. Two blacks, James Pennington of Catonsville and Clifford Collins of Randallstown, were nominated but did not get enough votes for recommendation.

"We feel like we are being left out again," said the Rev. James Favorite, president of the Coalition of Concerned African American Organizations of Baltimore County. "We're hoping to get the governor's ear."

Mr. Schaefer has four board appointments to make -- two for terms that expire Friday and two for new at-large seats created this spring by the General Assembly. The governor is not obligated to -- and often does not -- follow the convention's recommendations.

Mr. Favorite said the coalition is urging Mr. Schaefer to reappoint Dunbar Brooks, the board's only black member, who was recommended for reappointment by an earlier nominating convention, and to add one or two more minority members.

"We think there should be three" on the 12-member board to adequately represent black students, who make up about 27 percent of the enrollment, he said. "They ought to at least look like us . . . because that's the way the school system looks."

Officers of the nominating convention said they were disappointed that more black organizations did not join their group, which is made up of community organizations, each with one vote. "We've stood on our heads to get different organizations to participate," said President Norman Macneal. "The sole purpose of our existence is to find candidates."

To become a candidate, a resident must have the support of three member organizations. The recent convention attracted 22 candidates, but seven were eliminated because they did not have the proper endorsements or did not complete the applications properly. One candidate dropped out, so last week's convention had 14 candidates to choose from. The names of the six top vote-getters went to the governor Friday.

Barbara Dezmon, education director for the Banneker Community Development Association, which nominated Mr. Pennington, has contacted the governor and other elected officials "in an 11th-hour plea" for more black board members. Ms. Dezmon, a school administrator, participated in the convention but was disappointed by the process and the outcome.

"Although there were two African-American nominees, I knew that their chances were almost hopeless," Ms. Dezmon said in a letter that was signed by about 40 others, several of them candidates for state and county offices.

Ms. Dezmon and Mr. Favorite confirmed that the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People did not join the convention because some members considered the membership fee similar to a poll tax, which in the past kept blacks from voting.

Community activist Ella White Campbell, who represented the Stevens Wood Improvement Association at the convention, said the lack of black candidates "sends a message to the black community" to become more involved in the process.

"The NAACP does plan to join in September," she said. "It is imperative that all organizations join. The issue is quality education."

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