Lonely nominating convention

March 22, 1995

Pity the poor school board nominating convention in Anne Arundel County. Its recommendations are disregarded, its work is called a charade and now it is being ignored.

Only two persons have submitted applications to the convention for two openings on the Board of Education. One is incumbent Thomas Twombly. The other, seeking to fill the seat being vacated by Dorothy Chaney, is third-time candidate Francis A. "Paco" DeBartolomeo.

Trying to drum up more interest, the convention committee has extended the deadline for applications until the end of this month, but it seems unlikely that will trigger a deluge of candidates.

Too many people have lost faith in the process. Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer didn't believe in it. Seven times in eight years he ignored the convention's recommendations.

County Executive John G. Gary doesn't believe in it. He would like the General Assembly to give him the authority to appoint the board himself.

Most of the county's legislators don't believe in it. They considered four different bills changing the way the board is selected, and finally decided to support a measure to create a commission that would review candidates and make recommendations to the governor. However, that approach wouldn't much improve the current system since the governor has little feel for local education issues.

Many in the community no longer believe in it. Only a fraction of the 1,300 community groups that once sent delegates to the nominating convention bother to do so any more.

And it seems the candidates themselves have lost faith in the nominating convention as well. In 1992, 15 candidates ran for two positions on the board. In 1993, five candidates ran to fill one vacancy. Last year, four candidates sought one position. Now there are two candidates for two positions.

Several other people reportedly have told the county executive that they are interested in the posts, but they have not submitted their names to the convention committee. It's no wonder. It is pointless and unfair to ask citizens to waste their time going through the public debates of the nominating convention when the convention's choices are likely to be ignored. The dismal shortage of school board candidates makes it clear that the current selection process has run its course and must be changed.

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