The School Convention Worked

June 27, 1995

This time, the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention, flawed as it is, worked. Especially in recent years, the process has been a charade. The convention's charge is to select three candidates, ostensively to help the governor make a final selection for the board. The governor, in turn, has ignored the list and done whatever the county executive wanted. Not this time.

Instead of rubber-stamping the recommendation of Republican County Executive John G. Gary, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, made his own decision. He appointed Michael J. McNelly, the convention's top choice but not Mr. Gary's, in the southern part of the county, and incumbent Thomas R. Twombly, who tied with Nancy Schrum for second place at the convention, in the northern part.

Mr. Gary blasted the governor for partisanship and patronage, focusing on the Twombly appointment in particular. Mr. Twombly was supported by Democratic state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno. Mr. Jimeno had backed Mrs. Schrum for an earlier school board vacancy, but then she ran against him in last fall's senatorial election, vilifying him with a fervor that seemed peculiar considering his previous support of her. No one, least of all an outraged Mrs. Schrum, should have been surprised that Mr. Jimeno lobbied against her, or that the governor may have been influenced by what he had to say.

Obviously, it's wrong for a governor to appoint someone to any position purely as a political favor. But there's no proof that this happened here. Mr. Jimeno made a recommendation. So did Mr. Gary. It's up to the governor to consider those opinions and make a final choice. Also, it's not as though Mr. Twombly's name came out of nowhere or that his qualifications are markedly inferior.

Mr. Gary is right when he says the executive should appoint board members and bear responsibility for local education. But that is a separate issue. In this case, the question is: Did the governor compromise the nominating convention? He did not. The failure with the process has long been that it lets the county executive name board members without being officially accountable for those appointments. This time, the appointments clearly belong to the governor. That's the way the process, as drawn up, is supposed to work.

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