Bills target selection of school board One would shift appointments from governor to executive

A loss of faith

Convention panel starts search for candidates for seat

February 04, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Just as the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention committee starts its search for a new school board member, legislators are trying to change the selection process for the second straight year.

At stake is the school board seat representing Legislative District 33 in the western part of the county. It is held by Maureen Carr-York, who has not decided whether to seek a second five-year term.

The committee sent registration information last week to 800 potential nominating groups, such as PTAs and churches, that included letters from Gov. Parris N. Glendening and County Executive John G. Gary supporting the convention.

Both men may have something at stake as well.

A bill sponsored by Republican Dels. John R. Leopold of Pasadena, Phillip D. Bissett of Edgewater and Michael W. Burns of Linthicum would shift the appointment power from the governor to the county executive.

Another bill, also sponsored by Mr. Bissett, would allow the governor to retain appointment authority.

Both bills would restrict whoever makes the appointment to the top three vote-getters at the convention. But it also would allow the appointing authority to ask for a new list if nobody on the first is to his liking. Now, the convention recommends its top two vote-getters, but the governor is not bound to choose one of them.

Last year, four school board selection bills failed in the General Assembly, prompting the delegation to form a subcommittee that voted for what has become Mr. Bissett's bill.

The system has led to a loss of faith in the convention itself, which has seen its recommendations ignored seven times in the past 12 years.

The convention, which at one time drew hundreds of delegates from PTAs and churches, drew fewer than 200 in 1993. The shrinking numbers have led to complaints that the convention is easily stacked by single-issue candidates with small bases of support.

As a result, committee members are urging candidates to have more than one sponsoring group, even though the convention bylaws require only one.

"It seems like it would be better for the rest of the delegates to see that this person is known by more than one kind of organization," said Mary Alice Gehrdes, a committee member.

The volunteer committee also is hoping that the governor's appointments last summer of the top vote-getter and an incumbent board member who tied for second place will help restore faith in the process.

The deadline for candidates to apply is March 1, but delegates have until March 18 to register. There is no fee for candidates; each delegate must pay $10.

Delegates will screen candidates at three forums in April. The convention at which delegates vote will be May 8.

Anyone who has not received information but wants to participate should call (410) 268-2278.

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