Twombly resigns from school board His announcement is two-word letter saying, 'I resign'

'It was too frustrating'

Six-year veteran adds a three-page memo suggesting changes

June 25, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Thomas R. Twombly, a vocal critic of county government and his own school system, has quit his seat on the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.

"My frustration level was high and getting higher," he said yesterday. "It was too frustrating not to be able to make the changes that are necessary. And I need to move on."

To his two-word letter -- "I resign" -- to state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, the Pasadena resident attached a three-page memo calling for a task force to recommend statewide changes in school board operations.

Grasmick's office had not seen the letter yesterday. The request for a task force, and for a seat on it, was directed to "Maryland Leadership": Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. of Prince George's County, and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. of Allegany County. None had seen it yet.

Nor did Twombly, a six-year veteran of the board, warn his seven board colleagues of his decision: "They weren't listening to me the last six months. I didn't see any point to boring them with this now."

He claimed three of the nation's largest school systems -- Baltimore and Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties -- are in trouble because of an inability to adapt to changing financial times. That, he said, is in part because of a lack of checks and balances on the board, superintendent and top school officials.

Twombly asked for an independent group to look into eight priorities, many of which would divorce the superintendent from top administrators and the board.

Among them are having an independent body pick a superintendent, changing the requirements for the job from an education background to a business background, and annually renewing the contract between senior staff and their school systems. Headquarters staff members can outlast critical board members or superintendents, making change difficult, he said.

Twombly was part of the board that privately hired Carol S. Parham 2 1/2 years ago, without a promised selection committee. Parham had no comment yesterday on Twombly's resignation. Despite occasional public displeasure with her, he did not criticize her yesterday. He commended teachers and principals.

None of Twombly's recommendations was new. One, using the school system's auditor as a fiscal watchdog for the board, he discussed during his reappointment campaign a year ago.

Curiously, some of Twombly's suggestions mirror ideas of his political opponent, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary, such as giving local governments the task of school construction, and consolidating services of schools and governments.

Last year, Gary unsuccessfully opposed Twombly's bid for a second five-year term. Lisa Ritter, Gary's spokeswoman, said that while Gary would not be unhappy to see Twombly leave, the loss of any experienced member hurts the school system.

Twombly's frustration had become more evident in recent months. Yesterday, he outlined his complaints: The board failed to heed his year-end request to consider charging students for services; senior staff "sandbagged" efforts this year to redistrict Pasadena; the board has not acted responsibly in closing antiquated facilities; and the school system has not changed its culture of hand-wringing despite clear warnings that county dollars were shrinking.

One board member surprised but not shocked at the sudden resignation of the 39-year-old National Security Agency telecommunications analyst was Carlesa R. Finney, vice president of the board. "He has always been a very intense person," she said.

In closed-door sessions, he told board members they "didn't get it," she said

The resignation leaves three vacancies on the board, one from Severna Park-Crofton, the student member and now Pasadena.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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