Hurricane Tom Anne Arundel County: Stormy board member Twombly is gone, but don't expect calm.

July 19, 1996

THOMAS R. TWOMBLY'S departure from the Anne Arundel County Board of Education may give remaining members a sense of relief from his confrontational approach, but his absence won't fix the board's inherent problems.

In fact, given the differences in policy, personality and political attitudes among the members, the return to a fractious board is almost a certainty.

Just as the group united around ridding itself of its most irritating colleague, in short order it will likely turn on another member. There is little that unites this body.

Its members were appointed for a variety of reasons, ranging from professional qualifications to political contacts. But no thought was ever given to appointing a board that would act collegially. The turnover doesn't help. It's hard to develop an equilibrium when the lineup is constantly changing as new members are added and old ones get frustrated and leave.

The school board faces difficult issues that fuel disagreements and internal tension. County Executive John Gary's decision to keep a tight lid on school spending means there is little money for initiatives or to confront long-standing needs. Meanwhile, the pressure to improve is heightened by the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, which has already fingered one county school for failure.

If, indeed, education is as important as the community professes, then Anne Arundel's parents and students deserve a school board that is able to shape policy rather than simply react to events or administration proposals that come its way.

Selecting board members because of their perceived interest in education is not sufficient criteria. None of the current members is opposed to public education or is cavalier about the responsibility. They just weren't chosen for their ability to work together.

What is needed is either a group of people with a common agenda and a genuine commitment to cooperate, or a leader who can define major objectives and mold a disparate collection of individuals into a smoothly functioning, unified board.

With or without the quixotic Mr. Twombly on the Anne Arundel school board, don't expect this miracle to happen any time soon.

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