School board's Pate says he will not seek 2nd term next year Edgewater lawyer notes pressing work demands

November 21, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Edgewater lawyer Michael A. Pace will not seek a second five-year term on the Anne Arundel County school board, creating a wide-open race for the at-large board seat next year.

Pace, 50, said yesterday that he did not have the time for the volunteer position. His work demands have increased at the same time that more is being asked of board members, he said.

His decision to step down when his term ends in July was not surprising. Pace's absences from twice-monthly meetings have increased over the past year. With workshops, school visits and student discipline hearings, the job can take 60 hours a week.

"When I got on the board, I had to get a bigger mailbox," Pace said, referring to the invitations that are sent to the eight board members.

He turned down most. "I just concluded I would make whatever contribution I could in the time I could," he said.

His ideas, from preserving the arts to showing evenhandedness in discipline, have drawn on business acumen, law work and two years as a teacher. Board President Joseph H. Foster praised Pace's efforts, saying his departure will create a void on the board.

Foster's term also ends in July. If he decides against a second term, institutional memory will rest with Carlesa R. Finney, whose term expires a year later.

Pace often is seen as a school board member County Executive John G. Gary, a fellow Republican, can count on. Some school board members view Gary's attacks on board as nothing short of war, but Pace calls them "family spats."

Pace was one of the architects of Democrat O. James Lighthizer's successful run for county executive in 1982.

In 1992, Pace came in second in the School Board Nominating Convention vote. But he was favored by County Executive Robert R. Neall, a Republican, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer confirmed Neall's choice.

During Pace's tenure, the board handled a teacher-student sex scandal, hired Superintendent Carol S. Parham and endured financial strains.

As school board president in 1994-1995, Pace presided over some of the ugliest union negotiations in recent memory. The principals sued for pay raises, and an impasse developed in contract talks with teachers.

Nevertheless, the former elementary school art teacher remained strong supporter of classroom teachers. "They walk on water," he said yesterday.

The board also completed its first comprehensive redistricting in nearly a decade during his presidency.

Last year, Pace made a controversial $10,000 donation to help start a French language immersion program at Crofton Woods Elementary School. Ethics officials found it irregular but not illegal.

Pace said he plans to stay active in education issues, perhaps on advisory committees. He ruled out a run for public office.

Delegates voting at next spring's county School Board Nominating Convention will recommend a replacement for Pace

to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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