Kelley Advocates For Black Educator

Move Raises Questions About How Balto. Co. School Board Is Picked

April 28, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Rejecting Baltimore County's unofficial school board selection process as "exclusive," the county's only black state senator is pushing for an African-American educator to fill a board vacancy.

Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Woodlawn-Randallstown Democrat and an ally of county executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, recently arranged for Ruppersberger to meet the only black among seven applicants for the board.

And two of the county executive's aides interviewed Warren C. Hayman, a Lochearn resident and Morgan State University assistant dean who has tried twice to win recommendation from the county School Board Nominating Convention. But Ruppersberger has remained noncommittal.

Kelley's move came after the convention recommended four white men as board candidates. It highlights a decadelong struggle over who should control board appointments -- politicians or the coalition of 92 community and school groups in the convention.

The western county's black politicians say convention members are well-meaning, but don't include many black groups and don't often vote for black candidates -- though blacks make up more than 25 percent of school enrollment.

Two of the school board's 11 adult members are black. Both originally were chosen outside the convention's nominations -- by the governor, who wields the appointment power.

Kelley recalled problems after she and other blacks founded a 10th District Democratic Club and tried to join the convention. She said her group was "advised we had to exist for 18 months, and then we were told it was the wrong time and we'd have to wait four more months. It's exclusive."

She also said the $10 membership fee, though small, "reminds you of the poll tax" -- an old tactic for excluding black voters.

Convention president Norman Macneal said he has done all he can to invite and attract minority participation. "I don't know why they don't come forward," he said.

To help attract more black groups, Macneal said he will pay the fee, which is used to defray convention expenses.

Though Gov. Parris N. Glendening appoints school board members, he and Ruppersberger said the county executive's opinions are considered with the names from the convention.

Glendening said last week that he hasn't reviewed the latest list of applicants and isn't close to a decision. Two seats are at stake, though one involves naming a current board member to a new term.

Ruppersberger will not say whom he will recommend, adding, "My issue is to get the best person." He said Hayman impressed him, but so did other applicants.

The problem with the convention delegates, he said, is that "they're not held accountable to anyone."

But Del. Donald E. Murphy, a Catonsville Republican, said efforts to sidestep the convention will create a backlash, aiding his move to codify the group's role in the General Assembly.

Next to an elected school board, the convention "is the best we can do," he said. The waiting period ensures that groups are "bona fide credible organizations. I don't think that's a lot to ask."

His bill, which would have required the governor to choose from the convention's list or request a new one, died in the Assembly this year.

Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democrat from Baltimore County, agreed with Kelley that the governor should continue to choose board members -- regardless of whether they were reviewed by the convention.

Commenting on the four men recommended by the convention on April 9, he said: "The list simply confirms my point. Absent the governor's independent power [to pick board members], we're going to continue to have lily-white lists."

Hayman, a former dean of education at Coppin State College and a colleague of Kelley's there, noted that applicants have only three minutes to speak at convention forums.

Hayman added: "The problem with the process is that you don't have a constituency there. People vote for who they know."

Edward W. Veit, who was recommended by the convention for a board seat, taught in county schools for 30 years and is a past president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

Donald J. Slowinski, who also was recommended, is a former president of Essex Community College. Edward J. Feeney, the third person recommended, is a former Prince George's County schools superintendent.

They are all seeking to fill the vacancy created when Stephen G. Burch, a Comcast Cablevision executive, resigned in December.

The convention also recommended that board member Donald L. Arnold be appointed to a new five-year term.

Pub Date: 4/28/97

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