Departing board member called a loss for city schools Colleagues say Copeland will be difficult to replace

October 13, 1998|By Stephen Henderson | Stephen Henderson,SUN STAFF

Bonnie Copeland isn't the most vocal member of the Baltimore school board. Nor, to the casual observer, would she seem to be the most dynamic.

But when Copeland leaves the board later this year, board Chairman J. Tyson Tildon said, he will lose his most important sage -- the one he turned to first for information and advice.

"I don't know where we'll get anyone like that again," Tildon said. "Bonnie just knew the state and city, in terms of education issues, and she knew the business community. She had the perfect mix and was probably the clearest choice of any of us to sit on this board."

Copeland, 48, married Robert Lazarewicz, executive director of operations in Howard County schools, in July. She must leave the board because she no longer lives in the city; state law requires that board members be city residents.

Copeland is executive director of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a private not-for-profit business and development group. She is a former associate superintendent in the Baltimore County schools and a former deputy superintendent for the Maryland State Board of Education. Her achievements made her the only board member whose background includes business and education.

The Maryland Board of Education is accepting nominations for Copeland's replacement through Friday. Anthony South, state board executive director, said the state board will likely choose finalists for the post during its Oct. 27 and 28 meeting or in November. The number of finalists is not set.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will make the appointment in accordance with the 1997 law that gave the mayor and governor shared appointment power over the board.

South said there are no plans for public forums with the finalists for the spot, similar to those held when the school board was first appointed in June 1997.

South said the board is likely to recommend candidates with a variety of backgrounds.

"When the board was first appointed, they were appointed to fulfill certain criteria," South said. "There had to be a certain number of parents, some educators and some business people. But many of the people fit into more than one category, as Bonnie did. So it's hard to know what you're aiming for in replacing her."

The city's nine board members each serve three-year terms, and are eligible for two terms each. The board had not anticipated any vacancies until June 2000.

Michael Hamilton, president of the Parent Community Advisory Board, believes a parent would be the ideal replacement.

"Rank-and-file parents aren't really well represented on this board right now," Hamilton said. "So it's hard for them to relate to things we see every day in the schools. I think that's who they should be looking to replace her with."

Tru Ginsburg, who heads the Baltimore Education Network, said it will be important to find someone with Copeland's consensus-building skills.

"She really made the group come together, and had a way of building on everyone's strengths," Ginsburg said. "If you're going to replace her, you've got to find someone who can do that."

Tildon said he hopes Copeland's replacement fits in with the remaining board members, who have forged close working relationships over 30-hour work weeks.

"It may be easy for a new member, if they know what we're trying to do and are aware of how hard we work," Tildon said. "It could be tough if they don't know what to expect, though."

Pub Date: 10/13/98

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