Sidelined and marginalized

School boards: Nominating conventions no longer as integral to gubernatorial appointments.

January 28, 1999

JUST AS EDUCATION is rising to the top of local, state and federal political agendas, some of Maryland's school board nominating conventions are finding themselves marginalized. One of the most notable is in Baltimore County. Last week, the county convention announced it is suspending operations this year, though one-third of the seats on the school board are up for appointment.

Half of Maryland's counties have voter-elected school boards. In other jurisdictions, the governor appoints the members after receiving a recommendation from civic and religious organizations who interview candidates.

The Baltimore County convention says it is bowing to reality. In the past two years, Gov. Parris N. Glendening ignored its nominees, as is his right. Discouraged, citizens and groups have lost interest. Four years ago, the convention included 140 groups. This year, only 38 have registered.

The governor says he is interested in public input in school board selections but maintains he must exercise his own judgment, including the right to choose outside the convention process. He has relied, in Baltimore County, on recommendations from Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and state legislators. By choosing from elected officials' nominees rather than the convention's, a different level of politics is injected into the school board selection process.

Anne Arundel's experience has been much different. During Mr. Glendening's first term, he appointed the top or second choices of the convention. However, Republicans controlled county government then.

With Democrats now in control of Anne Arundel government and the county's Annapolis delegation, the Democratic governor may resort to the pattern he followed in Baltimore County. If that becomes the case, Anne Arundel's school board nominating convention may soon be marginalized as well.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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