Seeking to ensure that Baltimore County residents can formally question school board candidates, several community groups have scheduled forums this spring.
The plans -- coming two months after Baltimore County's school board nominating convention disbanded because of waning interest -- ensures at a critical time at least some community input in the selection of board members. Up to half of the 12-member board could be replaced this summer.
The five-year terms of four adult members and the one-year student member term expire June 30, and this week, board member Katharine Cohn announced that she will resign June 30.
"We would like to see this succeed," said Anne Lee, president of the Baltimore County League of Women Voters, which has agreed to set up the format for the forums. "We think it is important for school board candidates to come before the community to explain their views and answer questions."
The other four county groups sponsoring the forums are the Chamber of Commerce, the PTA Council, school board advisory councils and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said school board President Dunbar Brooks.
The groups' involvement was sought by county education leaders after they met with several county state legislators, including Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Democrat representing northwestern Baltimore County.
The legislators were worried about the loss of community involvement after the nominating convention suspended its operations, ending its longtime role in the selection process.
In Baltimore County, school board members are appointed by the governor, who hears recommendations from community groups and politicians.
Four years ago, more than 140 groups -- including PTAs, homeowner associations and other nonprofit organizations -- were members of the convention. But membership dwindled as former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Gov. Parris N. Glendening made appointments that passed over the convention's top recommendations.
The number of groups in the convention dropped to about 85 last year. With 38 groups signed up by Jan. 15, the president of the convention suspended operations for 1999.
Under the community forum plan, individual groups will decide whether they will make recommendations similar to the nominating convention.
The community forums are scheduled for April 28 at Patapsco High School in Dundalk and May 5 at the Western School of Technology in Catonsville. Both meetings will begin at 7: 30 p.m.
People interested in board positions should send letters of interest and resumes to Brooks at the school system's Greenwood headquarters by the middle of next month, Brooks said.
This summer, the five-year terms of Brooks, Paul S. Cunningham, Robert F. Dashiell and Phyllis E. Ettinger are set to expire. Dashiell and Ettinger are eligible to be reappointed. Student member Alice Arcieri, a Towson High School senior, will be replaced this summer at the end of her one-year term.
Cohn, who was appointed to the board in 1995, said this week that her family situation forced her to make the "very difficult decision" to resign a year before her term expires.
Cohn has three school-age children, and her husband, Richard, died last fall.
"I will continue to serve the school system and will be available to serve on task forces or other committees," she said during Tuesday night's school board meeting.
Brooks said the community groups might try to schedule a community forum in the county's 3rd Councilmanic District, the north County-Owings Mill area, to help find a replacement for Cohn.
Pub Date: 3/26/99