Makeup of board to change

At least four members of school panel will be replaced in Balto. Co.

`A real challenge'

Turnover occurs as critical issues need to be tackled

July 04, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's school board is facing its biggest turnover in years, up to six new members -- triggering fears that it will be ill-prepared to handle a crush of major issues, including the possible departure of Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione.

With half of the 12 seats up for replacement by Gov. Parris N. Glendening this month, members worry that it could take time for a new board to find its focus.

"It's going to be a real challenge for these new folks and for the entire board," said member John A. Hayden, who joined the board last year.

The turnover comes at a critical time for the board, whose members are appointed by the governor after recommendations from community groups and politicians.

The board is involved in overseeing the school renovation plan, aimed at repairing aging buildings. School officials set aside $213 million for elementary schools and $316.8 million for middle and high schools during the next eight years.

The board also could initiate a national search for a superintendent to replace Marchione, whose contract expires June 30. Marchione has not announced whether he will request a contract renewal or retire.

The panel faces other issues, including a push to improve scholastic achievement of African-American students.

"The number of issues we will have to address in the short term regarding curriculum and facilities may seem overwhelming for people," said board member Sanford V. Teplitzky, who spent months acclimating himself to education issues when he was appointed in 1993.

"It's not that it's insurmountable," he said, "but the type of discussions we have today will be different with five or six new members. The meetings will be longer, and we will have to work harder."

Decisions this month

Glendening, who has appointed six members and reappointed one since 1995, should announce his selections this month, said Michelle Byrnie, the governor's deputy press secretary.

At a minimum, the governor will appoint three adult members and a student member to the board. The adults could serve up to two five-year terms, and the student would serve a one-year term.

The terms of four adult board members -- Dunbar Brooks, Paul S. Cunningham, Robert F. Dashiell and Phyllis E. Ettinger -- expired Wednesday, as did the term of student member Alice L. Arcieri, who voted on issues except those regarding land acquisition, personnel decisions and legal action.

Board member Katharine A. Cohn resigned Wednesday, a year before her term expired, to spend more time with her family.

Brooks and Cunningham have served two terms and are ineligible for reappointment. Dashiell and Ettinger have served a term.

Dashiell, a Democrat who lost a bid at a state Senate seat last year and considers himself an outspoken board member, doubts he will be appointed to a second term.

Ettinger could not be reached for comment. If reappointed, Ettinger is expected to be elected board vice president July 13. Donald L. Arnold, the board's vice president, is expected to be elected president.

Outgoing board members will continue to attend school board meetings until Glendening makes the appointments, said Charles Herndon, school district spokesman. They will be notified by mail or telephone when they have been replaced.

`Most important thing'

For the 16 school board candidates, the wait can be agonizing.

"I haven't heard a thing," said school board candidate Edward J. Feeney, 70, retired superintendent of Prince George's County schools.

"I'm waiting for a call or a letter," said candidate W. Joseph Scott, 40, a database administrator with T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.

Feeney and Scott attended forums organized by community groups last spring in hopes of winning public endorsement -- and Glendening's support -- but the events were poorly attended. The forums were set up to replace a nominating convention that disbanded last year because of waning interest.

Some candidates wrote to state and local politicians or community groups to ask for a recommendation or endorsement. A few telephoned school board members to ask questions.

Besides the basics -- board members are paid $100 a year and are reimbursed for board-related travel, including education conferences -- Teplitzky gave advice.

"I tell them the same thing my wife told me," he said. "It's the most important thing you'll ever do."

Pub Date: 7/04/99

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