Panel chosen for check on school system

Member of board kept off committee overseeing study

Corporate view rejected

Fear of appearance of `political' angle noted in appointment

August 12, 1999|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

In yet another step toward healing their troubled relationship, the county commissioners and Board of Education yesterday appointed a 10-member committee to oversee a performance audit of the Carroll school system.

The composition of the team remained contentious yesterday morning, when the school board voted to deny one of its members, Susan Krebs, a seat she has been requesting for months.

The board, on a 3-1 vote, instead accepted the recommendation of Superintendent William H. Hyde to appoint three administrators, one parent, one member of the business community -- and no member of the school board -- to the committee.

"It is absolutely the duty of board members to serve on an audit committee," Krebs said at the morning session. "I've never been turned down in my life when volunteering for something, especially when it's my duty."

Krebs argued that in most corporations, it is the duty of board members -- and not members of the administration -- to oversee an audit investigating management.

Other board members disagreed.

"I don't think the audit committee will be compromised if we're not sitting on it," said Ann M. Ballard. "This committee has been put together with a lot of thought."

Board member Joseph D. Mish Jr. said Krebs was wrong to directly compare the school system with a corporation. In a public institution whose board members are elected by voters, Mish said, there would be "political ramifications" if a member oversaw an audit.

The committee is charged with drafting a plan for the audit and determining its scope and time frame. It must also recommend an independent auditing firm. The panel is expected to choose the firm by January.

The county is withholding $1 million from the school system, funding that was used as leverage to persuade the school board to accept the audit.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said yesterday that money will be held "until the auditors are selected and begin their work."

According to the State Board of Education, nothing prevents a board member who is interested in serving from doing so.

The full committee began meeting Tuesday, before the school board officially turned down Krebs' request to be on it.

The commissioners announced their appointments yesterday afternoon during a joint meeting with the school board.

There was no discussion of selections or an official vote.

Representing the school system are Bradley Martin, comptroller; Stephen Guthrie, human resources specialist; and Donald Pyles, principal of Sykesville Middle School. The community members are Louna Primm, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce; and Jean Wasmer of the Carroll County Council of PTAs.

The county is represented by Gary Horst, director of enterprise and recreation services; Max Bair, an executive assistant to the commissioners; Ted Zaleski of the department of management and budget; Eugene C. Curfman, county comptroller; and Tim Hartman, county internal auditor.

Absent from the committee is Assistant Superintendent Vernon Smith. Hyde said he decided it was more important to include a parent and principal.

Hyde also said that having such a high-ranking administrator might have created "the perception of a conflict of interest."

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