Board's empty gesture

Public input: Baltimore County school board mistakenly opted for secrecy in the selection process.

March 02, 2000

REGARDLESS of public reaction over the next two weeks, come March 14 Baltimore County's Board of Education will affirm the appointment of Joseph A. Hairston as the system's superintendent. Public participation in the process that produced Dr. Hairston is just window dressing and an afterthought. It's just about improving the appearance of an inherently flawed process.

The board never said publicly who its members were considering for this job. They didn't release a list of finalists. And there was no public input into their decision. They only created this two-week comment period after top county officials complained that the board had once again excluded the public from its deliberations.

Board members seem to forget that this is a public position affecting tens of thousands of county families. The superintendent should not be selected by plebicite, but the public should participate in an open process.

Pity Dr. Hairston. Needless controversy will cloud his appointment just as it swirled around Anthony G. Marchione's selection four years ago. When the board announced Dr. Marchione's selection, African-American Baltimore countians protested that the process had been rigged and their concerns not addressed. As a result, Dr. Marchione's tenure got off on the wrong foot.

Dr. Hairston would have been better served if all the debate about his background and experiences had been aired before his selection. Announcing the top three or four finalists would have not have compromised the selection process.

It is unfortunate that Dr. Hairston, and not the board, will suffer the consequences of Baltimore County's flawed process.

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