School group extends deadline

Only three people have applied for two seats on board

March 22, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Dismayed by a shortage of candidates, the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention Committee has extended the application deadline to the end of the month.

Two seats become open July 1, and only three people had applied for them -- including the two incumbents whose terms are expiring -- by the original deadline of March 14.

"We're pretty discouraged, and probably you could say we're a little annoyed," said Mark Fontaine, committee treasurer.

The scarcity of candidates has again raised questions about the effectiveness of the school board selection process, which local officials and community activists have debated for years.

Under the process, delegates to the county's School Board Nominating Convention choose two candidates for each open seat. The recommendations are forwarded to the governor, who makes the final selection but is not required to choose any of the nominees. But some residents favor an elected school board or one appointed by the county executive.

Critics of the process say this year's shortage of candidates and of convention delegates indicates that the system isn't working. They argue that it lacks accountability and is difficult to understand.

But others say the small number of candidates reflects the public's satisfaction with the status quo. The school board has eight members, five of them chosen by legislative district and three selected at-large.

"My personal view is that when you have incumbents running and not a lot of folks challenging them, it's because they've been doing a good job," said Susie Jablinske, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, the teachers union.

Seeking a second term are Michael J. McNelly of Tracys Landing and Janet Bury of Brooklyn Park.

McNelly, a retired county police officer who runs a business monitoring construction practices, is opposed by Steven H. Johnson, a management consultant from Annapolis, for the seat from legislative Districts 27B and 30 in Annapolis and South County.

Bury, a communications professor at Morgan State University, is unopposed in her bid for a second five-year term from the North County's District 31 seat.

"It'd be nice to at least have three candidates for each seat," said Alan Lang, chairman of the School Board Nominating Convention Committee.

Lang said that 10 delegates have registered with the School Board Nominating Convention Committee. Delegates must be from citizen groups, which can send one delegate for every 50 members up to a maximum of four. The postmark deadline for delegate registration is April 6.

Last year's nomination convention had more than 200 delegates from 87 county organizations reviewing the candidacies of nine applicants to fill a single seat. The incumbent, Thomas Florestano, had decided not to seek a second term.

School board candidates for this year's openings must live in legislative Districts 27B, 30 or 31 and be sponsored by a community organization, such as a PTA or other service group.

Candidate and delegate registration forms are available at the Web site sbncaacnty. Registration forms can also be printed out using computers at county libraries.

School board applications must be postmarked by March 31. They should be sent to Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention, P.O. Box 485, Annapolis 21404.

For information about candidate or delegate registration, call the School Board Nominating Convention Committee at 410- 266-7262, or its chairman, Alan Lang, at 410-965-9721 or 410- 544-1157.

The convention has scheduled a series of "candidate hearings" at which delegates may question candidates: 7 p.m. April 13 at Annapolis High; April 18 at Broadneck High; and April 26 at Arundel High. The nominating convention will take place at 7 p.m. May 10 at Annapolis High.

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