Killing civic spirit

Arundel: Lawmakers need to change school board selection process to attract more citizens.

March 31, 2000

NO ONE should be surprised that only three people are interested in the two Anne Arundel school board seats that become vacant in July. The goofy selection process -- which Baltimore County dropped because it didn't work -- is frustrating and confusing for county residents.

But who has stepped forward to champion a better way? Certainly not the county's delegation to the General Assembly.

For years, the delegation has hemmed and hawed over how to improve the school board selection process. This session, they've done no better.

They failed again to introduce a bill that would change the selection process because they couldn't reach a consensus on what the change should be. Now it will be at least another year before they get another shot.

That's unfortunate because the current selection process does little to inspire public confidence.

It works like this: Delegates at a nominating convention consider names forwarded by community groups and associations and, in turn, forward two names to the governor. But the governor isn't bound by the convention's choices; the chief executive can choose someone else entirely, rendering the nominating process moot.

County officials say that happens too often, which helps explain why so few county residents have expressed interest in this year's process.

Some defend the current system because it has brought diversity to a board that was too white and too male for too long. But a more straightforward process wouldn't necessarily erode the board's strides toward diversity.

Better, direct-selection processes have produced representative boards in other jurisdictions -- and the public has faith in those processes.

The local delegation must get its act together over the next year and agree on a better way to attract good citizens to serve county schools.

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