Arundel school board member nominated for second term

Selection process questioned by some

May 11, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

In a dark, dank high school auditorium Wednesday night, where three out of four hard wooden seats stood upright and empty, those who showed up marked red paper ballots and decided -- perhaps -- who will be the next member of the Anne Arundel County school board.

Delegates nominated school board President Paul G. Rudolph for a second five-year term over Crofton educator L. Koh Herlong in a 67-60 vote. A total of 127 people made their choices known for the person who might help steer a 75,000-student school district.

The vote is advisory. Both names will be submitted to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who can follow the convention's recommendation or choose someone different. During the past six years, nine board members have been named in Anne Arundel County, and on seven occasions, Glendening has chosen the convention's first choice.

The evening raised the question: Is this any way to choose a school board member?

Two state delegates at the event said no. Dels. Janet Greenip and John R. Leopold saw the small crowd and encouraged the convention to open the process to more people. Up to four members of each of the county's nonprofit organizations can serve as convention delegates, but few of them participate. One amendment considered Wednesday would have allowed any registered voter in the county to participate; it failed amid claims that it would encourage candidates to "pack" the convention with friends and allies.

Under this system for selecting school board members, attendance is sporadic, complaints are rampant and the debate about whether there is a better way to choose a candidate is raised year after year. Some years, the idea of scrapping the process and electing, rather than appointing, the school board rears its head. This year, the focus was on widening participation.

Wednesday, the delegates opted to continue with what has been the status quo for several decades.

Urging delegates to vote down the changes, school board member Vaughn Brown cautioned the convention, "It could turn into a popularity contest rather than an actual vetting of school board candidates. I think it subjects this process to a high probability of ... at the very least, a loss of confidence by the governor."

Sharon Puckett, a parent with the Crofton Woods Elementary School PTA, supported the proposed changes: "We have plenty of people that don't get a voice now because of the process. I've got a feeling it's the closest we're going to get to an elected school board."

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