Council defeats resolution on school board

Some want elections rather than appointment

Measure fails to go to a vote

Members favor meeting with county delegation

Anne Arundel

January 22, 2003|By Ryan Davis and Lynn Anderson | Ryan Davis and Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Council members defeated a resolution last night that called for school board members to be elected instead of appointed, but after their meeting several said they still support overhauling the selection process.

The resolution, introduced by Councilman Bill D. Burlison, would not have carried any legal power. It was merely an effort to prod the county's General Assembly delegation into introducing the legislation required to change the selection process.

Several council members said they support holding public meetings with the county's House of Delegates members. That way, said County Council Chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, "Instead of sending over a piece of paper, we have a discussion."

They vowed that the longstanding issue will be rekindled - but not in the County Council chambers.

Under the current system, representatives to the county's School Board Nominating Convention select their top candidates for each open seat on the board, which has seven adult members. The recommendations are forwarded to the governor, who can ignore them in making the selection.

The resolution by Burlison, an Odenton Democrat, called for the board members to be elected, but did not provide details. "The fundamental principle," he said, "is to bring the school board selection process under the canopy of democracy."

No one seconded approval of the resolution, so there was no vote. No residents asked to speak on it - or any other matter in the half-hour meeting.

After the meeting, members mentioned reform possibilities, including appointment of school board members by the county executive.

State delegates from Anne Arundel County - whose support would be imperative for legislation to pass - have expressed little interest in overhauling the system this year.

Burlison introduced a nearly identical resolution in 1999. That time it passed, with four council members voting in favor and the other three abstaining. But it led to no state action.

Four times in the nominating convention's nearly 30-year history, the governor has ignored the selections. The most recent was in May, when Parris N. Glendening appointed four new school board members and passed over Jim Snider, who was the top choice of the nominating convention.

Konrad M. Wayson, whom the governor selected instead, had not been a candidate in the county's nominating process.

According to the state Department of Education, voters in 14 of the state's jurisdictions elect their school boards. In the other 10, they are appointed by the governor.

State lawmakers have begun a move toward other changes with the school board. Anne Arundel delegates have introduced a bill that would allow county residents who live in legislative District 21 - which lies almost entirely in neighboring Prince George's - to serve on the school board.

As a result of legislative redistricting last year, the communities of Maryland City and Russett lie within District 21. House Bill 5, introduced by Dels. Joan Cadden and James E. Rzepkowski, allows the county section of District 21 to be in included in District 32, which lies entirely in Anne Arundel, for the purpose of school board appointments.

The bill was reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday. It has won the support of the Anne Arundel school system and Board of Education.

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