Governor names four members to state school board

GOP activist Tufaro among those winning seats

July 01, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named four members to the State Board of Education yesterday, including a developer and Republican activist who lost to Martin O'Malley in the 1999 Baltimore mayoral election.

Unlike most other members of the 12-person school board, David F. Tufaro has little background in public or higher education. An attorney with a joint law and master of city planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he has spent most of his professional career building multifamily housing.

"You need people from outside the system who are not tied to it in any way. I don't have any allegiances," said Tufaro, 57, in an interview yesterday, adding that he would bring a "fresh eyes and fresh views" to the organization.

"The same leaders have been involved with the educational system for far, far too long, especially in the city," Tufaro, 57, said in an interview yesterday. "You need a zero-based approach. Everything needs to be put on the table, and everything needs to be considered for throwing out. Everything."

While each of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions has its own school board, the state panel sets broad policies such as mandating testing as a high school graduation requirement, and passes regulations that have the force of law. It also hires the state schools superintendent, currently Nancy S. Grasmick. Members are unpaid, and can serve two four-year terms.

In a detour from tradition, Ehrlich has shown a willingness to appoint members who have not served on a county school board or have not been educators.

In addition to Tufaro, the governor appointed to the state board J. Henry Butta of Baltimore, a retired president and chief executive of the former Bell Atlantic-Maryland and a past chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Also named: Beverly A. Cooper, vice president of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation; and Lelia T. Allen, a professor at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata.

Brian A. Williamson of Washington County will be the student member for the coming year.

While Tufaro says he is keenly interested in public education and notes that his mother was a teacher and school board president in suburban New York, the Roland Park resident sent his three daughters to private schools.

"If you are looking for someone from Baltimore City to represent and know about the issues of an urban school system, is this the person you would choose?" asked Bebe Verdery, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the Baltimore school system for increased funding.

Tufaro's appointment also carries political overtones. O'Malley is widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, challenging Ehrlich, a Republican. By naming Tufaro, the governor is raising the profile of a past adversary of the mayor's.

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said politics was not a factor in the appointment.

"There are no political rewards -- not based on party affiliation, and not based on past political campaigns," she said. "Mr. Tufaro was appointed on his merit."

Sun staff writer Mike Bowler contributed to this article.

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