School board closer to hiring ombudsman in Howard

September 26, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school system is one step closer to hiring an ombudsman to field complaints and questions from parents, students and teachers.

The school board voted 4-1 last week to approve a preliminary job description with the hope of advertising the position by the middle of next month and having someone in place by Jan. 1.

Board member Sandra H. French opposed the position during a lengthy and lively discussion, saying that she and fellow board members act as an ombudsman. French also opposed having an ombudsman provide administrative support to the board, characterizing it as a "conflict of duties."

"I tried to stay open on this, but I feel we're abdicating what we were elected to do," French said at Thursday's board meeting.

The position calls for an ombudsman "to serve as a neutral party while collaborating with Howard County Public School staff and community to ensure a fair process that equitably and reasonably resolves concerns and complaints received from schools, parents and community," according to the job description.

"That is the nuts and bolts of why we [want] an ombudsman, so that there is fairness in the system," board Chairman Courtney Watson said.

An ombudsman would respond to the public's questions, direct the public to the appropriate office and make the public aware of the board's polices and procedures, according to the job description. The ombudsman would report findings to the board.

The board also agreed to have central office administrators look over the job description so that the duties can be refined.

A final vote is scheduled Oct. 14, when the board also will likely discuss whether an ombudsman would be a 10-month or year-round position, Watson said.

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