Change school board selection?

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Thoughts on issues relating to Anne Arundel County

March 20, 2005

Anne Arundel County legislators are considering a bill that could change the way school board members are selected.

The draft bill would give voters three options on the 2006 ballot: continue with a school board appointed by the governor; give the county executive power to appoint seven members who would be confirmed by the County Council; or allow the county executive to appoint three at-large members and voters to elect four others.

Last week, The Sun asked readers whether Anne Arundel County needs a different method of choosing school board members and, if so, what kind. Here are some responses:

Current board lacks accountability

Absolutely. After the stunt the Board of Education members just pulled with the priority list of the budget items, this board has gone to the lowest of the low. ...

The board that just passed the Parent/Family Involvement Policy, they didn't waste anytime violating that policy. The agenda item [the spending priority list] was never publicly advertised as it was introduced by [board member Tricia] Johnson at the start of the proceedings. There was never an opportunity for the board to get input from the public, nor was the opportunity available to the public.

One thing we can all learn from this is that the current Board of Education members know that their actions cannot be held accountable to anyone. At the drop of a dime, they can change their minds on what they say and do. Talk about flip-flopping.

I think that [County Executive Janet] Owens' proposal is the way to go at this point.

Peg Waters Odenton

Editor's note: County Executive Janet S. Owens backs a bill that would let voters elect the school board but says they should also have the option of abolishing the board.

Teachers most able to choose board

Yes, I think a different method for selecting Anne Arundel school board members could create a more accountable and qualified board. I believe the teachers of Anne Arundel County are the most qualified to select the school board members. Besides the students, they are directly affected more than any other group by board decisions. They are familiar with board actions and the results of these actions.

Annette Conlon Linwood

System needs fundamental change

It is long overdue that Anne Arundel County has an elected school board. While the General Assembly continues to debate whether the voters should be able to change the school board selection process, they should know that the citizens in this county demand a change.

Our current system gives the ultimate appointment power to the elected official in Maryland who is most removed from our local schools and communities, the governor.

Moreover, the school board convention process we currently have has proved to be easily manipulated, inherently undemocratic, and in too many cases, completely ignored. The current system has failed the citizens, taxpayers and parents of this county, and fundamental changes are needed.

As a concerned parent, I recently attended a forum in Severna Park concerning the need to change our school board selection process. I was happy to learn that there is leadership by some of our elected officials to bring an elected school board to this county and leaders within our communities ready to make a change if our representatives in Annapolis continue to ignore the voters.

Nearly twenty years of debate is enough. The voters demand and deserve an elected school board here in Anne Arundel County.

Greg Kline Severna Park

Too many questions in current process

The school board selection process is broken, and Janet Owens helped break it when she ignored the county nominating convention and chose her cousin over a Harvard MBA.

The current process has many unanswered questions: (1) What is the purpose of the nominating convention if its selections can be so easily ignored? (2) What is the role of the county executive in choosing school board members? (3) What is the role of the governor? (4) What role does behind-the-scenes politics play? These answers are unclear, and most people are confused, and thus don't participate in the process.

County schools have a budget of nearly $700 million. Board members should be chosen based on ability to run a business of this size, and not on the basis of political maneuvering. The schools are facing a budget crisis. The current board may not be up to the task of managing it properly. We need a better process to assure that the best people are selected - those who can provide the best education to the most children at the lowest cost.

I would be in favor of a system that holds board members accountable for both school quality and fiscal results. Parents of schoolchildren should have more of a say. One idea would be for parent organizations such as PTAs and PTOs to vote for board members. There should be a representative on the board from each of the 12 high school feeder systems, chosen by local parents from that area.

Leo J. Vidal Millersville

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