Lawmakers to ponder bill on voting rights for student member of school board

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

January 14, 2007|By John-John Williams IV

The Howard County legislative delegation will vote this session on voting rights for the student member of the Board of Education.

The bill was approved Thursday night by the Board of Education and was the subject of a public hearing by the county's delegates and senators in Ellicott City. Howard's legislative delegation will consider the measure and vote on it. If approved, the bill will move to the full General Assembly for consideration.

The bill generated discussion at the Board of Education meeting and later at the Howard County legislative delegation's public hearing at the George C. Howard Building on Thursday night.

At the school board meeting, member Sandra H. French said the draft for student voting rights was "too restrictive."

French argued that the student member should be allowed to attend closed sessions that included discussions about site acquisitions and employment of architects.

Board Vice Chairman Frank Aquino argued that the draft should remain relatively unchanged.

"If we are going to engage in a wholesale rewrite, that is not fair to the entire process," he said.

In August, the previous school board approved a draft of the bill that established voting guidelines for the student board member.

The proposed legislation states that juniors and seniors who live in the county and attend a public school would be eligible for the position. It also says that students enrolled in the system's middle or high schools would vote to fill the position.

The student member would not be allowed to vote on attendance areas, site acquisitions, condemnation, consolidation, architect selection, appointment and salary of the superintendent, collective bargaining issues, employee discipline and other appeals, appointments, the capital and operating budgets and student suspensions and expulsions.

The proposed legislation also addresses how the student member would affect the voting dynamic of the board, which recently expanded from five to seven members. When the student member votes, five votes would be necessary to pass an item; and four votes would be needed when the student member is not voting.

The school board decided to shelve a potential bill that would create the county's first truancy court that places harsher penalties on students. That draft will be reworked and resubmitted, said Roger Plunkett, the business, community, government relations officer for the school system.

The Howard County delegates withdrew consideration of a bill that would authorize the school board to terminate the contract of the superintendent; the school board had entered a vote of no position on that measure.

The Howard legislative delegation will have work sessions and begin voting on the local legislation in Annapolis on Wednesday mornings, starting Jan. 24.

Awards

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin has been honored by two organizations.

Cousin has been named Public School Superintendent of the Year by the Fullwood Foundation, which raises funds to support educational initiatives and provides scholarships to more than 1,000 students each year.

The award is presented to individuals who have achieved excellence in initiatives that benefit others, the foundation said.

The Maryland State Teachers Association will present Cousin with its Minority Recognition Award for Leadership.

Cousin has led Howard County's top-ranked school system since 2004.

According to the 2005-2006 Job Satisfaction Survey conducted by the Howard County Education Association, the union representing 5,500 employees, 84 percent of the employees agreed or strongly agreed that they had confidence in Cousin's leadership.

Recognition

Five county elementary schools received state financial awards totaling $13,729 for improving student performance.

Bryant Woods, Phelps Luck, Running Brook, Stevens Forest and Swansfield each received $2,745.82 for student performance on 2006 Maryland School Assessment tests.

Each is a Title I school, which means each serves large numbers of low-income children.

"I am very proud that so many of our schools received recognition," Cousin said.

Music performance

County students will make up a substantial portion of the 2007 All-State music-performing groups.

Howard students will make up 21 percent of All-State Jazz Band; 25 percent of Senior All-State Band; 30 percent of Senior All-State Orchestra; 8 percent of Junior All-State Chorus; and 9 percent of Senior All-State Chorus.

Dance companies from Marriotts Ridge and Hammond high schools are to perform at the Maryland State Dance Showcase on Jan. 5 at Goucher College.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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