Turnover Fills Md. School Board With Newcomers

July 04, 2009|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,liz.bowie@baltsun.com

More than half of the members of the Maryland State Board of Education will be new to the panel this summer, a result of an unusually high number of resignations combined with the staggered turnover of positions.

Seven of the 12 board members have left in the past several months, including Blair Ewing, a well-respected education leader from Montgomery County who died Monday, and Rosa Garcia, who recently took a new job working for a member of Congress and said she would not have time to continue on the board.

Three new members were sworn in Thursday to the volunteer board, which decides education policy for schools statewide.

Sylvester J. Gates, Madhu Sidhu and Guffrie M. Smith Jr. replace three members who depart because of term limits: Dunbar Brooks, Richard L. Goodall and Karabelle A.L. Pizzigati.

A fourth new member, Donna Staton, took her seat two months ago to fill the place of Leila Allen, who resigned.

Gov. Martin O'Malley still needs to appoint another two members to the board in the next several months.

The composition of the board has been a sensitive issue in the past, particularly a year and a half ago when the board reappointed state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick against the wishes of the governor. O'Malley had said publicly that he did not support the superintendent and wanted her to leave the job.

But O'Malley didn't have the votes on the board to push out Grasmick because most of the members had been appointed under the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and were loyal to her.

As of last July, O'Malley had appointed a majority of the members. Now the board will be filled entirely with O'Malley appointees.

"Hopefully, we will see some great change agents coming on to the board and we will get a lot done," said Kate Walsh, who was appointed to the board a year ago.

The new state school board members are:

* Gates, a noted American theoretical physicist who is the John S. Toll professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was featured on NOVA's 2003 PBS program The Elegant Universe and lives in Prince George's County.

* Sidhu, an active member of state and Kent County PTAs and executive director of the nonprofit Character Counts! She lives in Kent County.

* Smith, who has worked in Calvert County public schools since 1964 as a teacher, principal, director of elementary education, director of curriculum and instruction, and director of the Community Education Resource Center at Mill Creek Middle School.

* Staton, who served as deputy state attorney general before she became an associate judge on the Howard County Circuit Court. She was the second African-American woman to serve on a Maryland circuit court.

* Student representative David Murray, who attends Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County and will join the board this month as well. He replaces Danke Derek Wu, who recently graduated from James M. Bennett High School in Wicomico County.

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