Don't mess up a good thing by changing school board

Letter to the editor

October 10, 2011

I supported Larry Walker in the last election and was very disappointed at the outcome. It would be great if the best person always won, but that doesn't happen in real life. A disappointing election is no reason to change a system that has fostered a top-rated school system. A change is not needed, and the proposed change to the way school board members are selected is a bad idea.

Returning to having some appointed members is an insult to the voters of the county. It is such a bad idea that I suspect it to be a Machiavellian ploy to make people consider the districting proposal to be a compromise which they would therefore accept. If so, it didn't work.

Electing school board members by district is not a good idea. The argument has been that election by district would bring more diversity to the board. I do not care about a diverse board. I care about a board that is dedicated to having the best schools possible for all of our children.

When I read that there is no one from Columbia on the board I had to look up all the board members' addresses to confirm it. I don't look at candidates' addresses; I look at their positions on issues. This is much more important than geographic or ethnic diversity.

For one thing, it would be practically impossible to achieve representation of all the significant ethnic and religious groups in our schools: Caucasian, African-American, Asian (probably subdivided into Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani and perhaps others), Hispanic, Mid-Eastern, and so on. For another, socioeconomic background is probably more relevant from the perspective of educational needs than ethnic background, e.g., African-American children from middle-class homes generally have more in common with their white classmates than they do with poor children of their own race, and I know no system to promote socioeconomic diversity.

To me, school-board diversity means that one member is interested in a good science curriculum, another in a strong arts program, another in vocational preparation, etc. We do not want board members to "represent" any particular subset of the population but to strive for the best education for all of the students.

I have several times chafed when I found that two of the best candidates for County Council live in the same district and, therefore, only one of them could be elected; let's not allow that to happen with the school board.

To twist an old cliché, "If it ain't broke, don't break it." This proposal could break a system that is working well. Leave it alone. Encourage good candidates to run for the office and trust the voters throughout the county.

Angie Boyter

Ellicott City

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