Task force wrongly nixed hybrid school board

As The Sun recently reported ("Task force rejects having elected Baltimore Co. school board," Sept. 10), the legislative task force considering alternatives to the board selection process "abruptly decided Friday to rule out recommending the addition of elected board members."

According to the legislation establishing the task force, the charge they were to carry out was:

"to make recommendations on how many members should constitute the Baltimore County Board of Education. Further, the Task Force will consider at least six ways to select Board members, including: election; appointment by the Governor; appointment by the County Executive; partial election and appointment; selection by County nominating commission; or appointments with additional approval. Should the Task Force recommend a change in the selection process, then recommendations concerning an appropriate phase-in process also must be made. Finally, the Task Force will recommend how to improve the transparency and professionalism of the Baltimore County Board of Education."

The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County supports the hybrid method of selecting school board members. As an observer, I did not hear consideration of six methods of selection as mandated by the legislative charge. Early in the meeting, I did hear the members agree to postpone consideration of the various methods until the next meeting when all members would be present and focus on problems of transparency and accountability about which members of the public had complained.

The conversation eventually returned to the selection of board members. Out of the blue, former County Executive James T. Smith Jr. moved and state Sen. Delores G. Kelley quickly seconded a motion to not consider any of the elected methods and discuss only the nominating committee method of selection. Despite the protests of state Sen. Robert A. Zirkin who referred to their earlier agreement not to vote until the other task force members were present, the vote was taken and the nominating committee idea was the only method left to discuss.

The League of Women Voters is not as disturbed about having their position eliminated from consideration as we are in the very undemocratic manner in which it happened. As the league's representative observing the work session, I, like Senator Zirkin, felt that an agreement was in place that no vote on the method of selection would be taken at the work session. I left the session with the feeling that if this represents democracy in Baltimore County, then it is a very sad day for democracy.

Judy Miller,Towson

The writer is education chairperson for the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County.

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