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Updated: Local attorney hopes to bring international perspective to city school board

Updated on February 1: 

A new member has been appointed to the Baltimore city school board, after two searches have taken place in the last year to find someone to replace Anirban Basu, the renowned economist who served as the business-minded board member since 2005.

Marnell Cooper, a Baltimore attorney, will be sworn in Feb. 14. According to his Charles Street law firm's website, Cooper specializes in representing small businesses locally and internationally. 

Updated: I caught up with Cooper on Tuesday, who said that it "is a tremendous honor to be able to serve in this capacity." 

"What I hope to bring to the board is my experience as a person who has been a part of, and a graduate of the school system, and matriculated through two universities to go on to do business around the world. Hopefully I can bring that insight into how to help the students of Baltimore.”

Cooper, who doesn't have children in the city school system, said that he hopes to build on the efforts of the system. He said that he has, however, received feedback from the community about the state of city schools, which he described as, "extremely positive in terms of what they see as growth over the course of years."

As an international attorney, said that he takes particularly interest in strengthening and expanding International Baccalaureate programs, an elite and globally recognized college preparatory program, currently offered at City College and Mount Washington Elementary.

When asked to identify some school system challenges he hopes to help tackle, Cooper said, "I haven't started serving yet, but I know there are some challenges coming up.”

School officials confirmed the appointment after The Sun obtained board members' formal notifications last week. Board members are jointly appointed by the mayor and the governor.

"We're very pleased with the joint appointment by mayor and governor," said Neil Duke, president of the city school board. "[Cooper] brings to our board a wealth of experience, and will be a great addition." 

The appointment of a new member has been a long anticipated. While board appointments usually take place in the spring, the Maryland State Department of Education reopened a second search in August for a new member after the first round of candidates didn't make the cut.

The listing was for a candidate to"possess a high level of knowledge and expertise concerning the successful administration of a large business, non-profit, or governmental entity and have served in a high level management position within such an entity..."

In addition to Cooper's appointment, current board members David Stone and Bob Heck were  re-appointed to the board to serve their second, three-year, terms. 

A call to Cooper's office on Tuesday was not returned, so I haven't been able to interview him about his motivations and aspirations for the school system in his new role. Will post when I do.

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