"Elected officials should not remove power from the electorate," he said.

Criticizing the district model as something that would create partisanship and dysfunction, Spause said he likes having multiple school board members who will listen to him. With offices that are elected by district, such as the County Council, state Senate and House of Delegates, elected officials outside of his district tend to disregard his opinion, he said.

In lieu of restructuring the board, Spause suggested the commission consider changing the way votes are tallied.

Voters now can vote for as many candidates as there are open seats (four in gubernatorial elections and three in presidential elections) and each vote is given equal weight. Spause recommended a rank order, so voters can give more weight to the candidates they like best.


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Data presentation

Also at the meeting, county officials presented commission members with data on the county's population, broken down by race and council district.

Last year, Howard County became a minority-majority school system, meaning that minorities accounted for more than 50 percent of the student population. But only two of the five County Council districts — District 2, which includes parts of Elkridge and east Columbia, and District 3, which includes North Laurel, Savage and parts of east Columbia — have minority-majority populations, according to 2010 census data.

In all five council districts, the under-18 population has a higher percentage of minorities than the entire county population.

Officials also presented a map showing the residences of school board candidates, with distinguishing marks for successful versus unsuccessful candidates, from 1974 to 2010. Before 1974, school board members in Howard were appointed.

Address information for 21 of the 121 of the candidates was unavailable, so those candidates were not included on the map. But of the more than 15 candidates mapped as being from east Columbia or Elkridge, only one was successfully elected.

Other maps showed elementary and middle school districts with data on pass rates for standardized reading and math tests. In general, schools in more populated areas had lower pass rates.

Charted data on standardized test pass rates, broken down by grade, subject and race, showed that white students as a whole fared better than black and Hispanic students. Pass rates for Asian American students were on a par with pass rates for white students.

Despite all the data commission members were presented, they requested more information for their next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Aug. 29. The request included a breakdown by jurisdiction of how school board members are evaluated, how they are compensated and how their responsibilities vary if they are elected by district versus elected at large, among other data.

A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12.