Harford council members weigh in on school leaders Annapolis no-show

A member of the Harford County Council stirred the pot some more Tuesday night in the ongoing controversy caused by top Harford school officials' decision not to attend a key state meeting on school construction funding requests earlier this month.

The session, held in Annapolis on Feb. 5, is an annual rite where local school leaders and politicians appear before the state Board of Public Works to explain why their local projects should receive funding. The board, made up of the governor, state comptroller and state treasurer, has final authority on such decisions.

Harford's interim superintendent Barbara Canavan and other school officials did not attend the meeting because of the weather, a school system spokesperson said. It had snowed Feb. 5 and schools were closed in Harford as a result, but their conspicuous absence has been uniformly criticized by Harford's state legislators.

Harford had requested $14.4 million for a variety of projects in the 2015 fiscal year, but the State Interagency on School Construction, the first step in the funding process, pared the amount to $10.1 million

During the county council's legislative meeting in Bel Air, Councilman Jim McMahan challenged those who criticized school officials for failing to show up in Annapolis.

McMahan said they had made attempts to send the necessary information by fax and "their thoughts were there."

He said critics should do more research before "we continue to throw the school board under the bus."

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti only partly agreed with McMahan.

Although the board of education members sent their comments, she said, "unfortunately they were not timely comments. They did not get there in time for the meeting."

Lisanti attended the Annapolis meeting, despite having lost power at her Havre de Grace home that day. She noted only two out of 24 jurisdictions failed to arrive: Harford and Frederick counties.

"Frederick was first on the list and they had a little trouble getting there," she said. Harford's appearance was scheduled for late in the afternoon.

Lisanti attended the session to support a request for local planning authority to move ahead on a new high school in Havre de Grace.

At the Have de Grace City Council meeting, also held Tuesday evening, City Councilman David Glenn lauded Lisanti for basically saving Havre de Grace High's bacon before the state.

Glenn said he had talked to both Lisanti and County Executive David Craig following the Board of Public Works meeting and both told him Gov. Martin O'Malley, who chairs the board, took a great interest in the project as an example of a "community school."

Aegis reporter David Anderson contributed to this story.

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