Howard drafting bill to alter school board

Howard County officials outlined a bill Tuesday proposing a hybrid county school board with five district-elected seats and two appointed members that the county executive would choose with County Council approval.

The bill, being sponsored by Del. Frank Turner and still being drafted, comes the day after the county's School Board Study Commission made its final recommendations to County Executive Ken Ulman. The commission was put together by Ulman to study the makeup of the board because of concerns about racial and geographic diversity.

The commission voted last week to recommend that the school board switch from a seven-member, elected at-large body to a panel of five members elected by district and two appointed.

On Monday night, the commission voted to recommend giving appointed members a four-year, one-term limit. The members also suggested that the structure be re-examined periodically and that public input be involved.

The bill, which must be passed by the county delegation, would then require legislative approval during the General Assembly's special session in October. Del. Guy Guzzone said Monday that there would be a public hearing on the bill Oct. 11.

If approved, the legislation, which calls for the county executive to ensure that the school board "reflects the race, gender and ethnic diversity of Howard County," would take effect before January's primary filing deadline.

The bill says that with three of the county's seven seats up for election, representatives of council District 4 and District 5 would be chosen during next year's election (the bill noted that the incumbents whose terms expire next year live in those districts) and one appointee would be selected.

In 2014, four of seven seats are up for election. The bill calls for seats in Districts 1-3 to be elected and an appointee to be selected.

Ulman announced the move in a Tuesday news conference with Turner. Ulman said the bill would address racial and geographic concerns.

"When I look at the fact that we have very little geographic diversity, that only four of the members elected in the history of elected boards of education in Howard County have lived east of [U.S.] 29, that is something that concerns me," Ulman said.

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