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News Opinion Readers Respond

Baltimore County residents want a hybrid school board

There are major problems with your editorial on the departure of Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and the selection of the Baltimore County Board of Education ("Rethinking oversight," Oct. 16).

First, it was the 12-member legislative task force, not the public, that could not "coalesce" behind a new selection process. Public opinion has been very clear, not only in meetings, but also through hundreds of phone calls, e-mails, letters and conversations over the past few years that BCPS is essentially dysfunctional and not directly accountable to the public.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz voiced his opinion in a recent comment stating he had reservations about an elected school board because parents would vote to put "golden doorknobs in every school."

School board appointments are a state legislative issue because the governor appoints the school board. The state legislature should turn this process over to local voters and give us the opportunity to choose a hybrid board.

Baltimore County needs a school board with elected and appointed members, a board that should be removed from the reach of the county executive, whose office already holds too much power over the school budget.

The Sun's editorial did not seem to understand the "power grab" by former county executive Jim Smith on behalf of Mr. Kamenetz, who appointed him. Mr. Smith's proposal, a 25-member commission, would have put the entire process basically into the hands of the county executive, to be rubber-stamped by the governor.

The Sun's belief that a decision about an elected or hybrid school board in Baltimore County should "wait" ignores a fact stated repeatedly at one of the task force meetings: Ninety-four percent of school boards in the U.S. are elected.

Now that Caroline County has passed legislation to move to a hybrid board, Baltimore County has one of the few school systems in Maryland with an all-appointed school board.

In stating the public has not expressed its views in favor of change after years of struggling with BCPS, more than a whiff of influence by both the former and current county executive is detectable in your opinion.

Julie Sugar and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell

The authors are parents of children who attend Loch Raven High School.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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