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Baltimore County Board of Education fails to elect leadership for the new year

The Board of Education of Baltimore County on Tuesday failed to elect a chair and vice chair for the new year and instead voted to recess the meeting until Thursday, Dec. 5, when the board will resume in closed session.

According to the board’s handbook, the board is to elect a chair and vice chair every year at its first meeting in December.

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Two Baltimore County Public Schools officials said there are at least two board members who are competing to be elected chair.

According to board policy, any motion of the board must pass with a minimum of seven votes. One board member, Roger Hayden, died earlier this year, lowering the number of voting board members. Brandon Oland, a school systems spokesman, said even with one fewer board member, a motion of the board still requires seven votes to pass.

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When the board elected Kathleen Causey as its chair last year, she got unanimous support.

Causey did not comment on the nature of the contest for board chair, but said in an email “We have accomplished a great deal in our first year as a new board. And under our current leadership team, I’d expect that momentum to continue to move the school system forward in a positive direction for all students.”

The chairperson of the Baltimore County board is empowered to preside over board meetings, develop agendas with the superintendent, assign members of the board to various committees and ensure the superintendent is evaluated annually. The chair also serves as a spokesperson for the board. The board’s handbook says “the role of the Board Chair is one of facilitating the board’s work, not directing it.”

During Tuesday’s public meeting, which started later than scheduled, Superintendent Darryl Williams proposed that the special election for chair and vice chair be moved to the end of the meeting.

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Causey said in an emailed response to questions that discussions during closed sessions are “confidential.”

When it came time for the board to discuss the election, vice chair Julie Henn moved to adjourn to administrative session. The board then spent more than two hours behind closed doors; when members returned to public session, they voted to recess the meeting until Dec. 5, at 5:30 p.m.

Causey said the closed session meeting on Thursday will discuss an administrative function “facilitating the work of the Board.” She did not offer more specifics.

Stephen Bounds, director of legal and policy services for the Maryland Associations of Boards of Education, said Maryland law requires boards of education to elect a chair. Bounds said he was unable to comment beyond that, but said he does not “think there is a plan B.”

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