Carroll County Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5
Carroll County Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5 (Submitted photo / HANDOUT)

Carroll County's delegation in Annapolis is throwing its weight behind a bill seeking to place term limits on the county Board of Education.

On Friday, the delegation decided to sponsor a bill put forward earlier this month by Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, that prohibits school board members from serving more than two consecutive terms.

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The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Reading Ways and Means Committee on March 15. Because it is a local bill, affecting only Carroll County, and has sponsorship from the local delegation, it will likely be given the local courtesy afforded to most pieces of local legislation in Annapolis.

If it passes in the General Assembly, because of an amendment made to the original bill by the delegation, it will be subject to approval by the residents of Carroll County in a countywide vote. That vote, Shoemaker said, would likely occur during the General Election in November.

With the amendment included, no delegation members voted against sponsoring the bill, he said. Del. Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, abstained from voting and Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9A, did not attend the meeting, Shoemaker said.

The feedback he's gotten from the community since first suggesting the legislation in December — a week after the board voted to close three county schools — has been mostly positive, he said.

"I'm confident that the people in Carroll County are overwhelmingly in favor of term limits for everybody, from the dog catcher on up," Shoemaker said.

The Board of Commissioners is subject to a limit of two consecutive terms, something Shoemaker championed during his tenure as a county commissioner. Currently, the five voting members of the Board of Education are elected to four-year terms. Two seats on the board are up for election this year — those held by board President Jim Doolan, who is serving his first term, and board member Jennifer Seidel, who is serving her second term. Seidel has said she will not seek re-election, while Doolan is seeking to run again.

If passed, the legislation would only count toward future terms, meaning board members currently serving their second term would not be barred from running for re-election in their next election cycle.

The Carroll County Board of Education has said it is opposed to the bill.

In a statement released in response to Shoemaker's proposal earlier in February, the board accused the delegate of being politically motivated in pursuing the legislation.

"A review of board member tenure over the last several decades reveals that very few Board of Education members serve more than two terms," the statement said, referencing the fact that only a few board members in recent history have served for more than two consecutive terms. "We believe strongly that is the right of the majority of citizens to select the Board of Education members that they believe best serve the community every four years."

Board of Education member Devon Rothschild said she thinks letting the community decide whether to impose the term limits is a good idea.

"Personally, I believe in term limits," she said. "As a Board of Education, though, we are always going to support local control of local decisions."

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said the idea of allowing the public to have the final say in the matter by putting it to a vote allowed some delegation members to feel more comfortable with sponsoring the bill.

"It was kind of a consensus," he said, noting that the delegation has heard largely positive feedback on the measure.

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Even if the public chooses not to support the idea of term limits on school board members, it's a conversation worth having, Ready said.

"It's an opportunity for people to at least think about it," he said. "I'm really interested to see what the public thinks."

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