The Harford County Council l has five candidates to fill the school board vacancy left by the death of sitting board member Kathryn “Kathy” Carmello. They hope to fill the seat by Feb. 18, but cannot promise to.
Above all, Council President Patrick Vincenti said, the council is looking for someone with the same commitment to education as Carmello.
“We want someone with some experience,” he said. “We absolutely want someone with the same passion and desire as Ms. Carmello had to advocate for education and her students.”
Carmello died as a result of complications during heart surgery in December. Her death left the county council in the unanticipated situation of appointing a person to an elected position.
The candidates are: Jim Antal, Donald Hoopes, Joan Michel, Carol Muller and Laura Perrault.
Vincenti said Friday that a sixth candidate had submitted a letter of intent, but backed out after realizing the time commitment for the position. Tuesday was the last day to send a letter of intent signaling interest in the vacancy.
The council gained the authority make such an appointment after legislation changed the structure of the school board over a decade ago. What used to be a nine-member board wholly appointed by the governor became a hybrid of six elected and three appointed officials.
The five candidates will now be interviewed by a small group — consisting of Vincenti, the county attorney, county administrator, District C Councilman Tony Giangiordano and Councilman Curtis Beulah, who is the liaison to the school board. After that, they’ll be interviewed by each councilperson when they are available.
“My hope is that we find several qualified people in this group to choose from,” Vincenti said. “Once we get into the interviews, we will better know where we are.”
The interviews will not be public. Though the law does not require the vetting to happen behind closed doors, Vincenti said that the past interviews of members of council and the board were not public.
“There is no reason we cannot do a public process for this, but it would be a special session of the council,” which would have to be advertised and televised from the council chambers in Bel Air, Vincenti said.
Vincenti hopes the process is completed by the council’s Feb. 18 meeting, but scheduling time for each of the seven council members to interview the applicants has been challenging.
“That was just a target date that the school board president though would be something we could have in place by then,” he said. “We are hoping to do that, but it is not a guarantee.”
Applicants had to be a registered voter of Harford County for at least three years prior to beginning the term of office, and a resident of councilmanic District C, as was Carmello.
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Aegis editor S. Wayne Carter Jr. contributed to this article.