Talk about a hot seat. These days few seats of power are hotter than that of the Baltimore County school board president. The person who now finds himself occupying that chair is Alan Leberknight, the president and chief executive officer of the Bank of Baltimore.
Recent reports suggest the bank is steadying after some shaky times. Mr. Leberknight hopes to see the same thing happen with the school system, which has been rocked by controversy since School Superintendent Stuart Berger began implementing some needed educational reforms last year.
It's increasingly clear that most -- though not all -- of the critics of Dr. Berger and the board have less of a beef with the reform fTC agenda than with the sloppy, sometimes arrogant way it has been implemented. Mr. Leberknight himself admits that board members and school officials goofed when they assumed a year ago that the reforms in the "Great Expectations for 2000" report would be embraced simply because they had been drafted under former School Superintendent Robert Dubel. He also concedes that board members have traditionally paid little attention to the details of the system's daily workings.
Acknowledging those errors now, Mr. Leberknight vows that the board will be more closely involved with the details and do a better job of informing parents, teachers and principals about changes before they're made.
With his corporate background and his experience as a former county high school teacher, Mr. Leberknight appears a good candidate for the important job of reaching out to county residents who have felt alienated during the past school year. As caustic as his predecessor as board president, Rosalie Hellman, could be at times, that's how smooth Mr. Leberknight can be.
One of his first acts as board president was to name a task force of prominent local citizens to examine the key controversies of the year -- inclusion for special education students and the demotion of about 40 administrators -- and issue a report by Aug. 10. Dr. Berger is made a little nervous by the creation of this panel, even hinting that a damning report might push him to resign.
Still, we believe the formation of the task force, while unprecedented for internal management issues, is a wise course to take, particularly if it can help erase the public perception that the people running the county school system are uncaring and out of touch.