Members of the county school board who oppose a standing education committee for Annapolis didn't testify at last night's public hearing on the proposal -- but their message came across loud and clear in private talks with Alderman Carl O. Snowden.
"We're going to listen to the concerns of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education and incorporate them into the bill before it goes to the full council on Nov. 8," said Mr. Snowden, the Ward 5 Democrat who introduced legislation to create the committee.
Acting Superintendent Carol S. Parham and Thomas Twombly, the school board president, attended the hearing -- which drew 15 people -- but spoke only privately with Mr. Snowden, whose bill would establish a nine-member committee to monitor the performance of county schools within the Annapolis attendance area. The committee would act as a liaison between the council and the school board.
Each of the eight aldermen and the mayor would appoint a committee member.
Mr. Snowden said he drafted the bill because he felt the one meeting between the council and school board this year -- the first in anyone's memory -- wasn't enough.
School board members said they felt that meeting was a sign the two groups can communicate.
"The committee would be bigger than the school board," Jo Ann Tollenger, a board member, said yesterday. "I don't feel threatened by it, but I think the last thing this school board needs right now is someone shadowing us."
Ms. Tollenger, who was unable to attend last night's hearing, said the board has been sensitive to the needs of Annapolis area schools by lowering teacher-student ratios and agreeing to reopen Adams Park Elementary, which is being used to teach students with behavior problems instead of for neighborhood children.
Based on comments at the hearing from Annapolis community leaders such as Rhonda Pindell-Charles, Mr. Snowden said he already has agreed to three amendments to his bill.
Ms. Pindell-Charles, among four people who testified in favor of the bill, expressed concern that county residents whose children attend schools inside the city limits could be excluded from participating in the committee.
"The principal of Hillsmere Elementary also was here, and that school is located outside city limits," Mr. Snowden said. "And children of Annapolis, including my own son, attend that school, so I've agreed to amend my bill so they [non-Annapolis residents] can participate."
Another amendment would establish operating guidelines instead of more binding bylaws under which the committee would operate, Mr. Snowden said.
Despite the amendments, Alderman Dean L. Johnson, a Ward 2 independent, doesn't think the committee is a good idea.
"The whole gist of the demand in Carl's mind for the school board was the redistricting we went through less than a year ago," Mr. Johnson said.
That redistricting, coordinated by the Citizens Advisory Committees in each school, "seemed to work fairly well," Mr. Johnson said, but he added that the proposed committee could make it "either a nightmare or a technical difficulty in trying to represent each school equally and each neighborhood separately."
Mr. Johnson did favor one aspect of Mr. Snowden's initiative, the requirement that the proposed committee publish an annual report on the state of county schools.
"I'd like to see an annual report, a list of problems and budget recommendations from all the city's boards and commissions," he said. "It's so simple and logical I don't know why we haven't done it before. "