After considerable debate and delay, the Baltimore County school board chose Leonard Duffy, a Towson consultant and father of four, as its board liaison last night, fulfilling a recommendation of the task force it appointed last spring and summer to study issues plaguing the school system.
The Towson resident, who attended county schools, will work part-time for the board, hearing complaints and concerns from parents, teachers, students and others.
"I'm not the universal problem-solver. [My job] is listening, it's suggesting, and it's pointing people in the right direction," said Mr. Duffy, who has two children in county schools, the youngest of whom is disabled and attends an outreach program for autistic youngsters at Timonium Elementary School. He also has two sons who graduated from Loch Raven High School.
"By the time my son graduates -- and he will graduate -- I will have had children in the county schools for 31 years," Mr. Duffy said.
He will serve as liaison from today through June 30 for $14,500. Asked whether that was enough, Mr. Duffy said, "Ask me in June."
As a parent, he said, he has closely studied education and the changes within county schools. Until last night, he served on several school system committees. He will remain with the committee planning the magnet program for Cromwell Valley Elementary, which opens this fall.
"I don't have any axes to grind. I have no desire to be on the board. I'm not running for office. I have no reason not to be objective," said Mr. Duffy, president of Support Services Group Inc., which offers advice and training in writing proposals and doing business with the government.
He said he will take calls two hours a day on a phone in his home. At other times, callers will be able to leave messages. He said he intends to answer every call or letter within 48 hours and that he will report to the board monthly.
The phone number and the post office box number to which letters can be sent will be available next week.
In appointing Mr. Duffy, President Alan M. Leberknight said the board was complying with the "spirit of the ombudsman recommendation" made by the task force and was offering access, referral service and problem-solving to the system's parents, personnel and community.
The task force originally recommended that the board establish two ombudsmen: one for parents and another for school system employees.
The board rejected both proposals, saying they were "well intentioned" but illegal and likely to interfere with collective bargaining between the board and its employee unions. After considerable public pressure, however, the board announced last month that it would contract for liaison services that were "fiscally and legally prudent."