School board nominee's loyalties challenged


The nomination of Anne Arundel Community College President Thomas Florestano to fill in for five months on the county public school board is being questioned by the County Council of PTAs and the former board member whose resignation created the vacancy.

Criticism grew last weekend, as news spread that Dr. Florestano had been nominated to the post by County Executive Robert R. Neall. The appointment, however, is up to the governor.

"Of course, I'm in no position to tell the governor what to do, but just because I resigned doesn't mean I don't care what happens," said Jo Ann Tollenger, who quit Jan. 7, citing personal reasons.

What bothers her, she said, is that in the coming budget negotiations with the county executive and the County Council, Dr. Florestano would have to advocate for both the school system and his college.

Dr. Florestano has announced an ambitious program for the college, including granting employees a raise to compensate for going three years without one.

"I sense there might be a conflict over the budget," Dr. Florestano agreed. "I can't defend both budgets, and they'll have to realize that. I need to be aggressive for the community college budget. Our employees need a raise, and we need to add new teaching positions. They'll just have to understand my participation will be limited. But I can keep the seat warm, help them search for a new superintendent and continue the good relations" between the school board and county government.

But the balance already is being questioned by Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs and a candidate for the House of Delegates in District 31. She noted that Dr. Florestano had told the Capital that he "didn't care" about the public school budget.

"If he doesn't care, in his own words, why does he even want to take the position?" asked Mrs. Roeding. "No one should fill this vacancy as a favor that is owed to any individual. The person who takes this position should want it."

Mrs. Roeding also questioned whether Dr. Florestano's schedule would leave him free to attend board meetings and budget hearings in February.

"Will he have that time to give?" she asked. "If the only reason for putting him there is to help select the new superintendent, maybe he should wait until after Wednesday's board meeting to decide if he wants to be considered."

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