An elected school board appears unlikely for now


Of the four bills to change how Anne Arundel County's school board is chosen, only the one that makes minor changes in the process appears likely to win the support of the county's 13 state delegates.

A bill supporting an elected school board, and two others giving the county executive the power to make the appointments, appeared all but dead after the delegates met Friday, some state legislators said.

At the meeting, a subcommittee studying the measures recommended support for Del. Michael E. Busch's bill. The Annapolis Democrat's bill would create a commission to screen school board candidates and require the governor to make the appointment from a list of three names supplied by the commission.

Rep. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat. said, "I think what we're doing here is creating an elitist clique that isn't going to respond to the needs of a public which is asking for more say in the process." Hers was the only opposition vote when the five-member subcommittee met.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Pasadena Democrat, said the county's five senators don't want to change the current process, in which the governor has the power to appoint board members.

"But I wouldn't wager anything on the outcome of any of those bills," he said. "I can tell you there's no support among the senators for an elected school board."

Delegate Busch's bill mirrors the current process of an ad hoc citizens group known as the School Board Nominating Convention Committee. Each year the committee sponsors forums where delegates from community groups interview prospective candidates, then select nominees. The names of the top two vote-getters are submitted to the governor.

The process worked well, committee members and state senators say, until county executives convinced the governor to overlook the committee's recommendation seven times, and public dissatisfaction began to grow.

At a public hearing on the four bills, a majority of those who testified said they favored an elected school board.

Del. John Leopold, a Pasadena Republican who headed the delegation's subcommittee, said Delegate Busch's bill represents a compromise.

"Anyone who really wants to participate would have to do both -- submit a resume to the commission and go through the nominating convention process," he said.

Chuck Mosca, vice chairman of the existing convention committee, said he didn't think that would happen.

"If I'm a candidate-applicant and I think I have a good shot at being selected by the commission, why am I going to do both the commission and the convention process?" he asked.

"I'm just going to throw my hat in the ring with the commission. We have a process that works, if they'll just let it work."

The ideal bill, he said, would require the governor to select board members from the nominating convention's list of choices. That's how the governor treats the recommendation of Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, which submits the name of a single student to serve on the board. The student has the same voting privileges as the board's seven adult members.

Also on Friday, the committee heard a pitch from county officials who want them to obtain $3 million for two community projects.

In one project, $1 million in state money matched by the county would be used as an incentive to get a developer to build shops, houses and offices in Glen Burnie's "Superblock."

The other $2 million would be used to help restore Wiley H. Bates High School, once a segregated school for blacks and now on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans include putting a senior center in the building and building apartments for senior citizens.

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