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2 school board bills rejected by county's senators


Anne Arundel's senators voted yesterday to shelve two bills that would change the way the county's school board is chosen.

The delegation voted 5-0 to reject a bill that would have given the county executive the authority to appoint the school board. County Executive John G. Gary had sought the legislation, arguing that since the county has fiscal responsibility for the school system, the county executive should appoint the board.

A second bill, sponsored by Del. Michael E. Busch and already approved by the full House of Delegates, would have created a 13-member commission with the job of nominating three candidates for the school board. The governor would choose members from those candidates.

The senators rejected that bill by a 3-2 vote, with Sens. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Glen Burnie Republican, and John A. Cade, a Severna Park Republican, voting no. Sen. John C. Astle, an Annapolis Democrat, and Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who represents a small portion of southern Anne Arundel, voted for the bill.

The delegation recommended that both bills be sent for summer study. With a new governor and a new county executive, there was no inclination by the delegation to take action this session on the appointment process, Mr. Jimeno said.

The bills were among five dealing with the school board selection process that were introduced to the General Assembly. Other bills, including one that would have created an elected school board, already have died.

The legislation was introduced amid growing sentiment that the current selection process, in which community representatives attend a convention and nominate a school board candidate, needs an overhaul. During the past eight years, the convention's nominee has been ignored seven times. The governor has instead appointed the candidate recommended by the county executive.

Mr. Busch said the Senate now has the responsibility to come up with a solution to the problems nagging the nominating process.

"I think for the integrity of the system, the public rightfully deserves a nominating process. Either that, or you're just going to have to expect an elected school board and rightfully so," Mr. Busch said.

"Now it's incumbent on the Senate to take some kind of action," he said. "The longer you delay it, the worse it is for the county as far as the selection process is concerned."

Larry R. Telford, a spokesman for Mr. Gary, said the bill that would give the executive the authority to appoint school board members will be back next year.

"The bad news is our local officials have put off a decision on how to make our school board more accountable. So we'll have to continue on our current pace even though voters sent out a message last November that we clearly have to change the way government operates," Mr. Telford said.

"The good news is the senators didn't accept the Busch plan," he said. "The Busch plan basically takes our current system that everyone agrees isn't working and makes it worse. . . . For some reason we have some senators and delegates who want the governor to be in charge of our school system."

Anne Arundel school board President Michael Pace said he would like to see the bill giving the county executive appointing authority emerge from summer study, but without a provision that would give County Council members the power to recall school board members.

"I believe the county executive is much closer to the grass roots than the governor," he said.

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