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Method of selecting school boards is debated, with no consensus seen Appointment by governor and election are options


Despite public frustration over how school board members are chosen, no one can agree on a better way.

Some like the way it is now, with the governor making the appointment. Some want an elected board, and others want the county executive or County Council to pick.

Anne Arundel's state legislators will try to find out what the majority wants today at a 7 p.m. public hearing in the Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building in Annapolis.

"Everybody wants a bite of that apple," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat. "As I was telling someone facetiously the other day, maybe we should let the County Council pick two board members, the executive pick two, the governor pick two and elect two."

Over the last two years, citizens have complained regularly about the appointment process, claiming they've been shut out.

For 25 years, an ad hoc committee has sponsored debates for school board candidates to ensure the public has a say in the selection process. Delegates from community groups attend the debates, vote and send the names of the top two vote-getters to the governor.

Seven times in the last 12 years they've watched county executives persuade the governor to overlook the School Board Nominating Convention's list of names. This year, however, Gov. Parris N. Glendening did choose from the list.

"It worked this time," Mr. Jimeno said. "And I think we should let it go and let it work and see what happens. And there seems to be no consensus yet on how to improve it."

Del. John R. Leopold, who with Mr. Jimeno co-chairs the Joint Committee on School Board Selection, disagrees.

The Pasadena Republican said he believes the convention should be acknowledged in state law as part of the official appointment process.

"I think that if we limit the appointing authority -- whoever that might be -- to the top choice of the convention, I think we could rekindle public interest in the convention process," Mr. Leopold said. "But we want to see what the public hearings offer. The key will be trying to form a consensus."

Another hearing is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association meeting.

After the hearings, the legislators will decide what, if any, laws should be presented to the General Assembly.

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