Solving the community college mess Baltimore County: Lawmakers must stop naming unqualified friends to the board.


A VARIETY OF IDEAS for correcting the problems plaguing Baltimore County's community college board of trustees are floating about. Even the good ones do not go to the heart of the problem -- the incompetence and politicization of the board, caused by state senators with a history of appointing friends without the proper skills or background for the task.

The worst of the proposals would establish a separate board for each of the three colleges. That would be a giant step backward. Consolidating the junior colleges at Dundalk, Essex and Catonsville into a single system is a must. Wasteful overlap in administrations and programs must be eliminated.

The most useful of the proposed changes, term limits for board members, should be approved. Draft legislation prepared by Sen. Paula Hollinger would limit members to two five-year terms. That would be long enough to provide continuity, but without preventing a regular infusion of new blood.

The goal behind another idea -- changing the board's composition to allow more geographic balance -- is to prevent members from one area of the county from dominating. This change wouldn't hurt and might help rein in the east side's disproportionate influence.

Still, geographic imbalances are less important than the quality of the people the senators appoint. Most all community college boards in Maryland are filled by the governor upon senators' recommendations. Baltimore County's board is loaded with the friends and supporters of a few senators. One member is a campaign treasurer for Sen. Michael J. Collins. Another works for Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell. Another is the brother-in-law of Del. Kathy Klausmeier, with ties to Messrs. Bromwell and Collins.

There is nothing wrong with politicians appointing people they like; they're not going to give jobs to their enemies. But the public expects them to appoint competent people. This board's behavior -- its heavy-handed treatment of faculty, its potentially illegal hirings and firings, its lack of respect for its own bylaws -- shows that some senators have not taken seriously their responsibility to choose top-notch candidates. Until that changes, legislative repairs to the community college board will amount to little more than a Band-aid.

Pub Date: 1/23/97

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