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Delegates will vote on school board bill Referendum sought in '98 to pick method of selecting members


The Anne Arundel County school board selection process has begun, once again under the threat that the county's delegation to the General Assembly will try to dismantle it.

While School Board Nominating Convention leaders say interest in the convention is increasing, the county's House delegation is set to vote today on a bill that would let voters in the 1998 general election decide whether to keep the existing system or choose a new one.

Now, the convention makes recommendations to the governor, who may approve the convention's choice or name someone different. Other choices the bill would allow are creating an elected school board or keeping the nominating system, but with the twist that the county executive could make the final choice.

Efforts to change the school board selection process have become an annual ritual with the county's delegation since former Gov. William Donald Schaefer ignored the convention's nominees, making appointments on advice from county executives.

Last year, County Executive John G. Gary, who wanted more control over the school system's $400-million-plus budget, campaigned vigorously to wrest school board appointment power from the governor. He lost when the delegation rejected all efforts to change the system. Gary opposes this year's proposed bill.

It is questionable whether the bill Del. John Leopold, a Pasadena Republican, has drafted will get out of the delegation room.

RTC "The posturing that is going on behind the scenes is definitely killing the bill," said Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who favors an elected board. "I will be very surprised if the bill gets seven votes Friday morning."

A bill needs nine votes for delegation sponsorship and at least seven for a show of support from the 13-member delegation, which would push it to the Ways and Means Committee. Ways and Means, which would control the bill, is reluctant to pass local measures that lack delegation sponsorship.

'A difficult road'

Meanwhile, two possible amendments are circulating among Republicans and Democrats who oppose the bill.

"I would say it's got a difficult road to go, and it may well just not start the trip," said Del. Robert Baldwin, a Gambrills Republican and co-sponsor of the bill who will be out of town today.

"Is it the way I want it? No," said Del. Michael Burns, a Glen Burnie Republican who last year favored county executive appointments. "I honestly don't know what I am going to do Friday, and I am not alone in that boat."

Del. James Rzepkowski, a Pasadena Republican, is in there with him.

Meanwhile, the School Board Nominating Convention Committee is busy with this year's convention.

Two five-year board terms end June 30. At-large board member Michael A. Pace of Edgewater said he will not seek a second term. District 32 board member Joseph H. Foster of Linthicum is undecided.

"I've had at least five individuals indicate to me at least privately they are very seriously interested in running," said the Rev. David G. Berg, convention chairman. "Considering that two years ago we had two persons for two positions, and we are several weeks away from the deadline, that is very good."

Only Vaughan Brown, Citizens Advisory Committee chairman for Meade High School, has publicly expressed interest in the unsalaried position.

Candidates must apply by March 1.

More than 900 delegate packets have been sent to school and community groups that will name their representatives. Last year, about 170 ballots were cast by delegates from 76 groups -- hardly overwhelming but more than in the recent past. Delegates have until March 15 to register.

The committee will hold three two-hour candidate hearings. Each delegate must attend one.

The hearings will be April 8 at Meade High School, April 17 at

Annapolis Senior High School and April 23 at Chesapeake Senior High School. All hearings begin at 7 p.m. Delegates will vote at the May 7 convention at Glen Burnie High School.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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