Stone to return to former city school board post

The Baltimore Sun

A former Baltimore school board member got his old position back in an appointment announced yesterday by Mayor Sheila Dixon and Gov. Martin O'Malley.

David Stone, 45, served on the board from 2002 to 2004, when he resigned to work as the school system's director of new and charter schools. He left the system last year to become director of special-education operations for Kennedy Krieger Institute, working in the division that provides services and runs a school for children with disabilities.

On the nine-member school board, Stone is filling the seat vacated by Kalman "Buzzy" Hettleman, a special-education advocate. Hettleman was appointed in 2005 to serve the remainder of Stone's previous term, which was up in June. Hettleman withdrew his name from consideration for reappointment after Dixon publicly sought other applicants.

Dixon, who jointly appoints the board with O'Malley, did not seek applicants to replace the other two board members whose terms were expiring. Economist Anirban Basu and actor Robert Heck were reappointed for three-year terms as expected.

As an administrator, Stone oversaw the opening of Baltimore's first 25 charter schools, which are public but operate independently. He is president of the board governing Afya Public Charter School, though he said he likely won't be able to remain now.

Stone holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the Johns Hopkins University, where he is working on his doctorate in educational leadership. His 4-year-old son attends pre-kindergarten at a city public school, Federal Hill Preparatory Academy.

The 1997 legislation creating the current school board required certain members to have expertise in various subjects. As the member with expertise in special education, Stone said his top priority will be helping the system to get out from under the 24-year-old lawsuit involving its special-education program.

City schools Chief Executive Officer Andres Alonso reports to the school board and must maintain a majority of board members' support to continue with the many reforms he has initiated since being hired in July 2007. Over the summer, his supporters were concerned when Dixon appointed a panel to interview board candidates that included some leading critics, among them the president of the disbanded Baltimore City Council of PTAs.

But in Stone, Dixon and O'Malley have appointed someone who is at least conceptually supportive of Alonso's course. Some board members are uneasy with the rapid pace of change, but not Stone. "I don't think the changes can come fast enough for some of these kids," he said yesterday. "Two or three years to get the ball rolling for bureaucrats is one thing but ... it's a quarter of a kid's educational experience."

Stone said his experience will benefit the board. "At the speed that Dr. Alonso moves, having someone who doesn't have a steep learning curve is helpful," he said.

Basu, 40, and Heck, 55, are both supporters of Alonso and said appointing him was the chief accomplishment of their first terms. Basu, chairman and CEO of the economic and policy consulting firm Sage Policy Group, and host of the Morning Economic Report on WYPR-FM, has served since 2005. Heck, host of the children's show Bob the Vid Tech on Maryland Public Television and a political comedian, was appointed last year to fill a vacancy.

"The most important thing a school board can do is choose an effective leader," Basu said.

Heck, former PTA president of Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, said he'd like to focus during his next term on improving school building conditions and communication with the public. Like Stone, he said resolving the lawsuit is a priority.

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