After a long haul, board vacancies finally filled

The Baltimore Sun

After prospective members spent more than a year of knocking on doors, filling out questionnaires and collecting countless signatures, the county school board is finally complete.

New member Allen Dyer and returning members Ellen Flynn Giles and Janet Siddiqui, each took the administration of the oath of office during the board's meeting Monday.

"I can think of no higher honor than to serve my country," said Dyer, an attorney from Ellicott City who had run unsuccessfully for the board in 2006. He placed third in the race for three open seats.

Siddiqui, a pediatrician from Clarksville who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board last year, said it was an honor and pleasure to continue working on the board.

"I'm humbled," said Siddiqui, the top vote-getter in the Nov. 4 election.

Siddiqui thanked her family, friends and supporters.

"I'm ready to take on the challenges," she said, adding that she wanted to focus on closing the achievement gap among races. She added that she wanted to continue looking at the "whole needs" of the child.

Giles, a Scaggsville resident who served as the board vice chairwoman and is a senior editor and analyst with Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill Co., thanked her fellow candidates for providing civility and substantive discussions during the campaign.

"Whether or not you have children in the school system, our future is in the classroom," she said.

Continuity in leadership

Meanwhile, the leadership roles for board members will remain the same.

The board unanimously extended the stints of Chairman Frank Aquino and Vice Chairman Giles for another year.

"I'm very pleased," Aquino said. "It's an honor to be named again."

Aquino praised central office employees, teachers, administrators and other school personnel, and he also thanked his wife and children.

Giles, who was able to make her second acceptance speech of the evening, expressed gratitude for the positive working relationship with the board.

"We have a lot of work to do, and we have many challenges ahead," she said, adding that she was hopeful that the board could tackle the challenges by working together.

No serious flaws found

An independent auditing firm found no serious deficiencies in the county's public school system, according to a new report.

The report, which was prepared by Clifton Gunderson LLP, included several recommendations for the school system:

* Craft written procedures for school bus contracting.

* Purchase a new bus billing program.

* Document the entire bid approval process for construction projects.

* Create a new policy to ensure that all fees are billed in a timely manner.

* Create a password policy that would require employees to change their computer passwords every 30 to 90 days.

Top-ranking school officials say they have developed plans to address most of the suggestions.

The recommendations were not viewed as serious, school officials said.

"None of the recommendations represent errors, omissions or faults on our part," said Beverly Davis, director of finance for the school system. "These [recommendations] target best practices."

School board member Larry Cohen said that the results were "pretty impressive."

Cohen also said that the school system corrected any points highlighted in last year's report.

"It's always nice to see that there is no repetition from last year," he said.

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