Neither candidate for the chairmanship — incumbent chairwoman Kathleen Causey or challenger Cheryl E. Pasteur — was able to get the required seven votes to win. Pasteur had six votes and Causey had five.
The vote was complicated by the fact that there are normally 12 voting members of the school board, but one seat has been vacant since last October’s death of board member Roger Hayden. Pasteur has said she believes Hayden would have voted for her, getting her to the required seven votes.
Several state lawmakers have proposed a bill that would say that the school board’s chairman and vice chairman would be selected by a majority of the board members serving at that time. If that rule had been in place when the Baltimore County board voted in December, Pasteur would have had six of 11 votes, representing a majority.
Del. Eric Ebersole said the vote over the chairmanship highlighted a problem that hadn’t been anticipated.
“I think it clarifies the democratic method of picking,” said Ebersole, a Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill. “I would think the members of the board would want to elect their chair by a democratic process.”
Sen. Charles Sydnor, the other lead sponsor of the bill, said it’s unusual that a person who wins the most votes wouldn’t get a position.
“I don’t think anybody was aware this was a possibility. It showed a hole in this process,” said Sydnor, a Democrat.
Causey said the bill is unnecessary because the law is clear: Absent a vote to change the leadership, the status quo remains. The state school board issued an advisory opinion Wednesday affirming the county board’s interpretation of the law.
She said no lawmakers reached out to her before introducing the bill.
“I am concerned about legislation that affects the board that has not been discussed with me as the board chair or the board’s legislative and government relations committee,” Causey said.
If the bill is approved by lawmakers and the governor, the new law would take effect immediately. Causey said the school board’s attorney has advised them the board could hold another leadership vote at any time.