Monday, October 16, 2006

Need An Education About the School Board?

Confused about how the School Board selection process works in Anne Arundel County? I assure you, you are not alone. For the past several years, there has been considerable discussion about putting the school board up for popular election. Those efforts have consistently failed, and there is considerable speculation as to whether they would improve or worsen matters. However, keep in mind that we currently have a backlog of something like $1.5 billion in needed school improvements.

Regardless, here's a profile of the current state of the school board selection process, one we won't get to vote on in three weeks.

A Step-by-step account:

  • Candidates are nominated by an "eligible organization." (for this purpose, an "eligible organization" is "a PT(S)As, PT(S)Os, civic, religious, service group or trade council. The organization must have been in existence for at least a year prior to the convention, have bylaws, at least ten members, and have primarily an adult membership.")
  • The interview process begins with a nominating convention comprised of "delegates" (for this purpose, a "delegate" is a representative of an "eligible organization." Each "eligible organization" can send up to four "delegates.")
  • "At a series of public hearings in April, delegates to the nominating convention listen to the candidates and have an opportunity to ask questions."
  • "A convention held in May gives delegates an opportunity to vote for the candidate they feel will best serve on the school board."
  • "Convention bylaws indicate that the top two names for each open seat are sent to the governor."
  • "The governor makes the appointment. [Governors of Maryland have usually chosen to appoint someone who has been screened and nominated by this process, though it is not a requirement by law.]"
  • History of this Byzantine process: "Before charter government -- before the county had a county executive -- senators from the Anne Arundel County delegation would identify candidates for the school board. The community wanted to be more involved in the appointment process. Through the support of the County Council of PTAs, a nominating convention was born in 1979. Organizations with an interest in education sent delegates to public hearings to hear and question candidates. At the May convention, delegates would vote for a candidate. A list of the top vote getters was drawn up and sent to the governor for consideration."



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