Anne Arundel lawmakers move forward to change school board selection process

PoliticsElectionsAnne Arundel County

A group of Anne Arundel County lawmakers have voted to move forward with efforts to change the way the county's school board is selected.

Del. Steve Schuh, a Republican who chairs the education subcommittee of the county's House delegation, said that his group voted to send the county's full delegation a bill that would eventually change the current nine-member appointed school board to a body of five elected and four appointed members.

The bill is an amended form of a proposal that called for increasing the school board size to 11 members and allowing voters to elect members to the two additional seats.

Under the current process, eight board members are appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by a county panel. The ninth member is a high school student selected by the countywide Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils.

Schuh said the subcommittee rejected another bill that called for a hybrid school board as well as a proposal to place a straw poll regarding board selection on the November election ballot that would have asked whether voters supported changing the board from appointed to elected.

The subcommittee chose not to act on a bill that calls for elections for board members; that bill remains active, he said.

"I am very encouraged that the subcommittee embraced the concept of an elected school board for Anne Arundel County," Schuh said. "It is appropriate that we bring an element of democracy and direct citizen involvement in the selection process for the Anne Arundel school board."

Current school board member Deborah Ritchie said in an interview that she doesn't have any preference for an elected board or appointed board. "I know [those who favor elected boards] keep talking about accountability and being responsible to the citizens," she said, "and I'm not sure ... what we're not doing that they think we would be doing if we were elected."

The effort to change the board's makeup comes at a time when several local school systems have considered changing the way their school board members are selected.

Last year, Howard County considered revamping its current at-large, elected board to a hybrid model with two appointed members and five elected by district. The measure was sponsored by Del. Frank Turner after some residents expressed concern about that they said was a lack of geographical and racial diversity on the board. But the proposal faced strong opposition, and the measure was withdrawn.

Baltimore County formed a task force last year to consider changing the way its board is selected, but that group decided not to take a position. Sens. Bobby Zirkin and Jim Brochin have sponsored a bill in this year's General Assembly that calls for an all-elected school board.

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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