Board of Education Vice President Lee Merrell introduced a motion at last night’s meeting to remove the position on school board elections from a proposed Legislative Platform for the 2009 Maryland General Assembly session.
Merrell said the Board was split on the issue and while he personally favored elections, he wanted to “leave each board member free to take a position” by taking no official stance as a board. The proposed Legislative Platform included language opposing elections in favor of having board members appointed by the Governor.
Merrell’s support for a neutral position was echoed by Board President Pat Hess, who did not make his personal preferences known. Board member John Smilko said he favored appointments but agreed the school board should take no position.
Taking the opposing view, newly appointed Board Member Alysson Krchnavy said she supported keeping the position because an appointed board was needed “for the benefit of the children.”
Krchnavy had been passed over by a nominating commission created last summer by County Councilman Richard Slutzky to interview candidates for two open seats on the Board and make recommendations to the Governor. The commission was composed of Harford County elected officials who voted to support Nancy Reynolds, Distinguished Principal of a National Blue Ribbon School and Dr. Mohammad Reza Shahab, an international expert on vocational and technical instruction, but neither candidate received an appointment.
Instead, Governor Martin O’Malley appointed both Krchnavy and Dr. Leonard Wheeler, who did not participate in the commission process, to 5 year terms this past July. Wheeler, an unsuccessful candidate for Slutzky’s seat on the County Council in 2006, last night questioned the benefits of elections for the school board.
Support for keeping an official position also came from Board members Mark Wolkow and Robin Rich, both of whom oppose elections. Wolkow, who once testified in Annapolis that a referendum establishing an elected school board would pass overwhelmingly in Harford County, said Monday night that 95% of the people he had personally polled oppose school board elections.
Both Wolkow and John Smilko said they hoped a reconfigured nominating commission could be established in the future. A bill to create such a commission was sponsored last session by Delegate Mary-Dulany James, but it did not have the support of the Harford County Delegation and died later in committee.
Merrell’s motion failed by a vote of 3 to 4. The Legislative Platform for 2009, including language opposing school board elections, was then unanimously approved by the Harford County Board of Education.