Following the passage of state legislation last year, the Harford County Board of Education is in the early stages of a transition from a fully appointed, seven-member board to a nine-member blended board consisting of both appointed and elected members.
The first school board elections were held last week, when the voters chose three new board members – Bob Frisch, Cassandra Beverley and Rick Grambo – to replace three sitting board members whose appointments expire next June. Rick Grambo will eventually replace Robin Rich, but by law, the newly elected members don’t take office until July 1, 2011.
Rich’s early departure, she announced Monday night a planned December resignation, will therefore leave a vacancy in the North Harford district between this December and next July, an especially challenging period that will include elementary school redistricting, new rules affecting labor negotiations and tough budget decisions.
Rich, who was originally appointed in 2002 and once served as board president, had opposed school board elections and later was a critic of the legislation that created a lag between the time new members are elected in November and the time they take office the following July.
At the school board meeting Monday, Rich read from her resignation letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley, saying that the elected school board members had been chosen and “It is now time for me to move on.” Speaking directly to Grambo, who was in the audience, Rich said that she hoped they would talk during the next month.
Her voice cracking with emotion, Rich concluded, “It’s clear to me that this is the right timing and I will miss this very, very much.”
“We didn’t anticipate that board members would leave early,” state Senator Barry Glassman said in reaction to Rich’s announcement. Glassman, who was the lead sponsor of the blended school board legislation, also said that the delay between Election Day and the swearing in of elected members was to give newly elected members time to get up to speed on board business and to match the terms of appointed members (which begin on July 1, per state law.) But Glassman said that he was open to fine tuning the legislation in the future.
Filling the Gap
If Gov. Martin O’Malley chooses to fill the short term vacancies left by Rich in North Harford and Smilko in Joppa, he has several options. He may appoint Grambo and/or Frisch, who were elected in the two districts respectively, to interim appointments and seat them immediately, rather than have them wait to take office in July. The governor also has two new appointed members to name to the school board in 2010, and while they also won’t take office until July, the governor could name the newest appointed members to additional interim appointments.
Asked specifically about the possibility of the newly elected board members being given interim appointments, Pat Foerster, education advisor in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s appointment office said, “I think it makes sense, unless there is some information that I don’t have.” She said that she would be looking to make sure there were no legal impediments to the move, but stressed that no decisions had been made. However, Forester said that the governor was concerned about the vacancies and the areas of Harford County that would not have representation on the school board, and she anticipated that he would be responsive to the situation.