Got a stake in public education? Here’s a chance to do something about it.
For the first time this election year, voters living in each of Harford County’s six council districts can elect a representative to the school board. The filing deadline for qualified candidates is February 25th.
The upcoming elections cap off a years-long transition from an appointed school board to a board with six members elected in-district plus three at-large members appointed by the governor. The change to a nine-member blended board was set in motion by a 2009 state law adding Harford County to the majority of school boards that have elected members.
Local school boards in Maryland hire the superintendent, set local education policy, establish school boundaries, select schools to build or renovate, and balance their requested budget with available funding, among other duties.
The Harford County Board of Education serves nearly 38,000 students in 54 schools, and employs 5,000 workers, overseeing the 147th largest public school system in the nation. In dollar terms, the Harford School Board controls an annual operating budget of more than $400 million taxpayer dollars, plus millions more in capital funding for school facilities.
School board positions are unpaid except for an allowance for board-related expenses of $300 per month. The Maryland Association of Boards of Education provides training for new school board members.
The six candidates elected to the Harford School Board in 2014, plus the three county residents who obtain gubernatorial appointments, will begin their four-year terms together on July 1, 2015. Because the governor may make appointments for up to 90 days following the November 2014 election, an unsuccessful candidate for election can still be tapped for an appointed position.
Incumbent board members are all eligible to run or seek appointment for the coming term. Thus far, Arthur Kaff is the only sitting board member to have filed for election (in District E). Board Member Jim Thornton has filed to run for the countywide office of county council president.
Any vacancy of an elected member is to be filled by appointment by the county council, per the 2009 state law. Legal authorities consulted by The Dagger have yet to determine whether and how this provision would apply in districts where no one files to run for office.
By state law, school board elections are nonpartisan, so federal employees are generally eligible to run. Teachers and other HCPS employees cannot run until they are retired, or no longer employed by the school system.
Candidates must be registered to vote in the county for three years prior to the term of office, and they must live in the district they seek to represent. Find your council district by entering your street address here: http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/council/index.cfm?ID=885
Unlike partisan elections, all registered voters regardless of party affiliation may vote in the June primary for the school board member to represent their district. The top two vote-getters in the primary will face off in the November general election.
Find more information about candidate qualifications and school board elections in the document and maps below prepared by the Harford County Board of Elections.
And don’t forget to vote.