Rarely do politicians pull back the curtain and let the public see how political appointments are made, but Harford County Councilman Richard Slutzky has done just that by introducing the resolution to open up the selection process for school board members. Designed as a temporary fix until elections are approved by the General Assembly, the resolution establishes a 7-member panel composed of elected officials and representatives from the county executive’s office which will review and endorse candidates for the school board in view of the voting public.
Currently, school board members are appointed by the governor who relies on endorsements from local officials; a process that serves almost no one. Local officials are often flying blind because they have no formal way to recruit or to vet the candidates, candidates are dependent on having the right political connections and the public has no way of knowing who’s in the running or who’s backing whom.
Such is the case with the Bel Air seat on the board of education which will soon be vacated by current president Tom Fidler. Fidler reportedly favors a certain candidate as his replacement, one who does not support an elected school board, and on whose behalf he has been contacting local officials. This type of thing now happens behind closed doors, but may soon be brought into the open.
Unlike the ill-conceived permanent nominating caucus proposed in the last legislative session by Delegate Mary-Dulany James, this panel is composed of officials who answer to the public. Until Harford County gets school board elections, if it’s not the next best thing, at least it’s better than nothing.
To view the resolution, check out this pdf file: BOE Panel Resolution