Marks: Some Positive Early Moves from the School Board President

The Baltimore County school board president deserves credit for some early moves.

The past week has been a difficult one for those of us who support elections for Baltimore County school board members, as the task force looking at school board reform voted on the concept without participation from three members.

But there are some very hopeful signs coming from one leader on the Baltimore County Board of Education.
When Larry Schmidt became president of the school board this summer, he promised change.  I can tell you that several members of the County Council, including myself, are very happy with some of his early moves.
First, the school board passed changes that ease the community’s access to public school property. For more than two years, community associations and other groups had complained about their ability to hold craft fairs, meetings, and other activities. Within six weeks of taking office as president of the board, Mr. Schmidt and other Board members had approved revisions to the controversial rule.

Mr. Schmidt told Patch that "people who were not happy are going to be happy," and he was right.
Second, the school board developed a list of capital project priorities that reflect real community needs. Mr. Schmidt personally toured Stoneleigh Elementary School, which has some of the most overcrowded classrooms in Baltimore County.  The addition at Stoneleigh Elementary School is a top priority for funding in the next fiscal year.

Third, I have been very impressed with Mr. Schmidt’s overall responsiveness.   During the days after Hurricane Irene, many schools were closed due to power outages. I learned that the Perry Hall Recreation Council was barred from using the fields at Perry Hall Elementary School, even though they were unaffected by the storm. Within hours of my phone call to Mr. Schmidt, he had explained the reason for the rule and promised action to revise it.

I still support an elected school board because it is the best way to have permanent local accountability, and I still disagree with the recent actions of task force on school board reform. But I want to give credit where credit is due.  In his first few weeks, the president of the school board has made some very important changes, and I want to publicly thank him. 

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johnny towson September 15, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Humility and kindness from an elected official. Refreshing change. Thank you.
K Blue September 15, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Nice article. Mr. Schmidt has always struck me as a very conscientious and genuine individual. I have high hopes for his leadership.
Juliet Fisher September 15, 2011 at 05:59 PM
I would also like to add that Mr. Schmidt has made the School Board more accessible in allowing public comment at the beginning instead of the end of meetings and in scheduling School Board meetings in multiple locations in order to allow more residents of Baltimore County to have access to the meetings. In addition, I, as a parent at Stoneleigh appreciate his interest in our school addiition and his appreciation of parent involvement in the process. After months and months of constantly attending School Board meetings, it feels like our voices are being heard. And thank you, David for your continued involvement in the school system and the processes that surround it.
Bart September 15, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Thank you, Mr. Marks for being a "voice of reason" on not only this topic, but many others. Today, so many seem to be acting as though every quest is an end-sum game. Thankfully, you have seen it clear to give credit where it is due.
Larry Schmidt September 20, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Councilman Marks: Thank you for your comments. However, like a football quarterback or baseball manager, the president of the School Board gets too much credit for good things and perhaps too blame when things go bad. It has really been a team effort of all of the School Board members. All of the members of the Board have recognized the public criticism regarding the issues of accountability, transparency and the need to communicate effectively with the community. The members of the Board have all pledged to address these isssues. We have fine people on the Board who are committed to doing the best for the students in Baltimore County and their families. It is my privledge to serve with them. Larry Schmidt


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