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Letter: Weak Arguments Against Elected School Board

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz believes an elected school board will hurt the search for a new superintendent.

As reported in the Towson Times (Feb. 16), County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has publicly stated his opposition to an elected school board in Baltimore County. His argument—that it will hurt the search for a new superintendent—is a weak one:

1) The bill is written to not take effect until 2014, giving the new superintendent two full years to work with the board that hired him or her.

2) Given that 93 percent of the school boards in the U.S. are elected, chances are extremely high that any new superintendent will come from (and be most comfortable with) a school system with an elected board.

3) Only four of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions have all-appointed school boards. Of the four, one (Anne Arundel County) will have a referendum on their November 2012 ballot to let their voters decide if they should move to a fully-elected school board. Several counties have recently moved away from an all-appointed board. There do not appear to have been major problems with superintendents during these transitions.

The real reason Mr. Kamenetz opposes an elected school board: The county executive has too much power over the appointment process to give it up willingly. A current Board of Education member recently described his appointment process: his recommendation from a state senator was referred to the county executive, and then went on to the governor.

Board members selected by the county executive are much less likely to oppose the county executive on school funding issues. An elected board is more likely to fight for its constituency when it comes to tough funding and allocation issues facing our schools, such as increased class sizes, severe overcrowding and lack of decent climate control in its aging school buildings.

Bottom line: Mr. Kamenetz will never support an elected school board.

While I hope you will consider contacting Mr. Kamenetz and expressing your opinion about his testimony, he is almost certainly not going to change his mind on this one, unless there is a major political cost to him. Please contact Mr. Kamenetz (kevin@baltimorecountymd.gov) to let him know if you are unhappy with his attempts to block school board elections in our County. And please e-mail your state representatives (http://mdelect.net/) to urge them to support the House and Senate Bills for an elected school board for Baltimore County!

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell

The writer, a Towson resident, is a parent of a Loch Raven High School student. 

Glen February 21, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Laurie Taylor-Mitchell is quite correct in her points about the School Board selection and her arguments for an elected Board in Baltimore County. The current school board does not demonstrate the grasp of critical issues to effectively manage a school administration gone badly amok. Her letter clearly reflects a grasp of the issues and awareness of the current selection process.
Bob Mosier February 21, 2012 at 06:48 PM
It is inaccurate to state that Anne Arundel County voters have a referendum on the November 2012 ballot to decide on a move to a fully elected school board. There are bills currently pending in the General Assembly calling for a straw ballot this November on voter preference, but even if those bills pass, that vote would not alter the current process by which school board members assume their offices. Bob Mosier, Public Information Officer, Anne Arundel County Public Schools
Baltimore County Parent February 24, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Will Anne Arundel County ignore the voters if they come out in favor of an elected board as a result of the pending bill? Your county is one of the very few holdouts!
Julie Dettor February 25, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Anne Arundel County citizens are fighting for an elected school board right now! We, like the citizens of Baltimore County, are desperately trying to bring accountability and fiscal oversight to our school board too! 95% of all school boards in the country are elected or partially elected. Of those that are appointed; the appointed boards are only for “large, urban (and often troubled) school districts. It is highly unusual for a suburban and rural jurisdiction with a good school system (like Anne Arundel County) to have an appointed school board.” from the National School Board Association and Del. Steve Schuh.

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