What is a Board of Education? Is it that big building on Riva Road? Is it the people that work there? Is it the Superintendent? What does a School Board even do? These are all very good questions, and ones that the members of the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County would like to help you answer. Each month, one of the members of the Board will submit a blog entry on current topics that might be of interest to Anne Arundel County citizens. For those of you with children in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), some of these issues might be familiar. But for others, they might be topics that are new.
According to Maryland State Law, “educational matters that affect the counties shall be under the control of a county board of education in each county. Each county board shall seek in every way to promote the interests of the schools under its jurisdiction.”
The Board of Education of Anne Arundel County is granted its authority and powers through State law, and is considered a State entity.
The Board is comprised of 9 members. Five of those members are appointed from the different legislative districts in which they reside; three are appointed from the county at-large; and one is a student member. Our Board has the only student board member in the United States with full voting rights. Board members receive an annual salary of $6,000, with the Board President earning $8,000. The Student Board member receives a $6,000 college scholarship after completing his or her term. The current members come from a variety of career backgrounds. Some are working full-time, some part-time, and one is retired.
The Board has responsibilities that fall into the Executive, Legislative, and Quasi-Judicial categories. Examples of our Executive functions, as outlined in state law, include: hiring a Superintendent; appraising the progress and management of the school system through an evaluation of the superintendent; adopting a multi-year strategic plan; communicating with the community, staff and students on educational issues; and ratifying collective bargaining agreements. Our Legislative duties include adopting policies, budgets, establishing curriculum, establishing school boundaries, and making decisions on contract or procurement issues. The school board’s quasi-judicial role involves deciding appeals of the Superintendent’s administrative decisions, deciding appeals of disciplinary actions, and considering recommendations of the Superintendent to suspend or dismiss a certificated employee.
There are generally two Board of Education meetings each month: a daytime meeting on the first Wednesday of the month, and an evening meeting the third Wednesday of the month. In July and August we only hold one meeting a month, and this year, we are holding only one meeting in April due to the Easter/Spring Break. The Board also holds several public budget hearings, and hearings when redistricting is proposed. There are also various work sessions through the year, either on the budget or other topical issues. The Board also holds many non-public hearings related to its quasi-judicial role.
The Board encourages input from the public, whether in person, by phone, or by email. At our two regularly scheduled board meetings each month, we have a “Public Participation” portion of our agenda that allows citizens to speak on any topic for up to three minutes as an individual or five minutes if they are representing an organized group. We also respond to hundreds of phone calls and emails and are available to assist you or answer your questions. If the request is to solve a specific problem, we will generally have to refer you to the appropriate administrative contact, because any decision of the administration that is appealed would eventually come to the Board and we would need to be impartial.
We also frequently take input on AACPS.org website on various issues, from budget issues, to policy changes. In fact, please visit the policy revision page any time to review proposed policy changes and make comments. All of this input from the public better informs the school boards decision making process.
Individual Board members work tirelessly to study the budget, review policies, understand relevant State and Federal legislation, and examine the progress of our school system. Our Board regularly meets with elected officials to advocate for our public school needs. We attend training seminars to improve our skills as Board Members. We are out visiting schools for special events, or just to see what is going on. A Board member might spend somewhere between 10 and 40 hours during a typical week on Board business, depending on the member and the week.
The Board has been charged with providing the constitutionally mandated public education of nearly 77,000 children. When we make decisions as a Board, we must make decisions in the interest of the entire Anne Arundel County Public School System, and not just individual areas. We must understand how the decisions that we make impact the rest of the system and the community. I believe I speak for the entire school board when I say that this is a responsibility that we take very seriously. We encourage you to visit the AACPS website, www.aacps.org, to learn more about our school system. We also hope that you will take some time to read the Board of Education Handbook for more information about the Board and what our members do.
Note: This post was written by Teresa Milio Birge, a Board of Education member from District 32 who resides in Odenton, MD. She has been on the Board for nearly 4 years of her 5 year term.