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BLOG: AACO School Board Nominating Commission Sets Agenda for Filling Two Vacancies

Governor O'Malley appoints commissioners for new four year terms; commissioners will accept applications until April 27, 2012 for two school board seats, one in District 21, the other at-large.

On the evening of Feb. 22, 2012 the Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Commission (SBNC) met to plan its procedures for the 2012 Anne Arundel Board of Education (BOE) election cycle.  This was its first meeting for both its 2012 session and the four year terms of office for its five gubernatorial appointees. 

The SBNC is composed of eleven commissioners: five appointed by the Governor (each from one of the five legislative districts in Anne Arundel County), one appointed by the County Executive, one apponted by the Anne Arundel Community College, and four appointed by private stakeholder groups (the Chamber of Commerce, PTA, teachers’ union, and school administrators’ union).  The four year terms of the five gubernatorial appointees expired last December.  

On Feb. 6, 2012 , the Governor reappointed four of his previous appointees and filled the fifth seat, a vacancy, with Kory Blake, Chair of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee and staff representative at AFSCME, the union that represents custodial, food service, bus driver, and other support workers in the school system.

The SBNC nominates candidates for the BOE. For each open position, it nominates two individuals, from which the Governor must select one.   Candidates require the votes of at least eight of the eleven SBNC commissioners to be nominated.

Three people were in the audience in addition to myself:  BOE member Andrew Pruski, SBNC’s legislative counsel, and a member of the BOE Ethics Panel. 

Of the five gubernatorial appointees, two attended the meeting.  One of the missing three, Konrad Wayson, representing District 30, informed the SBNC that he did not want to serve a second term. The Governor is seeking recommendations to fill this open seat.

The board meeting started by approving the minutes from its May 17, 2011 meeting when the SBNC voted on candidates for the 2011 election cycle.  This meant that to find out how each SBNC member voted on the previous round of candidates, as opposed to the immediate announcement of the winners, one would have had to wait more than nine months.  As of Feb. 23, 2012, no minutes for the SBNC's 2011 meetings had yet been posted on its website.  No mean accomplishment, this was the worst track record for timely posting minutes of the SBNC's four year track record.  I expect these minutes will be retroactively posted in the near future.

This year there are two openings for the BOE.  Eugene Peterson, representing District 21, has served two terms and cannot serve again.  BOE Chair Patricia Nalley, representing the entire district with an at-large seat, is up for reappointment. 

According to an opinion from Maryland’s Attorney General, Ms. Nalley, as an incumbent BOE member, is automatically nominated for another term and thus need not go through the SBNC process, which was the SBNC’s previously mandated procedure.  However, via the BOE’s attorney, she has informed the SBNC that she intends to follow precedent and go through the nominating process.  Given that it is widely understood that Ms. Nalley has no chance of losing, it’s not clear to me why this is an efficient use of the SBNC’s time.

Unlike last year, when the SBNC decided to hold no field hearings for the candidates, this year the SBNC decided to hold field hearings for both candidates.  It is not unusual for only a few people to attend such hearings, especially if it is a hearing that SBNC and BOE choose not to promote aggressively.

Candidate applications are due by April 27, 2012.  Field hearings are tentatively planned for March.

The SBNC’s Chair promised to post all the legal opinions from the office of Maryland’s Attorney General concerning the laws regulating the SBNC on the SBNC’s website.  These opinions determine how the statute creating the SBNC should be interpreted.  In the past, only some of these opinions were publicly posted.   The SBNC chair also said that he continues to hope to write up a manual describing SBNC procedures, which are now scattered in dozens of different places including statutes, attorney general legal opinions, bylaws, minutes, and past precedent. 

For the first time at an SBNC meeting in several years, the Chair announced he would take public comments concerning SBNC procedures.  He also announced he would take public comments at all future meetings.  I was the only person to take advantage of this opportunity. 

I thanked the SBNC for allowing public comments and responding to my recent complaint before a Maryland Senate committee about the SBNC’s ban on public comments at its public hearings, except during the candidate hearings when the public is allowed to comment on the character of the candidates.   Given the poor drafting of the General Assembly’s statute creating the SBNC, it was a wild ride during the SBNC’s first four years figuring out what the General Assembly meant and filling in the many loose ends.  My guess is that the Attorney General’s office spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal consultations to help figure out the law.  All this confusion should have been a reason to allow rather than ban public comment.

I then asked the Chair to whom he sent the February 13, 2012 press release announcing the February 22, 2012 SBNC meeting.  He said the School System’s Public Information Officer.  I said I hadn’t received email notice of the meeting until yesterday, one day prior to the meeting.  Given 1) my numerous prior complaints to the SBNC about inadequate notice, 2) a ruling on the SBNC’s inadequate notice by Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board, and 3) the Chair’s previous promise to me to send me proper notice (seven days notice is generally considered proper in Maryland), I felt I had a right to be upset about one day notice.

I also reported that on the evening of Monday, Feb. 20, I had checked the SBNC’s website (as I had done many prior weekends on the advice of my House of Delegates Representative who said that checking on the SBNC’s website was the most reliable way of finding out about its future meetings) and found no notice of the meeting.  But I checked again on Feb. 22, 2012, and it was there.   The problem was that the website notice was dated Feb. 13, 2012, which was misleading because the notice clearly wasn’t posted on the website on that date.  Unfortunately, I had found such backdating of notice and other public documents to be common BOE and SBNC procedure. 

The SBNC Chair said it was not his fault.  He had asked General Assembly members for a budget to operate the SBNC and they said no.  Thus, he was dependent on the School System’s Public Information Office for notice.  If the Public Information Officer didn’t post the information on the SBNC’s website, it wasn’t his fault.

I replied that the Public Information Officer’s job is to do PR on behalf of the BOE and that it is inappropriate for the SBNC to rely on him.  The PR officer will heavily promote open positions for the BOE, and in a timely way,  only when it is in his interest to do so.  He will also put people on and take them off his announcement emails depending on his assessment of whether their receiving the information is helpful or not to the message he is promoting.   Thus, giving the PR office such control is like taking control of the ballot from the Board of Elections and giving it to the incumbent candidates. 

I closed by explaining the fundamental democratic principle called the “veil of Ignorance.”  This is the temporal dimension to the principle that laws should apply equally to all, a principle emblazened on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court’s building.  According to the veil of ignorance, electoral procedures should be determined prior to knowledge of the specific candidates that they would affect.  For example, every serious democratic theorist agrees that choosing a presidential succession process in case of the death of the president should be done prior to the death of a president, when the identities of the potential successors are not known.  I noted that unfortunately the SBNC had made it a practice to do exactly the opposite: wait until candidates were known and then adjust procedures to the candidates.   I applauded the SBNC’s Chair for his stated desire to consolidate SBNC procedures, including PR procedures, in a manual.  This I felt would go at least some way toward addressing this problem, as well as realizing another key democratic principle, which is that citizens should be able to have reasonably easy access to the laws under which they are governed.

The one issue I didn’t raise is what to do with all the new legislative districts in Anne Arundel County that are expected when the General Assembly passes the new decennial legislative redistricting plan, which must be done by Feb. 25, 2012.  I’m sure that no incumbent politician created that plan with consideration about how it would affect the SBNC.  I expect a new round of attorney general legal opinions, probably in conflict with earlier ones,  as the SBNC and the public comes to grip with the legal and practical implications of the redistricting. 

--J.H. Snider is a former chair of the Anne Arundel Countywide Citizen Advisory Committee.  He has been covering the SBNC since the General Assembly created it in 2007.  For past coverage, see MyAACPS.net.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amy Leahy February 26, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Thanks for this information on what's happening with our school board member selection process. I might just decide to be a glutten for punishment and attend the next SBNC meeting if it fits in my schedule. Hopefully the date is on their website.
Judith Moylan-Forman February 26, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Dear J.H. As an FYI, and to get the facts out there correctly, Kory Blake is not the Chair of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee.
J.H. ("Jim") Snider February 27, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I was both told that fact and confirmed it from reading Kory Blake's LinkedIn profile. Mr. Blake's LinkedIn profile says (as of 7:15 pm today): "Chairman, Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee, September 2006-- present (5 years, 6 months)," which would suggest he is still chair (see http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kory-blake/6/a7a/218) . I didn't see the Committee members listed on the County Democratic Party page (www.annearundeldems.com/), which is how I came to fact check the information on Mr. Blake's LinkedIn profile. However, after reading your comment I checked the Maryland State Government page (http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/40party/html/deml.html), and it appears Mr. Blake's LinkedIn profile is out-of-date. He is indeed no longer chair. So the correct information would appear to be that Mr. Blake is a former chair of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee. Thank you for pointing this out.
Bob Mosier February 27, 2012 at 01:05 AM
In his commentary above, Mr. Snider erroneously reports that I, as the school system's Public Information Officer, will "put people on and take them off his announcement emails depending on his assessment of whether their receiving the information is helpful or not to the message he is promoting." This is absolutely untrue, and pure fantasy on Mr. Snider's part. AACPS has agreed to distribute the School Board Nominating Commission releases through its network since the SBNC has no readily available means of widely distributing such releases. SBNC releases go to the same distribution list as AACPS releases. While we do not ask for read receipts, an email address provided by Mr. Snider -- jhsnider@hotmail.com -- has been part of our distribution list for several years. Anyone who wishes to receive school system and SBNC releases may do so by simply contacting me at rmosier@aacps.org. If the email address above is no longer valid for Mr. Snider, he can simply email me a new address to add to the distribution list.
Judith Moylan-Forman February 27, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Dear J.H. Your welcome. As you say above, you were "told that fact" about Mr. Blake...... so I guess it's called know/confirm your sources before you report.
Kari O February 27, 2012 at 11:51 AM
I very much appreciate Jim Snider's tireless work on behalf of the citizen taxpayers of Anne Arundel County to shed more light on the workings of the County's public school system. A more byzantine system for selection of school board officials could hardly be imagined. While the process for selection may not have been crafted by current office holders and administrators, they do exercise considerable control over the amount of publicity the process receives. Leaving aside issues of who is on what mailing list, I find it deeply disturbing that adequate notice of meetings has not been given, that public comment is often not permitted, and that minutes have not been posted -- for OVER A YEAR. Administration officials should not feel that lack of attendance at SBNC meetings indicates that the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County, who collectively comprise the folks who pay their wages, do not care about who sits on the Board of Education. Rather, there is really no evidence that I can see to show that citizen input into the process matters one iota. And even if input did matter, good luck figuring out where and when to provide it. Or seeing evidence of what occurred in the meetings -- say, in minutes, available to the public.
Chet Brewer February 27, 2012 at 06:28 PM
judith, Mr snider is a blogger not a reporter with the resources of a newspaper behind him, he did reasonable due diligence, sorry it wasnt up to your standards
Amy Leahy February 27, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Kari, you are right on the mark with regards to the comment that the citizens - and parents - do care about the Board of Education selection process and members. I won't bore you with the history of how we came to be the owners of such a convoluted selection process but suffice it to say that the Superintendent and the school board members have done their best - and it's a pretty darned good 'best' - to dissuade citizens from getting involved in what they consider to be their business. Besides completely controlling the nominations and appointments by the Governor, they also within the past year disbanded the Citizen's Advisory Committee and re-made it in their own image. The real problem is the board members do not get elected by the public and they hire the superintendent so there is no need on their part to be accountable to the parents of the kids entrusted in their care.
Cindy Morgan February 27, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Jim, help a novice like me understand what duties the school board has, and how does the recent news that the State is going to transfer teacher pension obligations onto the counties impact the board? Is the board responsible for negotiating with the teachers (or unions)? Thanks!
Kari O February 28, 2012 at 02:49 AM
@Amy, you've got some great points. I spent a long, long time trying to understand this process when we first moved here a couple of years ago. I kept thinking I was missing some vital piece of the puzzle -- surely parents, citizens, taxpayers wouldn't let anything as important as the school board be selected by this crazy method? And surely there must be more opportunity for citizen input. Having come from a system where my voice as a parent and a taxpayer counted for something, it's still hard for me to understand how people let this system come to be. Why haven't more of us demanded accountability, and where are the folks we elect -- and what are they doing to make sure the administrators we pay ARE held accountable?
Amy Leahy February 29, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Kari I don't know where you came from but in this state the counties all have different methods for getting their board members. We in this county have tried for years to get an elected school board and about 4 or 5 years ago after one of our Republican Senators launched a petition drive that was unsuccessful, the legislature decided to put their own referendum on the ballot. The problem has always stemmed from the fact that in this county the governor does the appointment. For many years the citizens had held a Nominating Convention whereby associations, organizations and just about any 'group' of people could participate in the vetting and voting on candidates. The top 2 vote-getter's names were then forwarded to the governor for appointment. It was actually a very participatory process and the citizens believed they were having their voices heard. The problem was that the governor was under no obligation to appoint their person. And too many times the governor would not. Once while Parris Glendenning was governor he actually appointed someone who had not even participated in the convention. Eventually people got very tired of not having their voices heard.
Amy Leahy February 29, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Hence the petition drive. After the failed drive (signatures were thrown out because of one technicality after another) the legislature decided to put their own referendum on the ballot for the citizens to vote on. The up side of the referendum was that the governor would be required to appoint one of the two names that was forwarded to him by the commission that was created by the adopted referendum. Generally, the Commission is comprised of eleven members five of whom are appointed by the Governor as representatives of the five Legislative Districts within Anne Arundel County and the remaining six members are appointed as follows: one from the County Executive; one from the Teacher’s Association of Anne Arundel County; one from the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce; one from the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs; one from the Anne Arundel County Community College Board of Trustees; and one from the Association of Education Leaders. In the 4 years since this has been in existence, participation in this process has dwindled so that last year only two people applied. Only one or two citizens even attend the meetings - Jim Snider being one and I couldn't possibly tell you who the other one is (if there is one). Jim acts as the watchdog. The other thing that has happened as a result of this is board members who had in the past been assured of re-appointment aren't now. If one happens to be the wrong political party, don't bother.
Julie Dettor February 29, 2012 at 04:44 AM
The absolute ONLY way we can ENSURE accountability to the citizens is through elected representation! Through elected representation - we as citizens can enact change! Please email the full Anne Arundel County State Delegation and demand a majority elected school board TODAY! Our voices are starting to be heard – it is time to focus on this! AACPS, along with Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Wicomico County Public Schools are the ONLY counties in this State that have fully governor appointed school boards! Let's bring Democracy to Anne Arundel County Public Schools - Time is of the essence - I urge you to contact the full delegation, this is happening now, let your voice be heard! Tell them you want a majority citizen elected school board! Here are the full delegation email addresses: jim.rosapepe@senate.state.md.us; ben.barnes@house.state.md.us; barbara.frush@house.state.md.us; joseline.pena.melnyk@house.state.md.us; john.astle@senate.state.md.us; michael.busch@house.state.md.us; ron.george@house.state.md.us; herb.mcmillan@house.state.md.us; bryan.simonaire@senate.state.md.us; don.dwyer@house.state.md.us; nicholaus.kipke@house.state.md.us; steve.schuh@house.state.md.us; james.degrange@senate.state.md.us; pamela.beidle@house.state.md.us; maryann.love@house.state.md.us; ted.sophocleus@house.state.md.us; edward.reilly@senate.state.md.us; tony.mcconkey@house.state.md.us; cathy.vitale@house.state.md.us; bob.costa@house.state.md.us
Julie Dettor February 29, 2012 at 02:44 PM
We are starting to be heard – please take 60 seconds and email the FULL delegation TODAY! Through elected representation - we as citizens can enact change! Please email the full Anne Arundel County State Delegation and demand a majority elected school board TODAY! Let's bring Democracy to Anne Arundel County Public Schools - Time is of the essence - I urge you to contact the full delegation, this is happening now, let your voice be heard again TODAY! You can send each of them this…I demand a majority citizen elected school board! Your continued condoning of the actions and decisions of the Board of Education in AACPS is egregious! We demand a change! We demand democracy in AACPS! We demand your action NOW! Very respectfully yours, Your Name Full Address Here are the full delegation’s email addresses: jim.rosapepe@senate.state.md.us; ben.barnes@house.state.md.us; barbara.frush@house.state.md.us; joseline.pena.melnyk@house.state.md.us; john.astle@senate.state.md.us; michael.busch@house.state.md.us; ron.george@house.state.md.us; herb.mcmillan@house.state.md.us; bryan.simonaire@senate.state.md.us; don.dwyer@house.state.md.us; nicholaus.kipke@house.state.md.us; steve.schuh@house.state.md.us; james.degrange@senate.state.md.us; pamela.beidle@house.state.md.us; maryann.love@house.state.md.us; ted.sophocleus@house.state.md.us; edward.reilly@senate.state.md.us; tony.mcconkey@house.state.md.us; cathy.vitale@house.state.md.us; bob.costa@house.state.md.us
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. February 29, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Yes, and the person who was not appointed after being the number 1 choice of the citizen's nominating convention was J.H. Snider, the author of this article (and, full disclosure, my husband). Ironically, although this travesty resulted in an uproar and outcry for more citizen input into the school board selection process, it ultimately resulted in even less citizen input, which we now see in the process for selecting school board members, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), and even leaders of student government (CRASC) and student member of the board. All of these institutions were originated to give some balance of power in school decisions, but over the years this power balance has all shifted in one direction. That's how I see it anyway.
Kari O February 29, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Julie and Amy, thanks for the info. I moved from the upper Midwest. It's still mind-boggling to me that there is so little citizen representation in an area that affects every single one of us. Thanks for the links and history; I hope lots of folks make use of them.
Julie Dettor March 01, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Received moments ago from Del. Vitale's Office: The Anne Arundel County education subcommittee has been meeting for the past year to assess the best mechanism for revamping the current school board system. Various proposals are currenlty being considered. Please be advised that the subcommittee members, Delegates Beidel, Schuh, Vitale and Busch will be making a presentation and recommendation at the Anne Arundel County Delegation meeting on Friday March 2, 2012 at 9 a.m. in room 142 of the Lowe House Office Building at 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis. These meetings are open to the public. If you wish to attend, please bring photo ID for security at the main lobby entrance.
Amy Leahy March 01, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Glad to know this Julie. Sure wish I could be in two places at once because that's what it'll take for me to be able to attend this meeting. I'd love to hear Mike Busch's reasoning since he's been the biggest opponent of elected boards.
Julie Dettor March 02, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Hi Amy, Just wanted to let you know the Education Sub-Committe will be making the presentation tomorrow on the Amended HB367; however, the vote will now be Friday, March 9th. The committee wants the full delegation to vote on this Bill.
Amy Leahy March 02, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Julie, Is this the Anne Arundel County delegation?
Julie Dettor March 02, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Yes ma'am - sorry, should have said that!

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