Friday, February 22, 2008

Ninth seat coming to Anne Arundel school board

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

School board nominating process taking shape

School board nominating process taking shape

No limits on number of candidates sent to governor


Published February 21, 2008

The new committee that will select county school board members is placing no limit on the number of candidates it can send to the governor.

Three of the 11 members of the School Board Nominating Commission voted last night against the plan, under which any applicant that garners a simple majority of commissioners' votes - six out of the 11 - will be sent as a candidate to the governor.

The commission was created by the legislature last year hurriedly and with little attention to detail. Its members voted last night on a process, timeline and officers - details crucial to selecting candidates for the county Board of Education.

The commission is charged with submitting at least two candidates for each open seat on the school board to the governor, who must appoint one of them to the board.

Three of the 11 commissioners - Richard Kovelant, of the Association of Educational Leaders, Tim Mennuti of the county teachers' union and Lee Roy Payne, who was appointed by the governor - voted against selecting candidates by a simple majority vote.

"A simple majority does not do the process justice," said Mr. Kovelant, who argued the commissioners should score candidates and send only the top-scoring candidates to the governor.

Mr. Mennuti said one negative is that under a simple majority vote, the commission could potentially send every applicant to the governor for consideration, if every applicant earned six commissioners' votes.

"We should manage the board so they have a collection of talent," he said. "We want them to be a diverse candidate pool."

Joshua Greene, chairman of the commission, said the simple majority vote is similar to how judges are nominated in the county, and there was some expectation that the commission would work the same way. He did not say who held that expectation.

The 11-member commission has five members appointed by the governor, one appointed by the county executive and five appointed by local interest groups.

The commission is a change from the previous system, under which local interest groups in a nominating convention submitted names to the governor, who could then appoint those candidates or anyone else he wanted.

Two seats will be open this year - board president Tricia Johnson's seat as she comes up for reappointment, and a new ninth seat that was also created by the legislature last year.

Mr. Greene drafted the process documents and timeline with communication from the state Attorney General's Office, the legislature and some county school system officials. The other commissioners approved most of those drafts, which are subject to change.

The commission agreed:

On two officers: Matthew Tedesco, one of the governor's appointees, will be vice chairman of the commission; and Anita Owens of the County Council of Parent Teacher Associations will be secretary.

Applications from candidates for the school board must be in the hands of the commission by April 1.

To hold two public hearings on the candidates. Scheduled for April 14 and 28, they will be broadcast on the school system's cable television channel.

To hold a public meeting. The commission will hold a public meeting May 5 to deliberate and vote on candidates and then send those names to the governor on May 12.

To seek an exemption from the state ethics law that would otherwise require financial disclosure from the commissioners. That's routine, Mr. Greene said, because the commission does not directly control any government money.

Because the commission has no budget - not even for office supplies - its members are asking the legislature for some funding. They are trying to get an unpaid student intern from Anne Arundel Community College to work as their executive assistant.

The commission will launch a Web site next week under the county school system's site, The timeline, bylaws and minutes from the past two closed meetings will be posted on the site shortly, Mr. Greene said.

The commission's next meeting will be open to the public March 18 at a location yet to be determined.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Complaint alleges the School Board Nominating Commission violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act

Today I filed a complaint with Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board concerning the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission. The Commission is subject to the Open Meetings Act and discussing the bylaws of the Commission is not an exempt topic for discussion. At its first meeting on January 17, the Commission stated that it would hold a secret meeting on January 23 to discuss its proposed bylaws.

The next meeting of the Commission will be held this coming Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30pm. At this meeting, the Commission will publicly discuss its proposed procedures. The Commission is under no legal obligation to seek public comment on its proposed bylaws, and its press release for the meeting states that it will allow no such comments at this meeting. Its only legal obligation under the Open Meetings Act is to make its own deliberations public.

I would encourage members of this community to ask the Commission to follow not only the letter of the Open Meetings Law but also its spirit. I believe that the precedent of openness established by the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention is a good basis for discussion. The Convention, in its many weeks advance notice of meetings and in many other little ways, went well beyond the minimum standards established in Maryland’s Open Meetings Act. However, given the extraordinary powers invested in the Commission and the fact that five of its eleven members are appointed by private interest groups, I believe that the Commission should strive for an even greater level of openness. For example, it should use the County’s new multimillion dollar TV system to broadcast and webcast candidate presentations (analogous to the current system of broadcasting/webcasting presidential debates). The purpose of these broadcasts would be to assess not only the candidates but also the Commission itself. Indeed, I believe the latter purpose would be even more important than the former one. The public needs to come to its own judgment about the extent to which the Commission acts as a backroom negotiating body among power brokers or, as it presents itself, a truly independent deliberative body intent on finding the best leadership for AACPS. The public can only come to this judgment if it has an opportunity to see for itself how the Commission acts. Moreover, the public’s ability to conveniently monitor the Commission will force the Commission to stay true to its stated principles.

Next Meeting of the School Board Nominating Commission Announced

Attached below is the substance of the press release sent to the press:


The School Board Nominating Commission of Anne Arundel
County will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, February, 20, 2008. The meeting
will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Room 161 of the Arundel Center located at 44 Calvert
Street, Annapolis, MD 21401.

The purpose of this meeting will be to
adopt operating procedures and other administrative functions of the Commission
as well as announce general information regarding the planned timelines and
framework for the consideration of applicants to be appointed to the Anne
Arundel County School Board.

While the Commission is a public body under
the state Open Meetings Act, and the public is welcome to attend, no public
testimony will be taken at this meeting.