Tuesday, April 7, 2009

SBNC Update

The School Board Nominating Commission’s deadline for candidate applications to serve on the AACPS Board of Education was April 1. As you probably know by now, ten people applied for the position:

1. Shaun M. Brady of Davidsonville

2. Kevin L. Jackson of Edgewater

3. Michael G. Leahy of Severna Park

4. Michel S. Pawlowski of Edgewater

5. Peter A. Pervi of Millersville

6. Andrew C. Pruski of Gambrills

7. Paul Rudolph of Severna Park

8. Rhonda Simon of Annapolis

9. Joseph J. Thomas of Annapolis

10. Jessica S. Tickle of Churchton

Michael Leahy is the incumbent holder of the seat. Paul Rudolph is a former two-time school board member. Both Kevin Jackson and Paul Rudolph ran for a board seat last year, the SBNC’s first year of operation. My guess is that at least several of the candidates will drop out once they see the competiton and realize they have no chance of winning.

I’ve looked over the applications and observed which candidates show up at the SBNC meetings and how they interact with the SBNC commissioners. Based on that information and my general knowledge of school board politics, I’ve decided that Andrew Pruski is very likely to be not only nominated by the SBNC but also selected by the Governor. As for the mandatory second choice, my guess is it will be the incumbent Michael Leahy. But it could also be others, including Paul Rudolph, Joseph Thomas, Kevin Jackson, or Michel Pawlowski. The SBNC is not limited to nominating only two individuals, but it would undercut its power to nominate more than the minimum required by law. My guess is that it will not do so unless it can be confident which candidate the Governor will ultimately select.

During the last few months, the SBNC has launched an openness PR campaign. This consists of holding six field hearings throughout the County, four of which have already been held. I attended two of those hearings. At both, four people attended, including myself. At both, only one member of the public, other than myself or a reporter, spoke. The last hearing was over within fifteen minutes. I’ve been looking for the minutes of the hearings but so far none has been posted on the SBNC website.

How do the SNBC’s field hearings compare to the three hearings held by the old School Board Nominating Convention? Again, I’ve only attended two of the four SBNC field hearings and two are yet to come. But I think it’s fair to say that they are incomparably different. The School Board Nominating Convention hearings would attract more than 100 activist parents. The questions were directed to the candidates, addressed a wide range of issues, and were quite substantive. These field hearings, with the comments/questions addressed to the SBNC’s commissioners, are very different in tone and substance. The idea is that instead of the public asking questions of the candidates directly, they will tell the SBNC members what questions are important. This does not seem to be a format that can generate a comparable amount and quality of public participation.

Last week the Capital ran an editorial complaining that only nine candidates had applied for the open Board of Education position and speculating on the reasons for the low number of candidates. In my opinion, that was an awful editorial. First, nine (now ten) is a huge number of candidates for a position like this. Second, what counts is the quality, not the number, of candidates (the Capital wrote the editorial without knowing who the candidates were). Third, there are very serious issues of democratic accountability concerning the SBNC that the Capital is either oblivious to or has chosen to ignore. I have previously written in depth about those issues (see the posts below) and will not repeat them here. The question I have is: why would the Capital choose to criticize the SBNC for its strengths while ignoring it weaknesses?