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Panel would study board makeup

November 30, 1999|By TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Washington County lawmakers agreed Wednesday to form a task force to study whether Washington County Board of Education members should be elected by district instead of at large.

The Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly unanimously agreed to sponsor legislation establishing the task force, which according to a preliminary draft would study alternatives to the current election process "including, but not limited to, election by designated districts."

The original draft called for a task force including five members appointed by the Washington County PTA, five appointed by the schools' Citizens Advisory Councils, two appointed by the Board of Education and one each appointed by the Washington County Teachers Association and the Washington County Classified Employees Association. There would be one nonvoting student member.

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At the request of Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, the delegation amended the bill to include Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Morgan or her designee and one county commissioner appointed by the commissioners president.

It also changed the number of members appointed by Citizens Advisory Councils from five to one from each of the seven feeder patterns for county high schools.

The bill isn't intended to do anything beyond study the issue, said Del. Richard B. Weldon, R-Washington/Frederick, who requested the bill. The task force would look at benefits and challenges of changing to a district election system and at the impact growth in outlying areas of the county is having on schools, he said.

Most of the Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday they supported electing School Board members at large.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Wednesday he wouldn't take a position on the matter, but that he didn't have a problem with a task force looking at it.

Weldon took issue with a letter distributed by the school board last week that opposed a referendum on the issue. Addressed to delegation Chairman Christopher B. Shank, the letter was written "to voice our strong opposition, as citizens and taxpayers in the County (sic), to any initiative to create a 'regionalized' Board of Education election."

"The letter has a falsehood at its core," Weldon said. "The letter would have you believe I was attempting to force a referendum."

Weldon said he believed parents from southern Washington County who asked that a district system be considered had some valid concerns about whether their schools were adequately represented. Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, said he'd heard similar concerns from his constituents in the western portion of the county.

"I'm not personally convinced that voting by district is the solution," Weldon said. "I have no preconceptions. If there are no benefits, I believe that will become evident."

Staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story

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