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Delegates mull school election changes

February 08, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - While requests to change school board elections from an at-large system to a district system in Washington County caught the ears of local legislators, they likely will do little more than form a task force to study the issue this year.

No bill has been drafted to change the system, said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, chairman of the county delegation.

Some of his Boonsboro constituents have made the request, and he believes it has merit.

Citing growth in the southern portion of the county, Shank said voting by district would better reflect the growing diversity of outlying areas.

"I believe government closest to the people governs best," Shank said Tuesday. "I prefer small districts of representation; it allows you to be more responsive representatives."

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Because his constituency favors the change, he supports it, Shank said.

But that doesn't mean a change would come anytime soon.

"The issue becomes how to approach it in this legislative session," he said. "The issue the delegation will have to grapple with this session is: Have the advocates made their case?"

Even if they have, such a sweeping change requires some study, he said.

"I need to hear more. I don't think it's appropriate for us to make that change unilaterally," he said. "I don't think you just snap your fingers and go to an all regional board."

He said he and Del. Richard B. Weldon, R-Washington/Frederick, had been approached by members of the Citizens Advisory Council for Boonsboro schools about changing the makeup of the board. They said they did not feel they were adequately represented, he said.

"That tells me something needs to happen here," Shank said. "They feel left out."

Rather than create what he called "a divisive situation" by trying to force a change, he said the delegates were considering a task force as a compromise.

"If people feel disenfranchised, you have a problem," he said. With a task force to study the request, "we put those issues on the table and talk about them."

The group would study other jurisdictions to see what they're doing, Shank said.

He said he had spoken to school officials, who believe the current at-large system is best.

For now, he said, other issues - such as dealing with escalating property taxes, which the delegation plans to discuss during a meeting this morning - take priority.

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