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School Board by districts?

February 09, 2006

Should the Washington County Board of Education be elected by districts, or at-large, as it is now? The county's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will appoint a task force to study the question, for which there are good arguments on both sides.

Delegation chairman Chris Shank said he and Del. Richard Weldon, R-Washington/Frederick, were asked to make the change by members of the Citizens Advisory Council for the Boonsboro schools.

Shank said the CAC members said they didn't feel their area was being adequately represented.

"They feel left out," Shank said.

Because the delegation believes such a sweeping change requires more discussion and study, Shank said a task force will be appointed to explore the idea.

We agree with that. It will be difficult enough to get a fair share of the budget in an election year without taking on the complicated process of deciding how to elect the School Board.

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Though we tend to agree with Shank that government closest to the people governs best, the School Board has responsibilities that go far beyond that of a town council. Instead of pothole repair and town fees, the School Board oversees the education of the county's children.

At this week's "State of the County" breakfast, County Commissioners Jim Kercheval and Dori Nipps, a former School Board member, opposed the idea of districts. A School Board member should be looking out for the welfare of every child in the system, they said.

Kercheval noted that not too long ago, the School Board race hardly drew enough members to make a contest. Whether there would be a sufficient pool of qualified, interested people in each district is a question that should be considered before any change.

Would members of an elected-by-district School Board be a high-minded group, looking out for every child, or a collection of members forming alliances and trading votes to benefit only their own areas?

Either is possible, underlining again the need to elect the best possible candidates, no matter which system they serve under.

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