Be a gracious winner

April 06, 2006

It is likely now that a bill to study whether Washington County should elect its School Board by districts is dead for the 2006 Maryland General Assembly session.

The current board, which opposed the legislation, should be magnanimous in victory, and reach out to those in the southern part of the county who feel their concerns about schools and growth have not been addressed.

Truth be told, the School Board should be a bit conciliatory. After inviting residents to help study the school system's future in December, this spring the incumbents shot down a proposal to even study the way board members are elected.

That quick-on-the-trigger approach, shared by the County Commissioners on this issue, doesn't square with what school officials said in December.

In announcing that 500 letters of invitation to join study groups had been sent to business leaders, government officials and parents, Shulamit Finkelstein, executive assistant for strategic planning, board and community relations, said others were also welcome to participate.


"We serve the public, so we need to involve them," Finkelstein said. "We don't believe it's our role to dictate from the top. We know we don't have a monopoly on good ideas, so we constantly seek input from our constituents."

Is election by district a good idea or a bad idea?

Proponents think it would make the board more responsive to outlying areas' concerns. Opponents, including the incumbent board, say it "could encourage a partisan approach that does not presently exist and could promote 'infighting' over resources."

Who's right? A study might have shed some light on that question, but the School Board opposed even that. So much for not dictating from the top.

But now that the board's view has prevailed, it is time for its members to seek out those who promoted the election-by-district idea and find out what prompted it.

Unless, of course, the incumbents really do believe they have a monopoly on good ideas.

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