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Most BOE members oppose changing elective process

March 21, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM and ANDREW SCHOTZ

Five out of seven Washington County Board of Education members said Tuesday they oppose a bill that would give voters the power to decide how they are elected.

A hearing is scheduled for today in Annapolis on the bill, which was proposed by Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

For the second year in a row, Shank has suggested creating a task force to look into electing school board members by districts, in place of the current at-large system.

Last year, the bill died in a House committee.

This year, Shank added a new wrinkle: a November 2008 public referendum. If the measure passed, the task force would be formed.

Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner said that school system staff would be involved in that task force.

"Our staff is so busy," she said. "We're building three new elementary schools. I feel like that's another part of this bill that's difficult to support."

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The task force would submit a report to the Washington County delegation in the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2009.

"Why would we be against a bill that gives the public the opportunity to vote on the manner in which they are represented?" asked Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham.

She added that board members as individuals can respond to the bill. Board Member W. Edward Forrest said he already had voiced his opposition to it in writing.

Board Member William H. Staley agreed with Callaham, saying that citizens should have the chance to vote on the referendum.

But Board President Roxanne R. Ober was opposed to the bill, saying that voters already spoke out a number of years ago when the Board of Education was changed from an appointed board to an elected one.

She said she was unsure why the bill focused only on the school board.

Shank said Tuesday that people from the Boonsboro Citizens Advisory Committee have pushed for the change in school board structure, unhappy with their current representation.

Today, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hear the bill.

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