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School board election bill dies in committee

March 28, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County Board of Education opposition has torpedoed a bill to consider changing how the board is elected.

For the second year in a row, Del. Christopher B. Shank has proposed switching from an at-large board to representation by districts.

Last year's bill - which called for a task force to consider a new form of board representation - died in the House Ways and Means Committee.

This year, Shank, R-Washington, added a public referendum to his proposal. If the measure passed, a task force would be formed.

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However, this year's bill, which was sponsored by the Washington County delegation, will have the same fate as last year's: death in committee.

Board Vice President Wayne Ridenour testified against the bill at a Ways and Means Committee hearing last week, calling it unnecessary for a board that serves the community well.

In another opposing view, board member W. Edward Forrest wrote in a letter that he is "concerned that a regionalization of the Board could encourage a partisan approach that does not presently exist and could promote 'infighting' over resources."

The Ways and Means Committee killed the bill last week.

Del. Sheila E. Hixson, D-Montgomery, said in an interview Tuesday that there must be local agreement for a bill to advance.

"If there's a fight between any of the interested parties, we're not going to be the arbiter," Hixson said.

Shank said Tuesday that he's disappointed with the school board's opposition to the bill.

"They don't trust the citizens of Washington County to decide for themselves," he said.

But Ridenour said that the bill wasn't addressing a need.

"I didn't hear an overwhelming clamor from the people to change how we're organized," he said Tuesday.

At a meeting last week, five of seven board members said they oppose the bill.

Shank said the issue is dead for now; he won't bring it up again until the composition of the board changes.

The delegation and the school board are scheduled to meet next month, when the General Assembly session is over. Ridenour said the meeting will be to make sure the two groups, in general, are "on the same page.'"

Staff writer Erin Cunningham contributed to this story

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