Pacella, Rachael, Commission selects new school board member, August 24, 2017.
As expected, the vote for Colin Reinhard was pretty much a straight party line vote, with the two key factions on the SBAC initially voting in opposition to each other during the first three voting rounds. During those rounds, the vote for Reinhard was stuck at seven votes, but he needed eight (a supermajority) to win. Then TAAAC Executive Director Bill Jones spoke up for the first time, explaining why Reinhard, who taught from 2012 to 2016 in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools after transferring from the Montgomery County Public Schools, was the best candidate. In the next round, Reinhard got two additional votes, putting him on top.
Jones’s most curious claim was that Reinhard provided “The most sincere and heartfelt response we got from any interviewee we questioned” (the Capital article also cites this statement). Please note that I neither disagree with Jones’s claim nor Jones’s extraordinary ability to verify it, as he would have undoubtedly been able to easily verify it with a few calls to TAAAC colleagues who worked with Reinhard. Still, Jones’s claim is ironic because I have observed his votes over many years while he was on the School Board Nominating Commission. And though it is true that he rarely voted for anyone lacking political skills–which includes the baseline imperative of coming off as sincere–he voted for many individuals who made claims in public before the SBNC that hardly corresponded to either their past or post-appointment behavior.
Compared to other candidates during the current appointment round, Reinhard will have fewer conflicts of interest, as his spouse doesn’t work for AACPS. There might be some ethical sensitivity when he votes on AACPS pension and retirement healthcare benefits, a large and growing part of AACPS’s budget, for which he has vested rights. His revolving door status—he left AACPS only a year ago—might also cause a little discomfort. But overall, compared to the days not so long ago under the SBNC when five of the eight adult BOE members had either a spouse or child working for AACPS, this is a huge improvement for BOE ethics.
A question I expected commissioners to ask Reinhard during his testimony was why if, as the public is endlessly told and Reinhard implied in his written application, Montgomery County treats teachers much better than Ann Arundel County, did he seek a job teaching in Anne Arundel County. Oddly, not a single commissioner asked that most obvious of questions.
Snider Reply Comment
Several commissioners also raised the subject of gender diversity on the board, where two of the eight current members are male. Reinhard will be the third when he fills the vacant at-large seat next month…………
Sexual identity diversity?
Always with the diversity diversity…..
How about just getting the best person possible for the job?????
To avoid the public impression that these efforts at what political scientists call “descriptive representation” aren’t post hoc rationalizations to hide other motives, the SBAC should announce in its mission statement the specific descriptive criteria it will use in evaluating candidates; e.g., gender, race, and geographic location. It is also unfair to applicants to make them go through the entire process only to discover at the end that they really had no chance during a particular appointment cycle because they had the wrong combination of descriptive criteria. Politically, it will be very hard to do because the SBAC likes to play it both ways depending on the political convenience of the moment; e.g., that candidates are supposed to represent all children without respect to geography while also representing their specific geographic areas. If the criteria are stated upfront, it will be harder for the highly politicized SBAC to play it both ways.
Supplementary Resources: School Board Appointment Commission of Anne Arundel County
As always, AACPS is incredibly quick at removing and incredibly slow at posting online documents it views as politically sensitive. In the case of Board of Education appointments/nominations, its policy has been to remove bios of candidates and related information as soon as a Board of Education appointment/nomination is made. By such means, accountability for both commissioners and appointees is minimized. By 11:30 pm on the day of Colin Reinhard’s appointment, August 24, 2017, this information had already been removed from the AACPS website (that is, less than four hours after the appointment had been made). Perhaps there is no more vivid illustration of the conflict of interest created when the Board of Education controls the information for the school board appointment/nomination process.
Colin Reinhard’s Application (the original posted on the AACPS website)
Colin Reinhard’s Application (a version archived independently from AACPS)
In the primary round, each commissioner had to vote for three among the 22 candidates (of the original 23 candidates, one dropped out). The tallies for the top four voter getters in the primary round are shown below. The top three got into the general election round.
- Colin Reinhard, 9 of 13 votes
- Kerry Petz, 7 of 13 votes
- Sharon Devlin, 5 of 13 votes
- Matthew Caminiti, 4 of 13 votes
Note the slight distinction in the number of votes between the third (5 votes) and fourth (4 votes) place winner. The point is too complex to discuss here, but political scientists would agree that this outcome strongly suggests that the voting method could lead to a discrepancy between the commissioners’ genuine preferences and the winning candidate–even if the commissioners didn’t engage in strategic voting (which many surely did). The solution, which I recommended in my testimony at an earlier SBAC meeting, is ranked choice voting. With 22 candidates for an open position, the specific voting method used becomes far more important than in an election with relatively few candidates. My point is not that the voting method actually made a difference in this specific case; only that the chosen method created an unnecessarily high risk of vote distortion assuming that the commissioners voted their sincere preferences.
On the other hand, to the extent that the voting was highly politicized and that commissioners faced great pressure to vote with their long-term coalition partners (these group representatives must condition their votes on the long-term and more general political interests of the groups they represent), the specific voting method won’t make a difference: the winning candidate will already have been decided upon in advance in an informal voting process, so the formal voting process merely becomes a pro forma routine.
Joint AACPS-SBAC Press Release Issued at 8:02 pm on August 24, 2017.
August 24, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bob Mosier
Chief Communications Officer
Anne Arundel County Public Schools
The School Board Appointment Commission of Anne Arundel County tonight appointed Colin Reinhard of Linthicum to fill the vacant at-large seat on the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County. Mr. Reinhard will assume his seat as soon as he can be sworn in by the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office.
Twenty-three candidates originally applied for the seat, though one candidate withdrew shortly afterward. The Commission interviewed the remaining 22 candidates over a series of four nights last month.
“I am very proud of the work everyone on this Commission has done since we first met in June to arrive at this selection this evening,” Commission Chairman Susannah Kipke said. “We strived to make this process completely transparent and very thorough, and I think we accomplished that. I believe my colleagues and I have served the citizens of our county and most especially our school system well, and I wish Mr. Reinhard the best in his work on the Board.”
Mr. Reinhard’s term will expire on December 2, 2018, as the Board begins its transition to a fully elected Board.
Note that I agree with Chair Kipke that the process was remarkably transparent compared to most of the previous school board selection commission selection cycles. As for the immense amount of politicking that goes on behind the scenes, I cannot speak to that. The most blatant ethical problem that hasn’t been addressed is putting the BOE in control of the very transparency systems that Chair Kipke is applauding. The commissioners’ email practices also make Hillary Clinton’s email practices look like a paragon of transparency.