On May 9, 2017, three Maryland General Assembly representatives from District 33 served as the featured speakers on a joint panel at the Greater Severna Park Council. They were Delegate Sid Saab, Delegate Tony McConkey, and State Senator Ed Reilly. In their opening comments, they described the recently completed General Assembly session, with each highlighted their achievement in passing new legislation to change the method of selecting Board of Education members. One representative was asked about the new appointments commission and replied by calling it the “nominating commission.” I interjected that the name during the recent session had changed it to “appointment commission” because it is no longer a nominating commission making nominations for appointment to the governor but an appointment commission with the power to directly appoint school board members. The same representative also asserted that the commission was not important because it would be terminated in 2018. I then interjected that the commission would continue to play a major role in the appointments system after 2018.
When I got an opportunity to ask a question, I observed that the Capital had never published the positions of the 13 individuals who would serve on the new Appointment Commission, and I wondered if any of the three panelists could name the positions of the thirteen panelists. One representative replied that the makeup of the revised commission was essentially the same as the original commission. To this I replied that there were major differences. Although it would have been inappropriate for me to provide details there, I would have noted that six of the eleven members of the prior commission were appointed by elected representatives (five from the governor and one from the county executive) whereas in the new system it was only two of thirteen (both appointed by the county executive). I consider granting eight individuals appointed by private organizations to such an electoral function not only a democratic travesty but a violation of the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
After this response, I was assured by another representative that the new commission wasn’t important because he had talked to the relevant players and been assured that the vacant position held by Tom Frank, who resigned from the Board several months ago, wouldn’t be filled via the Commission but at the general election held in 2018. I replied that even if that were so, the Commission could still play an important role before then. For example, it might be in the self-interest of board members Teresa Birge and Patricia Nalley to resign shortly before their terms expired so that the Appointment Commission could appoint their replacements and give them a leg up in the election process. Moreover, the Commission will continue to play an important role filling vacant seats, including strategically vacant ones, after 2018.
I later checked on the AACPS website on the page that used to contain information on the old Nominating Commission. It directly contradicted the assertion that the new Commission wouldn’t fill Tom Frank’s vacant seat. Here is the complete text, posted shortly after the 2017 legislation session ended:
Legislation enacted by the General Assembly and affirmed by the Court of Appeals has altered the membership of the School Board Nominating Commission (SBNC). Anne Arundel County Public Schools, which is designated to act as staff for the SBNC, is gathering appointments from organizations as stipulated by the legislation. Once those appointments are determined, AACPS will convene a meeting of the newly formed SBNC. That group will determine its future course. Information will be posted on this page when it is available.
This better conforms to the information I have received from other sources, but it is possible that the representative who claimed otherwise has better information than me. Time will tell.
In any case, what is clear is that our representatives at best only familiarized themselves with the headline legislation concerning the creation of a new elected board and not the new appointment commission with the power to fill vacant seats on the Board of Education, including the ability to strategically employ the new appointment commission as not only a complement to but a substitute for the much-publicized new election process.