Capital Editorial

Our say: Appointment panel demonstrates — again — why elected school board is better, December 17, 2017

Snider Response

“Someone with a paranoid turn of mind might suspect the School Board Appointment Commission has actually been trying to vindicate the legislators who finally moved Anne Arundel County to an elected school board.”

This is a classic case of those who don’t learn from history repeating the same mistakes again and again and again.  The General Assembly’s SBAC champions jammed the SBAC legislation through while squashing public comment, which bred sloppy legislation. For example, when County Delegation Chair Pam Beidle organized a meeting for public comment, I signed up early to share my observations about the abuses of the previous SBNC. My testimony was geared to preventing various types of procedural abuses from recurring. But Beidle, who was also a champion of the SBNC, made sure I spoke at the end of the queue when many of the legislators and audience members had already left and the rest were itching to leave. It’s this type of mindset that led to the current embarrassing situation—and the SBAC’s emergency amendment of its bylaws at its last public meeting—in response to the observation that some commissioners had been voting without proper appointment credentials.

“Chairwoman Allison Pickard”

Pickard is Vice-Chair.

“SBAC members appear to lack official appointment letters.”

It’s now been many months since I have requested such letters via 1) Maryland’s Public Information Act, 2) at an SBAC public meeting, 3) in a Capital op-ed, and 4) in person. Despite bluster otherwise, both AACPS and SBAC officials have both failed to date to 1) provide such documents, and 2) post them online for the public to see. For example, the SBAC chair claims that she threw away her appointment letter during a recent move. If so, she could assuage all concerns by simply getting a copy of her appointment letter from its source. But despite my many Public Information Act requests for it, she has yet to provide a copy of her appointment letter.  All I have been able to get is a copy of what is claimed as her appointment to the SBNC, which the SBAC made defunct. There is a reason why Maryland’s Constitution specifies that elected and appointed public officials must follow a particular due process before taking office. That due process marks the critical moment in a democracy when one ceases to be a citizen and takes on the powers of a representative.

“District 32, in the meantime, lacks a board representative.”

Beidle, besides being the official most responsible for ramming through the SBAC legislation, is from District 32. So she should want to ensure that any problems are promptly addressed without further shenanigans.

“Starting in 2024, all members of the board — except the student member — will be elected to four-year terms.”

Sort of.  The County Council and General Assembly are also nominally elected. But the Democratic and Republican central committees have often directly appointed so-called elected officials to office. For example, Senator Ed Reilly, Delegate Mike Malone, and School Board member Terry Gilleland all were originally appointed to elected office via the Republican Central Committee. There is also a strategy of resigning shortly before a term of office is up so that the Central Committee can give a particular candidate a leg up.  With a Republican leaning county and a Democratic controlled SBAC, I would expect to see a disproportionate number of such strategic resignations.