Legislation is presently being considered by the Maryland General Assembly that would change the selection process for members of the Baltimore County Board of Education. Bills proposed by State Sen. Bobby Zirkin and members of the Baltimore County House Delegation would transform the governing body from a 12-member appointed board, including one student member, to a 10-member board consisting of nine nonpartisan and a student member. Thus, rather than school board members being selected by the governor of Maryland, the individual citizens of Baltimore County would be empowered to make these crucial choices.
At hearings on these two bills held during February of this year, it was suggested by some that now was not the time to consider such a change. They argued that, knowing the school system was in the middle of choosing its next superintendant, it was unwise to inject uncertainty regarding the future composition of the board into the minds of potential candidates. Concerns were also raised that the possible move to an elected board would deter quality candidates for this position from considering the job.
Many supporters of school board reform rejected this notion as simply another excuse for maintaining the status quo. In any event, after the of the selection of Dr. S. Dallas Dance to be the next superintendant of the Baltimore County Public Schools, these points became moot. On July 1, Dr. Dance, who presently serves as the chief of middle schools for the Houston Independent School District, will take the reins of leadership from outgoing Superintendant Joe Hairston.
When asked about Dr. Dance, Terry Grier, the current superintendent in Houston and Dance's supervisor, noted, "Dallas is wise and experienced way beyond his years. ... he is very, very talented." Thus, contrary to what some thought, it appears that the specter of a possible move to an elected school board did not hamper Baltimore County's ability to attract quality candidates. Indeed, Dr. Dance was also one of two finalists for the superintendant's job for Howard County Public Schools. Positively, he was very well received at a public hearing held in that county.
As it happened, both Baltimore and Howard counties had narrowed their superintendant selection processes down to the same two individuals: Dr. Dance and Dr. Renee Foose, deputy superietendant here in Baltimore County. For those of you who don't know, Howard County already has an elected school board. What is telling for me is that neither of these two candidates were scared away by the prospect of working for elected school boards.
Clearly, the arguments against moving to an elected school board that were raised at last month's hearings in Annapolis just don't hold water. Given that Dr. Dance is coming to us from a school system that has an elected school board, he is not likely to be bothered by having the same sort of governing body here in Baltimore County. Certainly, now is the time for change.