Montgomery school board opposes adding members, changing election process -- Gazette.Net


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Members of the Montgomery County Board of Education do not want board members in the future to lose sight of the needs of students countywide, and they say a new bill proposed would do just that.

The board took a position Tuesday against the bill , which would make it so board members who represent districts are elected just by the residents of those particulare districts, rather than by the entire county.

“I think we do a relatively good job of seeing the big picture,” said Board Member Michael A. Durso (Dist. 5) of Silver Spring. “If we were elected by district, that would have to be very different.”

The bill would also add two at-large board members, making for ten members: four at-large, five by district, and a student member.

The board took no position on another bill, which would bump up board member’s annual salaries by 35 percent, from $18,500 to $25,000. The board president would receive $4,000 more than member salaries, as is the case now.

Del. Charles Barkley (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown is sponsoring both bills, which will be heard during the 90-day General Assembly that reconvenes in Annapolis in January. Del. Brian Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac and Sen. Nancy King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village are also sponsors on the compensation-related bill.

When opposing the bill, board members said that if elected by district, members would be more inclined to only get to know their district’s needs, rather than the entire county, and would be more inclined to advocate only for their constituent base.

“We don’t want to set it up where districts are competing,” board President Shirley Brandman (At-large) of Bethesda said Tuesday.

A task force created in 2000 decided against changing the board structure and voting process, said Laura Steinberg, staff assistant in the board office.

Although the county council did not take a position on the bills, council members said last week they would be inclined to support Barkley’s district bill, stating that it would be easier for board members to run for a district seat than to run at-large, and that it would better align the board with the council, which has nine members, Steinberg said.

Adding two members to the board would put Montgomery in line with other districts of its size. Under state law, all districts that have more than 100,000 students have nine-member boards. Montgomery now is exempt from this law.

There is no clear reason as to why Montgomery’s board is allowed to have seven members, Steinberg said.

Brandman said she didn’t see a reason why the school board should have two more members, as she considers the eight that exist to be a good representation of the county as a whole.

jbondeson@gazette.net