Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Johnson down to two finalists for school board nomination

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County Executive Jack B. Johnson said Wednesday he is considering two finalists for the school board seat left vacant by Nathaniel Thomas, who resigned last month after being charged with a third-degree sexual offense against a former Prince George’s student.

Johnson had whittled down the list of applicants from 39 to 10 on Tuesday, when he conducted interviews throughout the day. He was expected to name his nominee by Tuesday so the County Council, which must approve the nomination, could review the selection before going on summer recess.

The council adjourned, though, without considering a nominee. Johnson said he wanted to take more time, and that the two finalists still have to undergo background checks.

‘‘I’m just not going to spring somebody on [the council],” Johnson said. ‘‘The success of our school system is just absolutely critical.”

He said he expects to make a selection by Friday. Even though the council doesn’t have any scheduled meeting for the rest of July and August, Johnson said he hoped the council could make time to consider his nominee next week.

Johnson said he has been in contact with Council Chairwoman Camille Exum (D-Dist. 7) of Seat Pleasant regarding the selection, but would not disclose who any of his finalists were.

Former Prince George’s County school board member Judy Mickens-Murray and former school board candidate Steve Morris confirmed with The Gazette that they were among the 10 finalists Tuesday.

Mickens-Murray and Morris said they met Tuesday with Johnson and his staff. No other applicants reached by The Gazette confirmed whether they were finalists.

Council spokeswoman Karen Campbell said no council meeting has yet been set for next week to consider a nominee, but that ‘‘a meeting is always possible.”

Asked what credentials he would look for in a school board pick, Johnson said prior experience in public office would be ‘‘a big factor.”

Johnson said he asked the candidates questions pertaining to parent involvement in the school system and the expertise they would bring to the nine-member board.

Reached by The Gazette on Tuesday afternoon, Mickens-Murray, who served on the appointed Prince George’s school board and ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2006, said she was ‘‘very satisfied with the interview process.”

She said a five-person panel, which included Johnson, asked her questions for 15 minutes at Johnson’s Upper Marlboro office.

Thomas’ at-large seat was left vacant after he resigned amid charges that he committed a third-degree sexual offense against a former Prince George’s student who was 15 at the time. Thomas’ case is expected to go to court sometime this fall.